Race: Laugavegur Ultra Marathon

Runner: Bobi O

Race Date: 07/13/2019

Location: Iceland

Results: 8:43

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. Gorgeous scenery! Really, classic Iceland and other-worldly!
  2. Net downhill! It’s not a very technical race, most of the hills are up front, and the rest of the race trends downhill.
  3. It’s point-to-point, so the whole course is new stuff to see the whole way!

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

  1. Logistically, it makes for a looooong day! Taking a 4 hour shuttle ride in the morning, racing, then a 3 hour shuttle after…was rough.
  2. Aid stations were lacking. If you’re used to a smorgasbord every couple of miles in an ultra race, either pack your favorites on you, or prep for disappointment.
  3. It’s a big enough event that you’re never truly alone. If you’re extroverted and like the company (or don’t want to feel lost in a different country), this is a good thing. If you want photos of the trail with no one else in them, not so much.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

Due to the geothermal pools, a lot of the race smells like rotten eggs (i.e. sulphur!).

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

Highlights of the race are 100% the scenery. It was truly incredible and had so many different features: painted hills, snowy alps in the distance, glaciers, river crossings, hot pools, snow fields, lava rock…endless beauty.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

  • We couldn’t have asked for better weather and got lucky this year, but it is VERY remote and the weather can change drastically from one minute to the next, so definitely study the forecast the night before to prepare!
  • Also, drop bags are available to access mid-race – I wish I had poles up front and dropped them in the middle. Some of those early hills are no joke!

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

Pack lighter than you think! I had too many “just in case” layers in my pack and by mid-race, my shoulders were getting pretty angry about it. Stick to your guts about racing and don’t freak yourself out of your own routines just because you’re in a new country.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

  • Everyone at the aid stations speaks English and are happy to help you with anything you need. One fun feature is that your bib has the elevation profile printed on it (upside down, so when you look down at it, it’s correct – so thoughtful!).
  • The course doesn’t really have “markings” (i.e. ribbons or trail markers) but it’s point-to-point on the main backpacking trail and there are enough people around that it would be real tough to get lost. Just follow the trail…there’s only one!

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Gorgeous.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

It’s a 55K with about 5,500 ft of climbing. The ups are steep and so are the downs. The rest is runnable and trending downhill. I’ve done harder races in Oregon.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

For the amount of people coming in to do this race, it’s remote access and logistics, yeah, it’s a well-oiled machine. However, the showers at the end could be closer to the changing tents! We were literally told “undress in here, wrap a towel and walk to the showers then come back for your stuff”. So it was a bunch of naked people hobbling through the finish area. (P.S. bring your own soap!)

Competition – Is there a strong field?

It’s a big enough race that you likely won’t be first and likely won’t be last. The top 3 male finishers were Icelandic.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

In years past it took 3-6 weeks to fill; the 2019 race filled within a day. Be ready on registration day to commit and get in – it’s getting popular!

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Water + Coke. Pretzels + bananas. That’s about it. Also note: Icelandic Coke is different to American Coke.

Weather and typical race conditions

It’s mountain running; could be sun, could be snow. Will likely be wind. It’s Iceland, so you’re exposed 100% of the time…wear sunscreen!

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?

The race requires a space blanket and a whistle and they check for this. Do not bring a headlamp (save the ounces; in July, Iceland has 23.5 hours of daylight!)

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Definitely not. The course is in the remote highlights in the south of Iceland and access is down an F-Road, which requires a special 4×4 to get to. They can book a seat on the spectator bus or you can plan to camp and make the trip before/after the race, but there isn’t mid-point access for friends/family.

How’s the Swag?

A reusable bag and a nice long-sleeved tech tee + finisher’s medal.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

5 out of 5 – highly recommend!