The day started at 6:30 with breakfast, two hours before the race. That way the body should have adjusted before the race. A decent breakfast was in order so we ate well. It was sunny out with little wind, very unusual for Iceland, and we timed it right by leaving the hotel Plaza about 20 minutes before the race and walked to the start line. We had chosen the right clothes for the weather, a long sleeved shirt, shorts, gloves, and I wanted the neck band for the start as well. Linda wore a blue long sleeved shirt, a red vest and shorts. She decided that there would be enough water that she didn’t take her Fuel Belt water but I took 6 bottles. The race started on time, with lots of people and the sun shining and we started near the back of the pack so we could run a slow beginning and speed up at the distance wore on. We had a little worry about the sun, but there was a lovely light breeze and it was cool.
We ran down residential streets with families lining the streets, in front of their houses banging on pots, some with amplifiers and instruments playing and children cheering everyone on. At one point just before we started to run by the ocean there was someone playing Monty Python’s “Always look on the bright side of life” and as people ran by, some skipped and danced. (perhaps using too much energy). Still lots of energy, not passing many people, and lots of energy. The trail went along the harbour for a few kilometers then by the sea near the hotel and downtown. Lots of people lining the streets and cheering us on. We could see the leaders of the half marathon rounding the corner for their cut off to the finish line as we passed the eleven kilometer mark. They looked in fine form and fast. We then started on the uphill part through the industrial area. Not too pretty but still fine roads to run upon. We passed one of the power walkers, I don’t know how she was ahead of us so far but we talked to her as she had been with us on the tour the day before and we’d become acquainted. We then passed someone else who was on the bus the day before and at 70 years old was running her first half marathon and she was in fine form as well. One of the water stops was giving out chocolate, near the top of the hill and we wondered how it would be. They also gave cut up bananas. We ate both, and both were better than we thought they would be. The downhill then started and it was good. We were approaching the cut off between the full and the half (the power walker said we’d be entering no man’s land) and everyone disappeared. We really were alone to the point of looking way up and way behind to make sure we were on course. There were nice people holding marathon signs and stopping traffic as we ran through so we knew we were on the right path. The path was also marked with short yellow road markers. The first portion after the cut off at 19km was all uphill. Long and mildly steep. After we turned I thought we’d start heading in a level direction but it looked uphill a lot more. Then we saw course marshals and they directed us onto a nice path through a park – we passed the half marathon mark – Still feeling great, I knew that we could accomplish this. Linda and I discussed trying for a decent negative split, but since this was my first marathon and the longest training run was a disastrous 32km, we didn’t know how it would all go as the distance increased. Some more industrial area, then onto a wonderful trail that went under the roads, by a small waterfall in the city, then under the road again, then through a residential area where people cheered us on. A short washroom break for both of us – we had not missed a water stop as even though it was cool we knew that we were sweating and losing water. The course marshals were at all the streets ensuring that the cars were stopped as we ran along. By now we had started to pass people and Linda had started to count off the people we passed. She wondered if this was a bad thing or a motivational thing – we decided it was a motivational thing. We then crossed a bridge over the main road from Keflavik to Reykjavik and were headed for the trails by the sea. What a wonderful trail. We passed a beach – 14 degrees and there were people swimming! We kept passing people, with the sea on one side and beautiful parkland on the other side. This gave way to the inner city airport on the right and the sea on the left. Lots of water stations and bananas along the way as well as my CarBooms and Linda’s PowerBar gels – even with the water along the course, we found we were going into the water that I was carrying. Linda took off her long sleeved shirt and ran in the vest only. I had taken off the gloves and my neck warmer. We passed the 30km marker (all the markers along the full marathon course were pylons with large numbers marking the distance) and I still felt good. Linda of course was encouraging and running much slower than she normally ran – so she was still running strong. We reentered the city and started on parts that we had run at the beginning. Fewer people, but some still out there cheering us on – now we were on sidewalks as they had not closed the roads – the number of runners didn’t really warrant it either – and people were polite and encouraging along the way – always getting out of a runners way – Linda was still counting the people we passed. Then suddenly we were on a peninsula and a long grass field toward a lighthouse – just beautiful! The city was gone and the kilometers were passing by at around the 37km mark we still couldn’t see the city and were now wondering how we were going to end up back on the right trail. We passed a few more people and a couple of people that we had met during the tours. Suddenly we turned and we were back in the city, passing along the harbor and back on the track that we’d run before – the end was near and I was starting to whine at Linda about how fast we were running and I wanted to slow down – we didn’t of course as the end was too close. We entered the city and ran past a hamburger place and Tammie ran out to cheer us on then Jim came out from the other side to cheer us on. They had completed the half marathon and were now celebrating with food (something I was looking forward to) then we ran past the famous hot dog place – even Clinton had been there. We could see the final turn with about a kilometer to go and we sped up. We made the turn and could see the finish line about 200 meters away – Linda saw the clock as we neared and saw that it was getting to a time she wanted to beat and suggested a sprint to the finish – I argued that no it was too early – she suggested we sprint to the finish – I said no, it was too early…ok…we started to sprint to the finish – really running as fast as we could after running 42.1km we crossed the finish line together – had our photos taken and medals– had the people from Marathon tours and a couple of others we’d met along the tour cheering us as we made our way to water and Powerade, bananas, a blanket and the place to hand in the timing chips. We walked back to the people that had cheered us in, Scott from Marathon Tours and Cliff (the husband of the power walker) and stood with them to cheer on other finishers and cool down.
The city was preparing for Culture night…and day. As we walked back to the hotel, there were thousands of people everywhere –bands on stages, people doing pairs yoga, bands on street corners, strollers and babies. We did not smell good and were glad to get to the hotel and shower – thrilled at completing the marathon and even happier that we didn’t walk, passed 22 people in the second half and finished with a negative split of 6 minutes and 41seconds! Linda told me that this was a great first marathon – I agreed!
We looked for food as soon as we were presentable again…the hot dog place had a huge line up and I was hungry enough to be grouchy. We walked up the burger place where we had seen Jim and Tammie and had perfectly adequate burgers. Then we were able to walk around and enjoy the cultural events of the day…the streets were packed.
Dinner was at an interesting place that did have space for us and a prix fix (we had reservations) Einar Ben. Oddly they called the amuse bouche a soup and it came in a shot glass (an excellent gazpacho) and a lovely lobster and pork belly appetizer, then the main course of Icelandic lamb – excellently done – then a palette cleanser on a spoon of basil and strawberry – they called this a part of desert and the real dessert of a Skyr and rhubarb with sorbet. A little pricey but worth the experience. There was a band playing across the street and they were quite good and only once was the music too loud.
In the evening they were supposed to light up the new opera house and then firework – we found a nice place and waited for ten o’clock to come – it came and went and the crowd thickened with goofy people who stood behind us banging us about with their knees – at about ten to eleven they lit it up and it was a little disappointing, though I can see this looking very pretty in their long winter. The fireworks were wonderful as always.