A long time ago,
back on the 22nd June 2010 to be exact, after a few too
many glasses of wine I decided to enter a half marathon in the Arctic
Circle. At the time I was not a runner at all. That was the start of an
initial challenge to try and run 10 half marathons in 8 months in 10
different countries. That completed it proved not to be the end of it.
Now 7½ years later it only seemed fitting to finish the challenge (for
now) running the most northlery and probably toughest half marathon yet
again. So it is back to Tromso in the very North of Norway, in the middle
of winter to run 13.1 miles in the dark on a course of snow and ice.
Prior to 2010 I
had managed a couple of Great North Runs, but since then I have completed
numerous half marathons each year, making this run my 50th
half marathon, on the week of my 50th birthday.
This has not by any means been an easy challenge, since I start training
for the first challenge, back in 2010, I have logged over 7000
miles of running, ran in 23 countries on 3 continents. I have ran a half
marathon in every country in western Europe. I have ran in blistering
heat, pouring rain, snow, hailstones, flooding and even lightning. Since
1st January 2011, I have never ran less than 10 miles in a
week, which, by creating a challenge within a challenge, kept to the
training program and kept me motivated to run when I simply
couldn’t be bothered. This has raised further challenges, I have had to
run on boats, treadmills, beaches and even ski slopes, all to cover that
minimum training requirement. Almost 30 pairs of trainers have been worn
out and a small fortune spent on kit, entries and travel, but almost
£30,000 has been raised for Willow Burn Hospice and amazingly I carried
the Olympic Torch in the 2012.
So the 50th run (note I am not
referring to it as the last), The Polar Nights Half Marathon, Tromso
Norway, latitude 69 degrees north (The arctic circle starts at latitude
66 degrees north). Starting 3pm Saturday 6th January in the
middle of the polar winter. The polar winter runs for 3 months from the
start of November to the end of January, during that time the sun never
rises above the horizon. For a few hours, late morning dawn and dusk
quickly merge, by 3pm it is the UK equivalent of late evening, by the
time I finish the race it will be pitch black.
It snowed heavily
the morning of the race which made the route look very picturesque, but
also challenging. I collected my number on the morning of the race and a
nice little touch by the organisers in that they allocated me the race
Along with about
1000 other runners I set off along Tromso main street at 3pm in a nice -6
degree temperature. The first half of the race was fairly steady, running
around the island towards the airport with a slight tail wind (given my
complete lack of aerodynamics this does help). The course was a mixture
of compacted snow and occasional sections of ice, but slow and steady
pace meant no disasters. Runners from 55 different countries took part
and this for many was the ultimate “bucket list” run, so the conversation
was great with the wind on our backs.
At the half way
point the course does a 180 degree turn and you pretty much retrace your
steps back to Tromso City centre. It was about this time that the slight
tail wind turned into a heavy head wind, which not only made running
difficult, but also blew waves of snow from the fields across the track
directly at me. In addition, due to wind chill, the temperature dropped
dramatically. I began to notice that everything had to started to
freeze, including my clothes, hat and every body extremity. At the drinks
station at 8 miles the water in the drinking cups had frozen, the change
in temperature had been so severe. I also managed to pick up an injury to
my left knee, every time it hit the ground it was equally matched by a
shot of pain. To make things even worse, given the amount of traffic on
the route, more and more of it was now polished ice, which made the
ground harder (more painful on the knee), and more treacherous.
However, I did make
it, freezing cold and in a lot of pain, I have never been so glad to see
the finishing straight. It took me a full 2 hours after the race, wrapped
in blankets with the heating on full in the hotel room, to finally get my
body to stop shivering and with the help of pain killers eventually get
to the bar and have a well-earned celebratory beer.
So as I write this,
I have finally warmed back up, but a day later I am still hobbling, so I
may need to finally listen to my body (and Victoria) and have a (short)
rest from running.
All of this, plus
riding the coast to coast and climbing 50 Wainwright peaks this year with
Victoria has been done to raise money for Willow Burn Hospice. For those
that have already supported, thank you very much, if you haven’t the
Justgiving link is below, every little helps. The madness now ends and I
(currently) don’t have any other life changing challenges committed to,
but life is short and there may be time for one or two more yet!
Thanks for reading
the updates and all of the support I have received. (p.s. I am crap at