By Bex & Heather Stevens
In June 2017, the Stevens Sisters (with their brother and co) jumped on a plane or two and headed for the Arctic city of Tromsø, Norway to embark on our first ever sporting event abroad. We were initially inspired after hearing friends of friends had entered, and the fact that this was the world’s northernmost certified marathon!
We flew from Heathrow with a short stopover in Oslo before arriving in Tromsø approximately five hours later. We had a lovely Airbnb booked in a village called Ersfjordbotn, which was approximately a 20 minute drive from the town centre. To be able to open our front door and see a backdrop of mountains, fjords and waterfalls was something very special. It was so scenic it could have been a Microsoft desktop background!
We arrived the day before the run and after missing the official ‘Pasta Party’ we decided to have one of our own. Carb loading is always a highlight of pre-race preparation!!
After a good sleep in broad daylight (which takes a little getting used to) we decided to hire a car after learning that buses from Ersfjordbotn were somewhat on the infrequent side. We drove into Tromsø to pick up our race packs and soaked up the atmosphere by supporting some of the children races in the afternoon. After some exploring, we decided to rest our legs in a nearby pub. The good news was that we didn’t drink alcohol. The bad news was we accidentally ordered this alternative pre-race nutrition…
The marathon commenced at 8.30 pm and the half-marathon at 10.30 pm. It was a fairly small scale event with a couple of thousand participants. The conditions were perfect for running: it was not too cold, there was no wind and the sun even made an appearance. There was also a light misting of rain which meant we were fortunate enough to see a rainbow. It was impossible not to take a photo or two.
The half marathon course followed the same route as the last 21km of the marathon. It went through the town centre and thankfully the snow-capped mountains remained at a safe distance! The course was described as ‘relatively flat’ and certainly compared to Crowborough it was! However it was tough and undulating in places which meant we both suffered from stiches at various points. We found that taking some deep breaths and doing side stretches seemed to resolve this.
While there were not a huge number of spectators, the ones that were there were very supportive. We saw many waving international flags from balconies reflecting how far and wide people had travelled to take part. The crowds were shouting something sounding like ‘HEY-YA!’ as we passed which was extremely encouraging, despite not knowing what it meant.
Overall, the race was very well organised, there were plenty of water stations (although it was important to master the art of drinking from plastic cups on the move – there is a secret technique!) and it was a fantastic novelty to be running in the glorious midnight sunlight.
We were both happy to finish in 1.55 and our splits showed that our pacing was consistent throughout. Although no PBs were set, this was definitely an ‘experience’ race. It was too picturesque not to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the views. Would we recommend it? It’s not every day you get to run at midnight and watch the sun set over a mountainous backdrop; it’s without a doubt worth the trip.