Since 1984, if you’re in Reykjavik, Iceland and it’s August, you’re probably there to either run in or watch the Reykjavik Marathon. The beginning of the Reykjavik Culture Night Festival is kicked off every year with the Reykjavik Marathon. People come from all over the world to enjoy a variety of activities including music, art, sports, and other forms of entertainment. With over 14,000 participants from over 60 countries, the 30th running of the Reykjavik Marathon was no small racing event! Granted, there was a marathon, half-marathon, 10k, relay race, 3k fun run, and a lazy town run for the kids with a total of 851 entrants participating in the marathon.
What do running and travel have in common? They allow you to experience life unencumbered by other people’s opinions on how it should be or how it was for them. Running is truly meditative for most people and at its highest level, gives you the ability to return to enjoying that carefree way of life you enjoyed as a kid. Remember when you would run and run and run simply for the sake of running? When you travel and see the world, you are enriched as a human being in ways you never imagined. Every time you visit a new place, if you embrace it in the same wide eyed fashioned you once had and used to view the world when you were a child, then you see, feel, and experience life in brand new ways and become that much better of a person.
Perhaps you’ve heard me mention my husband, Rich, a few times here and how he is an avid runner. Can’t really say how or when we decided to combine his love of running with our love of travel, but I’m glad we did. Now we can plan some of our travel around marathons and maybe, just maybe, I might start joining him. Don’t get too excited! I can’t guarantee a marathon is anywhere in my future as of today.
On August 23, 2013, participants were invited pick up their race packages with their bib number, timing chip, t-shirts, etc. at Laugardalshöll Sports Hall in Reykjavik.
Despite the sheer number of people there, it was well organized and everyone was patient in sometimes very long lines. There was also an EXPO with health related business and products with many items for sale and a few items to sample. We had some Kaffitár coffee samples as well as beet juice. Actually, I made the guys do shots of the beet juice while I looked on and laughed. Evil, I know! Rich picked up a few power gels that he hadn’t seen before in coffee and yes, even tomato. Apparently, after you run for that long and have sweet stuff every few miles, a savory taste like tomato is a welcome change for your taste buds. After we walked around, we headed over to the typical carb loading pasta dinner presented by Barilla pasta at 3pm.
On the morning of the 24th, Rich was up bright and early to start fueling for the race. We complement each other well and where I might sometimes (ok – usually) end up arriving late, he is always early. As such, we were out the door early to walk the few blocks to Lækjargata, which was set up and ready to go for the day’s events. Every day we were in Iceland it rained and the day of the marathon was no exception. The average temperature in August is a high of about 57°F and a low of 47°F and for a runner, it turns out that this is great running weather.
To say that he was antsy is an understatement and he nearly sprinted once it was time to get to the starting line. For this race, the half-marathon and marathon participants were starting together. The half-marathon runners were wearing red bibs and the marathoners were wearing green bibs.
Runners lined up according to their per minute running time and Rich disappeared into the crowd. According to the official program:
“It’s important that participants estimate their running pace and place themselves in the appropriate pace area at the start. This is done to avoid congestion and collisions during the first kilometers. The map above points out where one should place himself/herself. The text in the marathon, half marathon, and relay race area refers to speed measured in min./km, but in the 10km area it refers to the estimated finish time.”
But not so fast! First the president of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, needed to welcome the runners and fire the starting pistol.
I admit that at this point I was cold and wet and slightly uncomfortable while also being incredibly proud of my husband. My son and I positioned ourselves a little farther down the street away from the crowds to get a few good pictures of the start of the race. The pistol was fired and the runners were off.
Here is where need to make a complete and total confession. I was obsessed about capturing pictures of Rich starting the race that I never saw him run by me. He’s there wearing a neon green sleeveless tank with a grey cap and neon sneakers and I missed him. I was only able to spot him after I looked at my pictures. Embarrassing!
Sometimes when you attend an event like this, it can be kind of well — elitist. You know, “I’m a runner, you’re not” kind of thing, but I didn’t see or feel that here. People of all ages and abilities were here to run, jog, or walk and they were doing it for themselves or even for charity. I was especially proud of this woman who may have been one of the last to cross the start line, but was focused on going at her pace and she looked 100% satisfied with herself when she eventually crossed the finish line.
