When you are going through your mid-life crisis, at some point - after flying a seaplane, but before getting a ponytail and a motorbike - you'll want to tick a marathon off your list. Ideally you want to do it somewhere scenic, not too hot, somewhere where the locals are friendly.
Graham (my Island Peaks Race companion - he's not having a mid-life crisis, he's just mad) and I arrived at Keflavik Airport in evening light that would excite comment in Scotland for its clarity and purity. In the near-Arctic this light is apparently fairly common. The clear skies brought their own problems overnight - I didn't sleep well in the cold. A sheet of ice on the tent in the morning. In August! We had got chatting to folk on the plane - including experienced runner Mark, who wanted to qualify for Boston, the runner's marathon. To make things more difficult, he was camping too. He gave me great tips on staying hydrated and fuelled before and during the race, which helped immensely.
Race day was cool and almost windless - perfect conditions! 1144 people had entered the marathon, with another 8 or 9 thousand doing the half and 10k. Locals lined the route, cheering and banging spoons against pots. Bands played in makeshift combos on driveways. An elderly man in a suit and fedora played his saxophone. Small children waved Icelandic flags. The congested mass of runners started to thin out. "Too fast, we're going too fast!" I urged Graham. I was determined to keep some energy in reserve for hitting 'the wall'. Eventually Graham pulled ahead. I let him go. I had my own personal race to run.
Running a marathon in Iceland:
By 19km, the 10k and half marathon runners had left us, and all became quiet. (Iceland is a quiet country. There is almost no birdsong.) At each junction local kids directed the way and stopped traffic. We ran through a glen and along the shore, past a monument to the Great Auk. It was going to start to hurt around 30km. OK, 32km. When it didn't, I wondered what was going on. Where was the wall? I didn't speed up though, just hummed tunes to myself and kept trundling on... and there was the finish line. Woo hoo! I'd done my first marathon. And it was easy. I could have kept going at that pace for a fair way yet.
My time was 4:36. Graham did it in 3:59. Mark qualified for Boston with the excellent time of 3:22.
"What did you think of your first marathon?" asked Mark as we wallowed in the campsite's hot pools later that afternoon. My first marathon? Yeah, it was great. Would I do another?
I would if they are all like this.
Church Ferry RIP
2 days ago