Torshavn Marathon, Faroe Islands, June 3 2017

Where?
Usually people ask me why I want to run a race. Instead it was “where?” Every, single person, save maybe one or two.

Eventually I would just start telling people before they asked me.

“I’m going to run the Torshavn Marathon in the Faroe Islands which is a small island chain roughly between Iceland, Scotland, and Norway.”

The next usual question was “How do you get there?”
-Viking longship. d’uh.

Also, I think people that know me stop asking why I’ll run a certain race. It’s pretty obvious by now that I like unusual and off the beaten path races such as this.

Travel Day
So off I went to the Faroe Islands (by way of Iceland, on an airplane). It was an approximately one hour bus ride from the airport to Torshavn, and cost me about $20. There were loads of runners on the bus. It’s funny how you can spot a runner, regardless of their nationality.

The hotel was only a 5 minute walk from the bus terminal, and so I dropped my stuff off and headed over to the SMS Shopping Centre to get my race kit. That name cracks me up. I think “Short Messaging Service”. (Incidentally, SMS is the Icelandic word for text message). It was about a 15 minute walk, and I had no clue where I was going, but soon I noticed runners with their Swag bags coming down a particular street.

IMG_0927
The numbering for the marathon started at 7000 which meant I was one of the first to register.

 

After getting my bib, I headed back to the town centre and surveyed my dining options. I ended up at “Pizza King” where I had a margherita pizza, and a Pepsi. There you have it, carbs all sorted 🙂 In truth I wasn’t too worried about the dinner, because the race wasn’t until 1pm the next day. So on that note, I stopped at the Cafe Natur for a pint. It was by far my favourite pub on the island, but at $12 a beer, I was never tempted to drink too much.

Back at the hotel, I basically just chilled out and watched Netflix on my phone until I fell asleep. Like I mentioned, with a 1pm start time, there was no need to do any evening race prep (other than staying hydrated).

Race Day
I first woke to a blazing sun at around 4am. Thankfully I had laid out my night mask, put it on, and promptly fell back to sleep. When I went down for breakfast (a little after 8), there were several runners, and 3 of us ended sitting together. Joerg (from Germany) and Jaana (from Sweden) were great company. We had a long, slow, talkative meal over the course of about two hours. I had coffee, water, yogurt, several pieces of bread, and an egg. I then went up around 10, and had lots of time to get ready.

It was a cool, sunny, and dry day, about 10 degrees (50 F), and with a breeze in the air, I opted for a light weight long sleeved shirt. It had loose sleeves, so rolling it up would be easy. Shorts were my dependable MEC shorts, along with some light compression socks.

It was about a 10 minute walk to the start, and I showed up about 20 minutes before. I could have shown up 5 minutes before and been fine. There were 197 running the half, and 134 were about to run the full distance.

And we’re off!

d
Thatched roofs are surprisngly common.  Heading down the main street towards the harbour.
b
Retirement residents cheering us on

We looped around town, which was pretty hilly. The odd thing about this part is that we ran past my hotel twice.

a

Even though it was just 10 degrees, I warmed up pretty quickly and was beginning to wonder if I’d over dressed (that feeling would eventually pass). I finished the loop in just under 40 minutes, and was pleased that I didn’t walk on any of the hills.

After finishing the town loop (and drinking at the second aid station), we turned right onto Hvitanesvegur to begin a 32km out and back along the fjord.

IMG_0960
Taken with my phone the following day.  This was the turnoff to get to the fjord.

We would pass through the village of Hoyvik, take a right turn at Kaldbaksbotnur, then turn around at Kaldbak.

Down and Out
This was the best part of the race. After passing Hoyvik, it was nothing but a mountain to the left, and ocean to the right. And as traffic was closed to this course, it felt so quiet and relaxing.

i
Sheep going the wrong way.

Although there were some uphills, it was a lot downhill. You didn’t need a watch to tell you that.

g
Even this hill was easy due to a tail wind.
f
Fully stocked aid stations every 4km.

The course was so wide open that you could look ahead for miles.

Coming up with the plan
After running down some pretty steep hills for many kilometers, I knew that the way back was going to be difficult. Additionally, I had been running with a tail wind, although I didn’t know to what extent until later on.

So at 17km, I came up with the following plan:
Run 21.1km in under two hours, 30km sub 3, and then worry about the rest afterwards.

Right turn at Kaldbaksbotnur

IMG_1033
Taken from a bus a few days later.   In this picture we were running from the right side, and then looping around the fjord, up to the left.

