Where do I begin!? This was the first international race for me since the Florence marathon in 2006, my second marathon of 2015, and my 5th overall. I had major pre-race jitters and internally debated switching to the half-marathon for a month prior to leaving for Iceland. Even though I did not achieve my goal time or even come that close to my time earlier in the year, I had fun and I am glad that I didn’t change my race distance. I saw parts of Reykjavik that I would not have seen if I had not run a marathon there. There was a lovely park with a small waterfall, a track along the Atlantic ocean, a lighthouse, wonderful locals blasting music and banging together pots and pans to cheer us on, the spectators were really great early on and towards the end. I also appreciated the many families and cyclists leisurely riding by who would say “good job” or “you’re almost finished!” or just offered words of encouragement, which is always so helpful in a marathon.
This race was on a beautiful course throughout the city and surrounding areas of Reykjavik. We ran through residential areas, parks, busy city streets, and we finished very near to where we started in the main part of town near the Old Harbor. The weather was perfect for running, overcast, in the 50′s, a light drizzle that didn’t last long - ideally, I would have had a PR. However, I walked and hiked so much the three days prior to the marathon. By mile 5 or 6, I was already tired and realized it was going to be a rough day.
For perspective, I usually don’t have a hard time until miles 15-18, once I get past 18, I am usually in a better mental state. By 20 miles, when everything hurts, I remind myself that I have roughly an hour left of running. So having a hard time at mile 5 or 6 isn’t good. I love running, but I don’t always like it. It isn’t easy and every run is different. Sometimes a half marathon feels great the entire time, sometimes a 3 mile run sucks and is really difficult. Running a race is a lot like life in general, and I think that is why I enjoy it. You have to push yourself through the hard times and no matter how well you are prepared or unprepared, you can’t predict how things will turn out with 100% certainty.
Would I recommend the Reykjavik marathon as a destination race? Absolutely, it was well-organized, didn’t start until 8:40 am, and was well-staffed. It was cool, flat, and the aid stations were adequately stocked and staffed. They were a bit sparse at the end, but I carry my own water bottle and didn’t think it was a huge problem. Packet pickup was easy to get to, the process itself was simple, and the full marathon registration cost was only about $60 - I consider anything under $100 cheap for a marathon.
The race weekend coincides with Culture Night in Reykjavik. So it will be more crowded than any other weekend because a lot of Icelanders spend the weekend in the city for Culture Night. However, it was never crowded and all of the people just made for a more festive atmosphere. The race also offers several distances: 42 km, 42 km relay, 21 km, 10 km, 5 km, 3 km, and there is a kid’s race of 100 m or something short. There is something for everyone and everyone gets a medal! I don’t recommend Reykjavik or Iceland solely for the marathon though, I would go back, many times. My next trip will be to see the western fjords and the northern part and I want to go in fall or winter so I can see the Aurora Borealis.
Next up on my destination race list are the Feast and Feathers half marathon trail run on Thanksgiving in Omaha, Nebraska, the Napa Valley marathon again in March 2016, and another European marathon or half in May. I haven’t decided fully if I want to commit to the full, but I probably will!