Iceland: Marathons and Volcanoes

Steve’s latest marathon led us north to beautiful Iceland. We arrived the capital city, Reykjavík, after a red eye flight via Minneapolis. Tired, but excited to explore, we met up with fellow runners via our tour operator, Marathon Tours. We travelled with them to Athens last year and they take good care of us. Our first stop was at the Marathon expo to pick up Steve’s race bib. It was a three mile one-way walk, and a good chance to get our bearings.

Our big adventure before the race was to take an excursion called “Inside the Volcano.” Yep, we went inside! First we hiked about three miles across barren lava fields to base camp. From there we were fitted with a harness, helmet, and headlamp and led to the top of the crater.

Discovered originally in 1974, the commercial explorations began in 2012 after National Geographic asked the Icelandic government for access to study the site. Once a lift was constructed it soon became a top attraction.

We were snapped in to the lift, which was kind of like a window washer’s scaffold, and lowered 120 meters (approximately 38 stories) to the crater floor. The entire descent took a little over five minutes.

Once inside the volcano we were free to follow a path that took us up and over lava rocks that were created over 4,000 years ago. The colors and patterns left from the last eruption were like nothing we’d ever seen. It was a unique, once in a lifetime, experience that we’d highly recommend to anyone visiting Iceland.

The Reykjavík Marathon was the highlight of the next day and Steve was at the start line on time and ready to go. In almost perfect weather (spitting just a little rain and 50 degrees) he joined over 4000 other runners from over 80 countries. One runner was even dressed as a rhinoceros with a plea to savetherhino.org.

Steve finished in just over four and a half hours with a pulled calf muscle and a smile. It’s his 8th marathon of the year, so he was happy to finish. Now he’ll nurse his calf carefully before next month’s race.

The Reykjavík Marathon is the kickoff of the city’s annual Culture Fest. Music, dance, art, food, and more are found all throughout the city and people come from all across the country to celebrate. We took in as much as possible before running out of steam. A visit to the big church, Hallgrimskirkja and Cafe Loki’s rye bread ice cream were a few highlights.

Next we head out into the countryside for a few more days of exploration. Stay tuned for lots of pictures of waterfalls, glaciers, and geysirs.

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