We walked over to Kalkofnsvegur by the Harpa to watch the runners go by and to take more pictures. The first runner through ended up being the winner of the half marathon, Kári Steinn Karlsson from Iceland. Previously, this 27-year-old long distance runner competed in the marathon at the 2012 Olympics in London and placed 42nd. He also ran the Berlin Marathon, the Games of the Small States of Europe, and many other international events.
Shortly thereafter, Rich came running by and handed off his cap as he was already too hot. Our son had already bolted as he was running the 10k and didn’t want to be late. I hobbled down the street back to the start/finish line and immediately encountered new formed crowds.
I had some down time and grabbed a cup of coffee in a nearby bakery and despite the numerous delicious baked goods calling my name, I stayed focused. I had no way to tell when they would come through and what side they would be running on.
While waiting for them to finish their races and with time to kill, I listened to a few of the musical acts that were performing. This particular singer had the crowd singing along to the catchy tune. For some odd reason the song totally stuck in my head. This will happen even if you only listen to it once. It was in Icelandic and we didn’t know the words, so we made up our own (“Should’ve had a donut. Gonna get some fondue”). Then we started to hear it on the radio and assumed it was a popular Top 40 song in Iceland. But when we asked people about it, no one knew who it was. When I came back home I contacted someone who knows all about Iceland (thanks Gerri!) and she was able to get me the information almost immediately. Let’s just say it’s kind of a kid’s song and kind of isn’t. Those goofy Icelanders!
Finally, Rich showed up as the clock was ticking down on 3 hours and 25 minutes. His goal for this marathon was to be able to use his time to enter the Boston Marathon. To do so meant getting in under 3 hours and 25 minutes. As he ran down the stretch he said he could see the clock approaching that time and yet he couldn’t run faster. Luckily, since it is chip time vs. clock time that determines the true time, he came in under at 3:24:24. I am so proud of him!
The winners were as follows (Results from the Reykjavik Marathon site):
1. James Buis, UK, 2:33:49
2. Eddie C Valentine, USA, 2:36:44
3. Graham Breen, UK, 2:39:18
1. Melanie Staley, UK, 2:55:14
2. Elena Calvillo Arteaga, ESP, 3:12:55
3. Sara Bryony Brown, UK, 3:13:02
Icelandic championship male
1. Pétur Sturla Bjarnason 2:46:51
2. Sigurjón Ernir Sturluson 2:57:43
3. Þórir Magnússon 3:04:35
Icelandic championship female
1. Rósa Björk Svavarsdóttir 3:35:26
2. Ásta Kristín R. Parker 3:44:36
3. Elín Gísladóttir 3:44:41
1. Kári Steinn Karlsson, 1:07:40
2. Denis Korablev, RUS, 1:12:51
3. Javier Rodriguez, USA, 1:17:11
1. Helen Ólafsdóttir, 1:22:57
2. Martha Ernstsdóttir, 1:24:04
3. Íris Anna Skúladóttir, 1:25:18
10 km race male
1. Kevin Rojas Anderson, UK, 31:50
2. Þorbergur Ingi Jónsson, 32:00
3. Howard Bristow, UK, 32:08
10 km race female
1. Arndís Ýr Hafþórsdóttir, 38:37
2. Helga Guðný Elíasdóttir, 41:20
3. Borghildur Valgeirsdóttir, 41:37
1. Sveittir og þreyttir, 3:02:48
2. Haukssynir, 3:04:10
3. Betra liðið, 3:10:13
Think you might want to try your hand at a marathon in a different country? You can do it on your own or contact a travel company that specializes in marathon trips. We encountered a coach full of runners at Gullfoss after the marathon and I have to say that I’m glad we traveled on our own. If you want to pay and go and not be bothered with the details, then traveling with others could be your best bet. But if you like to explore and go at your own pace, consider where you’re traveling to and rent a car or use buses or trains and discover as much as you can on your own for an authentic, less touristy experience.
Who knows? You might find that your love of travel could light the fire in you to become a runner! Or better yet, you could travel the world and feed your love of running and travel simultaneously.