At 18km we came to the end of the fjord and turned right off the main road. This would be a short 5.5k out and back to Kaldbak.

We were met by a strong and frigid North Atlantic cross wind. It felt good actually, and I took my cap off for a few minutes to further cool off.

It wasn’t long before we came upon another waterfall.

IMG_1036
Another picture from the bus.  That waterfall was at the 20km point.

The wind was a bit discouraging, as you knew you’d be facing it for the next couple of hours.

Although I achieved my half marathon time in 1:56, it was from 20-21km that I did my first little walk break.

But then I came to an even steeper hill (about 25m/82 feet) I was determined that it was too early to start walking up hills.

There’s cake!
At the 23ish turnaround (an honour system turnaround with no timing mat) there was an aid station and I heard someone shout out that there’s cake! So naturally, I took a piece. It was a chocolate cake with sugar on top instead of icing, and I should have taken more as it hit the spot.

The run to 30k
This section was mostly downhill and with the wind. I made to the point in 2:59, so again, according to plan.

e
This was heading up to the 23k turnaround.  Coming back would be easy here.

So thirsty
They say if you feel thirst, that it’s too late. I don’t know about that, but the sun and wind were drying me out, and I was drinking lots at each station. I would have a glass of gatorade, and they had small water bottles, which I grab and drink on the run. I probably should have brought some salt tabs with me.

The Wall (32k – 39k)

Around the 30k mark we were at sea level, but facing a steady head wind. And to make matters worse, you could see a big hill looming.

h
This picture was taken at around 16km, but on the way back this was 32k.  Hill keeps going up!

This is pretty much where I got mentally tired. It was windy, the worst of the hills were about to start, and so I just walked up them. I wasn’t alone in this strategy. But I plugged away, and ran when I could, although it was quite difficult.

That said, I wasn’t discouraged at all. My “A” goal on this race was 4:29, and I was still well on track for that. Plus the scenery was simply breathtaking.

The last 3k
With the hills behind me, I got back into town, and it was mostly downhill (but still into the wind).

And across the line in a time of 4 hours, 25 minutes, 55 seconds!
I had a burst of speed in the last couple hundred metres as I really wanted to get sub 4:26.

torshavn_medal

It was a great finish really. I had a water and some yogurt drink, ate a lara bar, and then headed just down the street for a bowl of soup and a beer. I somehow missed the desserts that were being offered, but I was anxious to get back to the hotel and crash.

It was about 1km walk back, and it followed the marathon route. I cheered lots of runners as they entered into the home stretch.

The Lasting Impressions
-The scenery that was simply amazing.
-The excellent organization including fully stocked aid stations about every 4k. I think just about every station had porta potties.
-Awesome crowd support: The sheep were cheering us on big time 🙂 Or were they mocking us. hmmmm. Either way, they were quite vocal.
-Race kit pick up was smooth and they were able to answer all my questions.
-I’d definitely recommend this race to anybody who wants a challenge.

Final Thoughts
I met a lot of runners that day, with diverse sets of goals and accomplishments. One Canadian guy was running his first marathon, whereas I chatted with a person whose t-shirt said “Marathons: North Pole, 7 Continents, 77 Countries”. Joerg is attempting to run 20 sub 3:30 marathons this year. Jaana turned 60 and wants to run 12 marathons this year. We all have goals, and the best part is that they are our own. Nobody sets them for us, and we alone get to determine if we succeeded. Or as former NFL coach Mike Ditka once said “Success is measured by your discipline and inner peace.“

 

Torshavn Marathon Site

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4 Comments

  1. I really like how you write and tell it all, about the ups and downs, etc. A neighbour of mine has been talking to me about this marathon and we are going to plan a race for next year- this might be the one. Probably half marathon though, I am running my very first marathon here in Oslo in September this year (Laugavegur ultra marathon gave me the courage!) Now at least I feel like I have more information. But a trail race in such a place might be even better?

  2. Hi! Thanks for reading my posts 🙂 If you do Laugavegur, then you can pretty much do anything 🙂 I’m not sure if they’re are tail races in the Faroe Islands, but this marathon (and the half version) are quite beautiful.

    1. Thank you for replying, I will definitely consider it. Here’s my post from Laugavegur in English if you’re interested. I was so high on the experience and found your posts so helpful (before going somewhere new, I always look for as much information as possible that I decided to write it in English for more people to be able to read it). https://guristreningsglede.wordpress.com/2017/07/19/i-did-it-i-ran-my-first-ultra-the-laugavegur-ultramarathon/

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