On Saturday the 22nd of June, I ran my first ever marathon! The 30th annual Midnight Sun Marathon took place in Tromso, Norway, 200km north of the Arctic Circle, from 8:30pm to 2am. Race-related ceremonies began the day before and continued into the next day, making for a whole weekend of running fun! Including the presence of the Marathon torch all the way from Athens! Despite the 2000 runners that traveled in for the race, the city never felt particularly busy.
It was 10 degrees and raining for the whole day and night. Not ideal, at all. I went by the motto of dress for the temperature rather than the weather, wearing long leggings and a short sleeved t-shirt. I wore a rain coat to the start line, but I was worried extra layers would mean extra faff and chaffing.
The course was mostly flat, but there’s a bridge that you go over twice, which is a hell of a hill. It’s also very exposed, so the cold and the wind really start to affect you – which isn’t the best when you’re not even 20km in.
The main difference between MSM and one of the bigger races is the amount of supporters. The reality is that there just aren’t that many people around at Midnight in Tromso. The start line is busy, and there are pockets of enthusiatic support along the way, especially people on balconies with Norwegian flags (I also expecially enjoyed the drunk people yelling from bars during the last stretch, they genuinely kept me going) however you are mostly alone, which to be honest is part of the beauty of it. Its so quiet, and the other-worldliness of the midnight sun is totally disorienting.
I made friends with a British girl called Emily; and we ran about 20km together, which was a wonderful lifeline. She was slightly faster than me, but chose to stay with me for the company. She was an absolute hero and I don’t think I would have survived without her. Unfortunately we got separated by a loo break; and I never found her again.
The hardest part for me was around the airport, km 27-33. I had lost my running buddy at this point, and pretty much realised that I wasn’t going to come in in under 5 hours. The cold was sinking into my bones and I couldn’t keep my teeth from chattering. I was genuinely concerned that my increased gel intake would cause a GI incident that I was not at all prepared to deal with. It is possible that I imagined this, but I swear there was a tiny steady incline at one point that seemed never-ending.
I got a second wind when I realised that we had less than 10km to go, and became instantly obnoxious, singing, dancing and chatting to everyone around me. I almost didn’t realised that I had hit the wall and come through the other side until weeks later. Crossing the finish line was totally euphoric, I sprinted the last 500m and cheered as they announced my name.
I didn’t cry; though I honestly expected to. The absolute highlight of the experience was when a random woman came up to me afterwards and asked to hug me, she said I had inspired her with my enthusiasm and that my bubbly attitude had kept her going. That meant a lot, especially as I didn’t feel at all inspirational in the moment.
There is a much over used quote that says “everything you ever wanted to know about yourself, you can learn in 26.2 miles.” Having done it, I don’t think that’s actually true; but I am incredibly proud and happy to say I know that through experience now.