Race Report Iceland Ultra – 2008
Laugavegur Ultra Marathon - Iceland 2008
We arrived in Iceland with 7 runners from a variety of different backgrounds and running experience. Some were experienced ultra runners, but for some the task ahead was very daunting with two runners never having run further than 16 miles.
We gave a detailed race brief, including hydration, nutrition advice and medical briefing, which left everyone fully aware of the challenge ahead and exactly what they had let themselves up for! Although short for an ultra (53km) the course is punishing and much harder than the distance suggests. The first 17km involves 600m of climbing along difficult mountain trails, over ice, mud and sand, although the amazing scenery certainly distracts from the burn in the legs. What goes up must come down, and there follows a steep and difficult descent on uneven ground for 2km before the first major river crossing through glacial fed waters. The later stages of the course are slightly easier underfoot and undulating, but still involve some steep descents with one assisted by ropes, before the final ice cold river crossing and the 4km run through the woods to the finish.
The weather this year was terrible, with everyone shivering at the starting line before the off. 250 runners started – more than doubling last year’s numbers – yet the race still retained its friendly local feel, with people chatting and swapping race stories. Up in the mountains the clouds closed in taking visibility to just 30m at times. Ice cold rain lashed in from the left but it only seemed to spur people on in the face of adversity. Snow cover was heavy making running difficult and slippy at times. Over the latter stages the rain continued to pour and runners didn’t hang around at the checkpoints, going through as quick as possible to avoid the cold and keep their body temperature up. There is a cut-off time of 6hours at the 37km point and many runners had to push hard to get there on time. Once through they still had a 16km slog to the finish, and this is often the hardest stretch mentally, with runners pushing themselves onwards whilst their bodies are telling them to stop with every footfall.
Our small group did incredibly well, and all were shocked at how hard this race is, much harder than they ever imagined. Sam was the first of the group to arrive home around the 6hour 20 mark having never run a marathon before – in fact he said that he hates running! Dan, a veteran of the Gobi desert stage race was next in at 6hours 50, followed by Terry and Christopher in 7hours 30. Richard finished just under 8hours having and raised an incredible $95000 for charity to take part in the race, followed by Will and Maria past the 8hour mark. It was a huge achievement and they all should be very proud of their efforts as this race is definitely not for the faint hearted.
We are all now taking it all in, whilst we wait for our legs to stop aching and the day that walking downstairs or steep inclines becomes pain free.
Roll on 2009!
Race Director, Adventure Racing
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