Sweden's Annual Fotrally

Shawn Taylor | Contributor

Stephen King’s long Maine walk… through Sweden?

Like a real- life cross between the movie Speed and the old endurance dance competitions where the last couple standing won the prize, once a year Swedish competitors follow Stephen King’s inspiration for a grueling long distance competition.

Since 2009, Sweden has held the annual Fotrally, literally Foot Rally, or The Long Walk. Unlike a traditional race with a set beginning and end, the Long Walk is determined by the endurance of the walkers.

The event is inspired by Stephen King’s first novel, a psychological thriller aimed at young adults and eventually published under his early pen name Richard Bachman. In it, a dystopian future society drafts teen boys into the Long Walk event. The walk begins in Maine and continues down the East coast of the US until a winner is declared. The winner gets whatever they want, but to compete walkers must maintain a minimum speed on a continuous march, or take penalties which can lead to being gunned down by patrolling soldiers. When all the other walkers have succumbed to the elements, psychological breakdowns, or the punishment of the extreme rules, the last remaining walker is declared the winner.

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The Swedish event maintains a more manageable version of the extreme conditions of the novel – walkers are allowed short breaks every six hours, and a separate group competition category allows for teams of up to five people working in cooperation – but the key elements of forced pace and endurance are still present, and participants describe it as a very psychologically intense event. Pace setters at the front and back of the route keep the participants moving at a consistent 5 kilometers per hour, and the exact distance (or duration) can never be planned since the winner is indeed the last one still moving when everyone else has given up.

For any hardcore Stephen King fans considering this as possibly the ultimate pilgrimage to honor the beloved author, temper your dreams of glory with a warning – participants provide their own food for the march, and recent winners have made it through an incredible 87 hours of walking (over 3.5 days!) before being able to declare victory. For a more lighthearted introduction to the joys of dystopian competition, the event relies on dozens of volunteers every year to help distribute water, staff the rolling toilets available to the walkers (at a ration time of 1 minute earned per hour of walking) and generally help keep spirits high.

The next Long Walk is scheduled for late June in Stockholm, Sweden. Details on upcoming and past events and volunteer opportunities can be found at their website, http://www.fotrally.se

Cover photo credit : Don Harder

Kim Drobes