Race Review: Reykjavík Half Marathon 2014

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Last weekend, I participated in the 31st running of the “marathon day” in Reykjavík. The day consists of several different races – full marathon, half marathon, 10k, 3 km fun run and even shorter “Lazytown” run. I chose to do the half marathon over the full distance as the marathon field is actually quite small and I would find the second half of the race mentally hard to do without many other people around.

This is one of those races that I’ve looked at doing a few times and never have, so it was quite nice that things came together and I was finally able to do it!

Pre-race, you had the option of picking up your number at the Expo on the Thursday or Friday. (you could also pick it up on Saturday morning near the start, and it wasn’t crowded there so that would have been easily doable too) I was excited to visit the Expo, even though I knew the prices for running kit would be higher than in the UK so it wouldn’t really be worth buying anything. I was hoping to see more Reykjavík/Iceland specific shirts to buy, but I didn’t see any so saved my money! The number/chip pickup was straightforward and again not busy so quick to get through. All participants got the same t-shirt no matter what distance they were doing, which would be unusual at other races. Interestingly you could also change your race distance right up until the day before. It’s also the only race I’ve done where your number was just randomly assigned to you then and there (which would also be why you could change distances and get a different coloured number with no admin hassle).

Race T-shirt

I had also wanted to go to the Expo to get the pasta dinner advertised. I nearly walked past the 5 people who were actually eating as it turned out you had to pay for the dinner and the small portion was definitely not worth the price! Runners are quite superstitious about what they eat the night before a race and for breakfast so this suddenly caused me a problem. We ended up eating pizza along with several other runners as this seemed to be the quickest/easiest alternative. All was fine so this might become my new pre-race dinner!

Race day, it was an early start on Saturday. This was also a nice change for me as races in the UK are on Sundays which means they take up your whole weekend. The full and half marathons started at 8:40 with the 10k an hour later. After the bright sunshine of the previous day race morning was very cold during the standing around/waiting to go time. Most other people were wearing jackets and checking a bag in, while I walked down in short sleeves thinking it wasn’t that cold! It was! It was fun to watch the last minute preparations and finally we were allowed into the starting pens. With both sides of the road being used there were no long delays to the starting line. It was good to finally get going, although shortly after the start we pretty much came to a halt as both sides had to merge. Once we got going again the course was spacious enough for everyone for the rest of the race.

Don't you want to run here?

Don’t you want to run here?

You can view full details of the courses on the race website. Generally – the first few miles of the course were around residential streets – this was where the best support was with people playing instruments/banging pots and pans and really cheering the runners on. This was probably my favourite part of the course. Then we emerged by Harpa and went out along the seafront – I also enjoyed this bit as it was old familiar views but seen from a different perspective when running. Then it was the dullest bit of the course around an industrial estate, which also had the biggest hill (but still not a bad one), then back along the seafront to finish.

Half marathon medal

Half marathon medal

The finish area became quite crowded as many half marathon and 10k runners were finishing at the same time. The chip worn on your shoe also had to be removed here and where normally you would get two twist ties to put it on your laces, you had to actually unlace your shoe to put it on directly so it was taking people time to get it off again. We then funneled up a hill and left to end up back at the main race area.

Hafþór Björnsson, who ran with his daughter for charity

Hafþór Björnsson, who ran with his daughter for charity

Good things about the race – the size (not too big or small), great organisation considering high level of foreign runners, flat and mainly interesting half marathon course, right amount of drinks stations, good technical t-shirt

Improvements – some kind of meeting point area afterwards, twist ties for the chips, more of a goody bag – even if it means raising the price, sell more race specific merchandise at the Expo

Would I do it again? Probably not, but only because I think we were lucky with the weather this year and generally it would be pretty wet and windy (and I have enough of those kind of runs at home)!

That’s another item off the bucket list!

Dream day in Iceland

Although Iceland isn’t a huge place it is big enough and has enough to do that I always warn people about trying to do too much in one trip or cover the whole country. However, if time, distance, and transport were no object, this is what I’d do on my dream day in Iceland:

I’d magically teleport myself to just outside the tunnel leading into my favourite town of  Ísafjörður. Just because I rarely get to go through tunnels I find them fun! P1010792

From there I would go into town, wander around the streets and watch a plane attempt a landing at the airport, hopefully with several go-rounds. I’d eat at the pizza place, I can’t remember exactly what I had there but it was good. Yep, I realise this is not the stuff most  people’s dreams are made of. Just humour me.

