marathon, My Firsts, running

The Rundown: Reykjavik Half Marathon

Warning: this is a long one. Feel free to skip ahead to the result 😉

This weekend just gone, I headed to Reykjavik, Iceland, for my first ever half marathon!

Race Goals

As always I had three goals when it came to this race:

Plan A: Finish under 2:00
Plan B: Finish under 1:55
Plan C: Enjoy the day and don’t make my calf injury worse

If we’re being honest, part of me did want to try to hit sub 1:50, but given that I’d never raced a half marathon before, I wanted to be conservative. After all, there’s nothing quite like getting your ass handed to you at a first-time race!

Pre Race

I was pretty knackered the day before from the 5am wake up for my flight, and then a day of sightseeing by foot and the 4 mile round-trip to the expo. Oops. But I had some big meals and headed to bed nice and early. Come race morning I woke up at 6am, purposefully before anyone else, to make coffee and breakfast, and then headed out to the garden of our Air BnB to sip on my coffee whilst everyone else made breakfast, showered, etc etc.

I ended up doing about 40 minutes of glorious yoga on the deck- I was completely out of sight of everyone else and just got to chill, loosen up my muscles, and meditate on the challenge ahead. We were only two blocks away from the start of the race itself, so with about 10 minutes to spare we all jogged down there together, and did a few loops around the nearby streets to get the legs going.

The Race Itself

I started with the Sub-2h pace group, but soon realised I was actually feeling very fresh and ended up surging ahead to catch up with the 1:55 pacer. From then on, I could feel myself running a good pace with minimal effort, but really tried to rein it in a bit, since I still had a long way to go! The route took us along the coastline, and conditions were perfect- sunny but crisp, without much wind! The halfway point was weirdly in quite an industrial area, and there was a big song and dance about the whole thing, but I hit it without much ado.

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 13.38.23.png

Following the halfway point, things started to get hard. The route took us along the coast again, but there was an undulating, never-ending out-and-back section that just went on forever. Once I got to mile 8 I started to wain, remembering that I still had 5 miles to go and starting to feel the strain in my hip flexors. I kept myself occupied by looking out for other LCAC runners passing me on their way back to the finish, and they were on top form, which motivated me. But still, the turnaround point didn’t seem to get any closer. Fuuuuck. I wanted to stop, either to walk or “stretch” and just take a break, but thankfully I managed to summon some willpower and made it to the 10 mile turnaround point.

Realising I only had a 5K left didn’t actually help me at this point, as I was starting to get slightly existential and angsty, knowing that I had to go back along the never-ending section that had almost broken me. But then my Garmin beeped at mile 12, and the thought of running any further just killed me. About half a mile later I stopped to walk. I wish I hadn’t, and I knew even at the time that I would regret it, but it was inevitable at that point. Mentally, I was done. I knew that I could literally walk the last mile and still hit sub-2h; a realisation that probably didn’t do me any favours. I walked briskly for about a minute, before kicking myself up the butt, and reminding myself that yesterday, sub 1:55 had seemed achievable.

The last mile seemed to go on forever, but thankfully there was a ton of support, and I managed to summon the strength to not stop again, at the very least. Then, as the finish clock started to come into focus, I saw that I was nearing 1:55, and so, with legs that felt like lead, I picked up my sorry ass and made the best attempt I could at a sprint for the last 400 metres or so. Half marathon: done.


Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 13.25.11.png
Deep in the Pain Cave at this point


I felt relieved to have finished, and later realised I’d smashed my goal, with an official finish time of 01:53:01. Yay!

My splits:

  • Mile 1:  8:51
  • Mile 2: 8:19
  • Mile 3: 8:28
  • Mile 4: 8:22
  • Mile 5: 8:22
  • Mile 6: 8:23
  • Mile 7: 8:19
  • Mile 8: 8:33
  • Mile 9: 8:43
  • Mile 10: 8:45
  • Mile 11: 8:45
  • Mile 12: 8:40
  • Mile 13:  9:13
  • Last .1:  8:05


Post Race

I mulled around the finish for a while before having a stretch by the lake. Weirdly, some negative thoughts started to creep in as I did this- mainly about the minute or so that I’d lost whilst walking- but I decided to try to block those out, and focus on how far I’ve come. Last March, I signed up to a half marathon, and the whole endeavour seemed entirely out of the realm of possibility, even with the six months I’d have to train. (I ended up getting injured, and didn’t do the race, which kind of reinforced my negative thinking). To think that I’d travelled to a different country, on a whim, to run a half marathon without any training- and that I’d actually finished, and within my time goal, gave me great sense of satisfaction.

