Running in Iceland — what you need to know.

By Steffen Cook

So you’ve gone all in and signed up for the Icelandic adventure. Congratulations! But with the race comes a wealth of questions on how to prepare and what to expect. Let’s address those here.

What will the weather be like?

Predictably unpredictable. Iceland can be perfectly pleasant during the day and horribly chilly overnight. And the rain takes no prisoners, either, should it decide to appear. Find a website that monitors the weather in Iceland and stay on top of it. In doing so, you’ll have a better idea of what kind of layers to pack for race day.

What shoes should I wear?

Runners of Iceland’s various races have reported that grip can be challenging with Icelandic terrain. So look for deep tread. And given the many streams, rivers, and pools of water that decorate the beautiful landscape, shoes that drain quickly are also highly advised.

How do I handle the loose debris?

Once you have shoes picked out, start thinking about gaiters. Volcanic terrain can be rocky and loose, and much of it may end up in your shoes. Stopping periodically to dump gravel not only eats into your time, but it also offsets your rhythm. Conversely, letting the small amounts of grit stay in your shoes can be a terrible mistake, as the chaffing will be akin to a sandpaper effect, leading to blisters that will jeopardize your event.

Should I pack anything special?

Clean, dry, soft clothes. When the event is done, the very first thing you’ll want to do is put them on. Not only is this an issue of warming up, but the psychological aspect of clean and comfortable clothing cannot be overstated.

What should I eat?

It’s a common mistake to change diets before a race. Don’t. Sticking with what you know and what the body is used to is oh-so important. If you trained using a certain meal regime, and it worked for you, then keep doing it. Putting something into your body that it isn’t used to is asking for trouble. And then, of course, make sure you have plenty of calories, fluids, and electrolytes to get you through the race.

What about my hydration pack?

The Icelandic terrain isn’t going to be your friend. It will jostle you around and make you work for each mile. So when it comes to wearing a pack with a bladder (if you choose to wear one), make sure the straps fit so that the bag’s comfortable, but doesn’t cut into you. Chaffing will throw you off your game, and rather than being there to aid you, the water on your back will feel like a burden. Get to know your pack and make sure you understand every facet of it.

What’s the terrain like?

It’ll keep you guessing, for sure. Varying from volcanic rock and mountain peaks, to soft, fertile lowlands, the surface of Iceland will not allow you to take shortcuts. Throw into that mixture the fact that there are deep fjords and glaciers and you have one of the most technical terrains to do battle with. Our advice is to become comfortable moving across all kinds of surfaces in all kinds of weather conditions.

SUMMARY

Iceland is a unique destination. There’s a reason why it is the least populated country in Europe. Unpredictable terrain and weather can combine for some tough surprises. But then, isn’t that the whole point?

Train well, study the destination, and go equipped with knowledge, as well as muscle memory.

Gangi þér vel!

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