P1020029From there I’d snap my fingers and have the fun of the drive down the stunning Selárdalur road to the Samúel Jónsson site. I don’t know why I find this place so appealing, it is partly the scenery along the road and the general isolation.

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Then I’d magic myself to the sulphurous wasteland of Hverarönd,  and remind myself what a trip to Mars or a post-apocalyptic world could be like.

From there I’d go Jökulsárlón, but not to the lagoon itself but to the iceberg littered beach across the road.

4cFinally, there would be a change of season and I’d go and visit any of the waterfalls in their frozen state.P1000328I can think of a few other good combos – maybe they partly seem interesting because they could never really happen! So that’s my dream day in Iceland – what’s yours? 

 

Book review: 88 by Alva

“we’re supposed to throw ourselves out there, take risks! but never ever show any kind of pain or sense of failure if things don’t turn out the way we hope they will.”

There was a statistic in the news last year stating that 1 in 10 Icelanders will publish a book. Iceland is a country for book lovers although only a very small percentage of those published are then translated into English. It’s probably no wonder that many people interested in Iceland turn to bloggers to find out more about daily life and their thoughts on current events. Iceland Eyes was a hugely influential blog for me. Maria has covered just about every aspect of Iceland you can think during the many years she has been blogging. In recent years it’s been interesting to see through her blog and other social media that she has become more introspective in her writing and interested in more mystical topics. I was really excited when she announced she would have a book out. 88 was written under the name Alva to deliberately make it more artistic and less completely “her”.

88 is actually quite hard to review as I feel like it’s a very personal book. Maria gave 88herself a timeline of 88 days to write this book in. Because of this, the book is reflective of her daily life and thoughts during this period, dipping in and out of life events and coming back to include Iceland’s natural surroundings. Writing without an idea of the overall outcome as you don’t know what will happen during those days is an interesting concept. Having read her blog I had several moments where I “recognised” what she was talking about and knew more of the wider context, and it was interesting to read about the same events in a different format. Having said that, there is an element of fiction as this is not a diary and you should not assume that everything in this book happened at all, or specifically to Maria.

This book has a style that you could either love or hate, it’s non-linear and almost reads like a poem in places. It means you could just read a few random pages without feeling that you’ve missed out  by not reading it in order. It is full of emotion and I would imagine it was pretty cathartic to write. Maria is a natural writer and proven she can adapt her writing style, and be a creative writer as well as she can cover factual topics.

You can buy this book in the Mál og Menning bookstore on Laugavegur in Reykjavík, via Blurb (UK link here but should take you to your local website) or download via iTunes.

 

Life without blogging

It’s funny the way blogging works. I haven’t posted in 3 months and yet my views aren’t much lower than when I was posting! There seems to be a year-round flow of people looking for information on planning trips to Iceland and from my search terms, a huge number also want to move to Iceland.

I was surprised when a post of mine went viral and I had 30,000 views in 3 days. Why is it that the posts that people share are never your best ones?? I’m sure it should be a bloggers dream to get lots of new readers in one hit but it was actually a little weird.

Sadly, several bloggers that I have been a long-term follower of have also either been quiet or made a conscious decision to stop. I suppose like any hobby, most blogs have a shelf life – my problem is that I haven’t found any new ones that I like as much! On a positive note doing less blog reading and social media in general makes it feel like I have lots of spare time.

I’ve been quiet partly because I was meant to go to Iceland in February but had to cancel my trip and have been feeling a little uninspired in terms of new content. I do still have a few places from the last trip that I haven’t blogged about yet, but I’m now also looking forward to going back later this summer. It’s feeling like a very long time since I’ve been.

Just because I’ve been quiet, doesn’t mean there’s been a shortage of Iceland in the news. Pollapönk, protests and DNA testing for Icelanders have taken up big parts of my news feed in recent months. Perhaps the most unexpected news story for me was the fact that Showtime is doing a remake of the great Icelandic TV series Heimsendir. It’s a shame that most viewers will probably never see the original, which is both dark and funny.

Just so I don’t feel guilty about a post with NOTHING new about Iceland to share, as many of my readers seem to like Icelandic sheep, I will close with a photo of a two headed sheep/typical Icelandic roadblock:

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