I’m still working on a series of blog posts about my recent trip to Europe, but I wanted to do a separate race recap for the Reykjavik half marathon, soooooo here we go!
This race entered my world when I was planning my Europe trip and it fell within the dates I was traveling. I knew I wanted to do a half marathon while abroad, but wasn’t sure which city I’d end up doing it in. In the end, it came down to Reykjavik or Berlin. Since I hope to eventually get into the Berlin Marathon lottery, I figured I should opt for a city with fewer chances for me to race in.
Somehow, this was also my first ever international race which added a nice extra bit of excitement.
The race started Saturday morning at 8:40am and I landed in Iceland at nearly midnight on Thursday night. By the time I got to my Airbnb and to bed, it was just about 2am. This was on top of having been traveling for a week and a half at this point and logging between 15-25 miles on my feet every day between running and sightseeing. My legs were going to be exhausted and there wasn’t anything I could do about it, but I knew what I was getting myself into when I registered for the race.
After doing a couple of stops on my sightseeing list for Reykjavik city on Friday, I made my way over to the race expo. The expo was like pretty much any other race expo; a lot of people and a bunch of brands giving out the same kind of stuff as any other expo. The only difference was it was mostly different brands than I’m used to.
I got my bib and timing chip (yes, a separate timing chip to tie on your shoe), grabbed my shirt, and then did a lap around. I took a bunch of the beverage samples and then made my way for the exit. I’m not a big race expo person. I like to do a lap and see what’s there, but I don’t typically buy things or like to stay long.
The timing chip was one of the plastic reusable ones you tie onto you shoe like we used to use in the US before B-tags became the standard.
I threw my stuff in my backpack and then continued with my sightseeing. I also had booked a beer tasting for that night. 🙃 I wanted to do it after the race, rather than the night before, but the scheduling didn’t really work out with some of the other things I wanted to do. So, yeah, I did a 🍺 tasting the night before.
The tasting was at Ölgerðin Egils Skallagrímsson, Iceland’s oldest brewery. I expected it to be like normal tastings where you get little samples of a few beers and that’s it. No, this was different. As soon as you walk in, they hand you a pint and that glass is never empty, they just keep refilling it every time you get to the bottom. And then you get to try a ton of their other beers. This was the most beer I’ve ever had on a “beer tasting” / “brewery tour” before. It was good, but not ideal the night before a half marathon
After the tasting, I got a couple of Iceland’s famous hot dogs from Bæjarins Beztu Pylsu and hit the bed. I didn’t even set anything out before going to bed. I just crashed.
In the morning, I woke up, threw on my running clothes and made for the door as quickly as possible. I didn’t have to worry about not setting out my clothes the night before because I really didn’t have a lot of options with me.
I had 17 miles on my schedule for the day so I did an easy 4-mile warmup along the water and part of the course and then ended right at the start.
The race started right on time and without a lot of fanfare. The 10k, half marathon, and marathon all started at the same time which made for some crowding, but it wasn’t too bad. There were people standing on the corrals holding up pace signs, but they were in minutes/kilometers and none of the Americans knew how to translate that. Luckily, I have an app on my phone that does all kinds of pace related calculations so it was easy for me to find where to be.
There was no national anthem before the race which made the start all the more unassuming for those of us used to it. They frequently gave warnings for how much time was left, but when the start gun went off, there was no immediate countdown or anything. Not that it matters for anyone not right in the front.
I had lined up to run around a 1:50 finish. I knew I had tired legs and I’d be doing a glacier hike the next day so I didn’t want to push myself. The start was crowded, but I stayed with the pacers for about a mile.
Then, I got antsy.
My legs wanted to gooooooooooo. I started weaving my way up through the crowd. My first mile was an 8:25, but it was my only one over 8 minutes. I was surprised how much my legs were wanting to go, I was feeling good.
Through the first few miles, I just tried not to get too ahead of myself and to enjoy the scenery of such a beautiful city. For the most part, each mile was quicker than the last, but still comfortable.
The weather was cool, about 47º, and sunny with a light breeze, great running weather. I was sweating, but not dripping. I know my body well enough to know I didn’t need to take any water during the race under those conditions. So, I didn’t bother with any of the stops.
The course was pretty flat until the final third of the race. By this point, I had let my body go with whatever pace felt right and I started dropping into the 7:30s for the middle third. By the last third, I was even faster. I was surprised I had it in me, but I went with it.
The hills in the last third were of no concern for my legs. If anything, I sped up on them. Mile 11 was a 7:15 and then 12 and 13 dropped into the 6:50s. I hadn’t run miles that fast in…I don’t even know. That’s nearly PR 5k for me these days, but these miles felt great on my legs. I wasn’t even breathing hard until the final 2⁄3 of a mile.
From my run the day before and my warm up, I had a pretty good idea of the course in second half so I was able to mentally keep my game on for them and know what was coming up.
As we got to the final few turns, I was finally feeling it. I knew 6:50s weren’t really a sustainable pace for me late in a half marathon, but I did know my legs would just about be able to outlast the course so decided to hang on instead of easing back off a little.
Finally, I came around the final turn and saw the finish. I out-kicked a woman on my left and then a man just in front of her saw me coming and kicked much harder than I had left in me. I cruised across the finish line at 1:40:01. Very happy with my time, but annoyed I didn’t sneak in under 1:40. Still, this was only 21 seconds slower than my PR and it was sort of…easy? I can’t complain!
I grabbed my medal and smiled at my first international medal. It was a small and unassuming medal, which I actually like. I don’t need big giant medals. I grabbed some Powerade and water and then looked for food and heat sheets. There were neither. This was a bit surprising to me. By now, the temperature was still only 54º so heat sheets were necessary, but there were non. Boo! There was also no food to be had which seemed to be not a good idea considering there was also a marathon running as well. But, the finish is down a main street in downtown Reykjavik so it was easy to pop into a place and get some food.
My fresh danish was probably better than anything they would have given out anyway.
I didn’t hang around long because I needed to go shower, rent a car, and get on with my day. I had booked time at the Secret Lagoon, one of Iceland’s hot springs. It was just the thing for after 17 total miles of running!
All-in-all, I really enjoyed this race! It was fun and the city is beautiful. I’m hoping to go back for the marathon some time in the next few years.