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 13.44.41.png

I celebrated with another strong cup of coffee and a rundown of everyone else’s race- we had four PBs, and one of our runners finished 6th, as you do. We all had a celebratory drink, despite it not even being midday, and headed off for naps. Don’t say runners don’t know how to party!

What did you learn from your first half marathon?

Lots of love,




31 thoughts on “The Rundown: Reykjavik Half Marathon”

  1. Aaww Yey PIp! So chuffed for you! You SMASHED your targets!
    The thing I learnt from my first half marathon was ‘I CAN’. I am the worst for beating myself up and telling myself im slow, or rubbish or useless and the fact I finished a Half Marathon was insane . I CAN I CAN I CAN I CAN xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I’d love to go back to Iceland for a longer period, but it definitely can’t be another spur of the moment trip since it’s so bloody expensive there! But hiking would be lovely. I’ve also heard that there’s a midnight race in summer (since the sun doesn’t set)!


  2. First of all, I’m very jealous of your destination race. We have some beautiful places in the US, but I’m always envious of the backyard scenes you and other European runners I follow post regularly. But ICELAND? Unreal. I can’t tell you how much this makes me want to find a destination race to train for…

    As for my first half-marathon – I learned a lot. More than anything, I learned that I CAN do it – 13.1 IS possible, no matter what my mind says about it on race morning. I’m not a painfully skinny dude and I don’t run 8-minute miles, but I am capable of finishing a half. I learned that taking jellybeans from the aid station at mile 11 is the worst decision a person can make even though it seems brilliant at first. I learned that pepperoni pizza tastes better than it ever has after a big race when you’re gripping your medal in one hand and your feet are elevated.

    But I guess the biggest thing I learned was when I said “After this race, I’m going back to 5Ks only” was a lie. I can’t wait to do it again!


    1. Thank you! I’m always jealous of gorgeous US trails and national parks, so I guess the feeling’s mutual 😉 Iceland was pretty unreal though- I would love to go back sometime. But it’s also spurred me on to do more destination races and take advantage of living in Europe (before the bloody Brexit comes along and messes it all up!) When are you doing your next half?!


  3. Congratulations!! That is an awesome time for your first half! It’s not every day you meet someone who has done their first marathon before their first half, lol. But like you alluded to that doesn’t make the half easy by ANY means!

    Halves are so tricky because you spend so much of the race feeling great and then the fatigue hits you out of NOWHERE very suddenly. I’ve run 11 half marathons and this always happens to me no matter how well I race, usually at mile 8 or 10. It’s not easy to run fast for 13 miles!

    My first half went really well, but I started WAY too fast and it came back to bite me later. The thing I learned from that race was: don’t trust the first few miles because it won’t feel that good later on. Also, stick to your race plan!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your advice! I don’t think I went out too too fast, but definitely slightly faster than was ideal, so I hear you on it coming back to bite you! 13 miles is definitely still a long way to run, even when you’ve done a marathon, so I guess it was kind of a mental battle trying to balance speed out with distance. It’s a nice intermediary between the 10k and the marathon though!


  4. Congrats! Don’t fret about your short walk. Bringing your heart rate down for a few minutes and regathering yourself probably helped you finish strong rather than just falling apart. Beautiful photos & I’m glad you had a nice time. Congrats again!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you love! Yes, it was an absolutely gorgeous course. I didn’t stop to take photos at the time- I had shit to do- but I went running the following day along some of the course and it was lovely- very peaceful first thing in the morning, and the views were just stunning. ❤


  5. awesome race!! I know its a bummer to walk but that mental game is seriously no joke! even with the walk you got a fantastic time now you will have even more confidence for your next race! way to go, i bet that out and back was rough but i can only imagine how beautiful the scenery was for that race. i’ve always wanted to go to iceland.


  6. This is pretty incredible! Contacts!! Strong race. It’s amazing what we can do when we realize there’s only 5k left. I’ve only raced one half marathon back in March and now headed to Virginia beach for another! It’ll be a flat one but hot and humid so curious to see how I fare in that weather…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Congratulations! Way to gut it out in the end… once you start getting discouraged, it’s so easy to let those goals just slide away. You did a great job staying mentally strong even through your fatigue!

    Liked by 1 person

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