My first marathon was a mostly surreal experience
On Saturday, August 23, over 15,000 laced their running shoes and donned their finest Lycra to partake in the 31st Reykjavík Marathon. And I was one of around a thousand who braved all 42.2 kilometres of the full marathon. This was the third time I had signed up to do it, but the first time I actually made it to the starting line, after managing to make it through training injury-free.
It was a perfect day for running—cloudy, but not rainy, and barely a breeze in the air. I turned up at Lækjargata around half an hour before the 8:40 am starting time. Unlike with many major marathons, there’s no need to arrive much earlier. At the Reykjavík Marathon, everything’s so relaxed—you just find yourself a position in the appropriate pace area, wait for the starting signal to sound, and off you go.
The first ten kilometres seemed to fly by thanks to some vigorous support from hordes of spectators. Onlookers lined the street on Lynghagi, enthusiastically banging pots and pans so as to set the pace. The residents of Lindabraut had really gone to town, with a couple of bands playing and stalls with refreshments. Then, on Norðurströnd, the ladies in pink and purple wigs did a great job of cheering everyone along.
Spectators started to peter out along Sæbraut, so I kept my mind occupied by admiring Esja across the bay. When I hit the first significant hill in Laugarnes, I was running alongside a guy pushing a man in a wheelchair and blasting out Icelandic tunes. Singing along to Páll Óskar’s “La Dolce Vita” meant I barely noticed the incline at all.
Turning left off Sæbraut while all the half-marathoners carried on back into town was particularly hard. The twelve kilometres that followed were the most monotonous. The only thing to serve as a brief distraction were the cows of Húsdýragarðurinn, chewing on cud, completely oblivious to the mental struggle engulfing the humans rushing past. After I’d made it over the last hilly bit just before Nauthólsvík, however, I suddenly seemed to relax into the run. I kept thinking to myself: “Hey, I’m running a marathon. I can do this!”
Once I’d passed Grótta and saw Hallgrímskirkja looming in the distance, I gave it everything I had left. A guy running alongside me said, “we’re almost there”—I couldn’t formulate a proper response, sufficing to let out some sort of wail. I wasn’t too out of breath to talk: at that moment, I occupied some sort of mental zone where human interaction had no place.
After I crossed the finish line back on Lækjargata, four hours twenty-eight minutes and fifty-five seconds after I started, I burst into tears. It had been one of the most surreal, most amazing and most emotional experiences of my life. And it is one that I certainly hope to repeat, although I need to regain full range of motion in my legs before determining exactly when that will be.
During the run, the most inspiring sight was a couple in their sixties running together just ahead of me, sometimes even holding hands. They looked like real seasoned marathon runners and I hope that one day I will occupy their shoes, running alongside the man I love.