A few months ago I saw the midnight sun races on Running Crazy website. There are 5K,10 K and half marathon options and as the name implies they are run in summer solstice where in Iceland it stays light all night. The race appealed and Iceland has long been on my bucket list so this was also a good way of going on my own but having a ready bunch of like minded to hang out with.
I chose the half marathon as I thought I needed a bit of a challenge. There’s been some posts on RRR about running mojo and mine certainly has been up and down for a while and getting progressively slower. Having said that I’ve never been fast in my nearly 10years of running and in my heyday year of 2011/12, my PB half marathon was Preston Guild at 1:53.
I did mean to follow a training plan for this but… I didn’t. I did do more park runs, inter club races and Pita’s and her regular assistant Gareth ‘s intervals training, which I’ve really enjoyed and been thrilled to see timed mile get faster each week. However,my last half had been Conwy in Nov and my last ‘long’ run Rivington 10 mile in April and after Bendrigg,when I really could not have run another mile, I did start to panic. With less than a week to go I did a slow steady plod 10 miles without stopping in 1:50 followed by cutting the grass,so at least in my head I knew I could do the distance! Rest of my pre-race preparation was deciding what to wear. Being the decisive type, I took shorts, half leg, full leg, long sleeves, waterproof jacket, sunglasses,gloves and of course my RRR vest. This presented quite a challenge as tightfistedly I was only taking cabin baggage.
The race started 9:20 PM and my flight was 7 AM on same day. Had a hopeless night sleep of waking up thinking I’d overslept so at 3 AM I got up. There have also been recent posts on what to eat before a race and I was thinking of them when I had my first meal of the day at 3.30am of 3 weetabix followed by coffee and pastry at airport and then after 2 hr 10min flight,a chicken sandwich and it wasn’t even 10am!
Malcolm from Running Crazy was there to meet me. If you’ve not heard of them before check out their site. They’re great as they take the stresses out by picking up your number , taking you to the start , where to leave stuff etc etc. We weren’t all meeting up until 7pm so I spent the rest of the day in the city, fuelling up on pasta, trying to have an afternoon nap and then at 6pm having an odd assortment light meal of watery tomato soup and a salad buffet. My stomach was starting to feel weird and wasn’t sure if it was the water, something I’d eaten or that I’d been up since 3am so I finished off the meal with immodium!
Temperature was 10 degrees but still,so I settled on wearing half leg, long sleeves and RRR vest over the top.
So then for the meeting and what a great group of 17 they were of singles, couples and all racing abilities with Paul aiming for 72mins for half and Sharon who was going to walk 10k whilst her husband ran the half.
Running vests were from all over and at the start they said there were over 800 entrants from 48 countries outside of Iceland and over 3000 in all 3 races. At the line up I was next to groups from Newcastle and Cumbria! So with the music blasting and race instructions in a couple of languages we were off! My plan as such was just to make sure I didn’t go too fast in the first half and to try and finish by 2hrs20. The race was primarily on off road cycling/walking paths and meandered out of the city going past waterfalls, winding rivers and the beautiful lake Raudavatn as well as being interspersed with crossing motorway bridges and underpasses and industrial type waste scrubland ! I was feeling really good in the first half of the race and kept slowing down as realised going too fast to maintain but then tried to keep a steady pace going with a couple from Derwentwater AC. I started to fall behind them from about 5miles with some undulations and then a big climb through a golf course but it was also getting hard to hear them. I’m totally deaf in my left ear so no directional hearing and unless you’re on my right hand side or facing me I struggle to hear,so if you think I’ve ignored you sometime it is that I haven’t heard you! Anyway back to the race! The weather was perfect though alas the sun was hidden by clouds so no stunning sunsets but it was as light as 6pm rather than getting near to 11pm. Despite the undulations I was still enjoying it and realised how much I’d missed that zone where can just relish that you’re still running ok after so many miles and nothing really hurting, life is lovely and how lucky I am to be able to do this! I was starting to flag a bit when at 8/9 miles was the best, longest downhill run I’ve ever experienced. If carlsberg did races this would be it as it just went on forever; like the last downhill at Staveley but without the zig zags! Thereafter it was relatively flat and just had to keep it together whilst the miles went past as did Malcolm with his video camera a mile from the end! Spielberg he is not but the video is funny and you can see it on the attached link.
The last lead 400 metres was a straight run with the end arch in sight and reminded me of the last part of Pita’s timed mile though think I was delirious by this stage but I felt fast with big strides and great and crossed the line with a chip time of 2hrs 2mins and 20secs. I was ecstatic !! I know it’s not fast but I’ve not got under 30mins for cuerden parkrun since Oct 14 and then only achieved that once so was on a total high.
Met up in the finish area with the others and then all entrants had free entry to the geothermal outdoor pool with pools, hot tubs and steam baths after the race so we all went there, with a bracing dash from the showers to the pools which were as warm as bath water and packed with happy runners. Was a great atmosphere and still marvelling that at 1am it was still light. Malcolm had sorted a drinks party back at the hotel so kept going with post recovery fuel of alcohol and a bag of crisps. By 3am I was wrecked and couldn’t believe it was less than 24hrs since I’d left home – felt like days ago!
If you’re still reading you’ll be pleased to hear I’ll finish this epic here. Other than to add seeing Iceland’s sights for the rest of the w/e was great. I’m still on a high and keen to do another half now. My dilemma though is was it one particular item on the mixed buffet or was it the immodium that helped!