Monday, 22 June 2015

Faroe Adventure: The Torshavn Marathon

"Fancy doing the Torshavn Marathon?" said my friend Graham, famous for the Island Peaks Race, Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon, and Reykjavik Marathon.

Now I've always wanted to go to the Faroe Islands.

"We'll have to find a pub to watch the Scotland v Ireland qualifying match," I said. Two days later Graham got in touch again. "The Faroes are playing Greece the same day. Shall we get tickets to that?"

And so two men, two kilts, running kit, two tickets to Faroes v Greece, and a tent wound up in Torshavn on Friday.

Torshavn harbour:

Torshavn in June sunshine has the vibe of an attractive small Northern European town with a bit about itself. It bills itself as the world's smallest capital city, but doesn't feel blowhard about it. It would be hard to be bigsy when your government buildings are turf roofed!

Government buildings of the Faroe Islands:

The day of the race was sunny and clear, with a cutting north wind and fresh snow visible on the hills of Eysturoy. I enjoyed my half marathon - only the second time I've run more than 5km since the Reykjavik Marathon the previous August. I've been carrying a long-term injury and was sore, but not debilitatingly so. Is my fate to be in chronic pain whenever I run?

After the race I wandered about the old harbour, taking photos. Torshavn really is a pretty place in the sunshine.

Pleasure harbour:

Old and new, Torshavn:

When Graham finished the full marathon - a knackering achievement over some steep hills - we returned to the campsite to eat and change. We'd met an Irish couple the night before, and joined them in a pub along the waterfront for Scotland v Ireland. And then for the big event! Faroe Islands vs Greece UEFA 2016 qualifier.

"Everybody says we will win," said Doris, the woman who arranged our tickets, "everybody except the manager." We were lucky to get tickets as this was a sell-out game. "Five thousand people," said a man in the sports shop in the Faroe Islands' biggest - probably only - shopping centre. "Ten percent of the population will be at the game. That's like Denmark getting a crowd of five hundred thousand!" We heard accordion music en route, and popped into a rickety hall with no sign outside. Inside, we were immediately centre of attention. "Scottish!" said a lady, giving us both a hug. Her friend played Amazing Grace. "I'm Irish," said our companion. "Play the Fields of Athenry," said her boyfriend to the accordionist, as Graham and I slipped out for the game.

Torshavn back street:

We had barely settled down when the Faroes were 1-0 up to a cracking strike, the Greek defender nowhere to be seen. And it got better - 2-0 in half time. The place was going bananas. I shouted myself hoarse. The Greeks pulled one back towards the end to add some tension, but when the final whistle blew, it was 2-1 to the Faroe Islands. The team took a bow to each stand. This being the Faroe Islands, the players probably personally knew a large proportion of the crowd.

In the stadium:

"Have this flag as a reminder of an incredible night!" said an ecstatic Faroese supporter, handing me a huge beast that looked like it was flying outside the government buildings just a few hours earlier. We took it to the pub, found the - now drunk - Irish folk, and continued carousing until home time. Half past midnight and still daylight.


"A late night," I croaked to a young American lad in the campsite next morning. "That's not late!" he replied, my pride stung. Well, you try it mister, I thought, after running a marathon and drinking ten pints!


blueskyscotland said...

Always fancied a trip there. Looks a lovely place.

Robert Craig said...

It's mindbogglingly awesome. And you haven't seen the half of it yet! If I bang on to friends and family any more about the place I should get a stipend from the faroes tourist board.