Last weekend I completed the Polar Night Half Marathon in Tromsø, Norway. It was, as it often is, an icy, slushy, wet, and windy experience. However, the camaraderie of more than 900 other soggy runners clicking along in their studded racing shoes is enough to keep you going. That, and knowing that a shower and a hamburger are waiting at the finish line.
This was the fourth time I ran the Mørketidsløpet as it is called in Norwegian, and I had personally sworn off this race after running it four years ago and nearly freezing my knees off. Then this autumn I started running together with a friend and we needed a goal to keep us slogging through November and December. My friend was eager to try running a half marathon and so we decided to make the Polar Night race our training goal.
When race day finally rolled around on January 5 the conditions were icy, and the organizers actively encouraged everyone to wear shoe spikes. It was a good race in general, and I really admire the work the race organizers put in and the perseverance of all the course volunteers. After 4 months training I felt prepared, had fuelled well, and chosen the right gear for the conditions. My friend unfortunately though started developing a blister half-way through the race. So, this time we did not focus on the clock, just about completing the race, and getting our hard-earned medals and our celebratory meal at the end.
While training together my friend kept calling me his running “mentor”. It dawned on me that I have been a distance runner now for almost 10 years, since I completed my first half marathon in Helsinki in May 2009. I have, based on trial and error, learned a lot since then about how to train, dress, eat, and rest for a race.
At this point I have run 8 half marathons and 2 full marathons. I started running in university as a way to stay active after moving from a farm in the countryside to the city, and then I just kept going. My best time so far at the half marathon distance is 1h44m (2014). At this point the half marathon feels like a truly comfortable distance, but the marathon is still a challenge for me. I hit the wall during both the full marathons I have run, and took well over four hours to finish both, so there is more work to be done there.
Even with the terrible weather, starting off the running year with the Polar Night Half Marathon is very motivating. This year I have set myself a few, somewhat ambitious, goals to celebrate this tenth year of running to up my game a bit. I would like to start off the spring by taking part in Tromsøkarusellen, a series of 20-some exercise races that start in April and run through September. I have only managed to run 6 of the races in the series in the past, and want to try for at least 10 this year.
I would also like to get into trail running this season, and I am toying with the idea of signing up for the shortest of the Tromsø Skyraces, the Bønntuva 15k in early August. If that goes well I may also try the Mountain Challenge half ultra 25k at the end of August. Ultimately it would be nice to round off the season by completing the Oslo Marathon in September. I feel like running a big city marathon with the all the energy, participants, and spectators might be just what I need to keep my energy up even past that mythical 30km mark.
Here’s hoping for a good, and injury free, running season ahead.