One of the reasons we found ourselves back in Tromsø in January was because in the summer heatwave, sitting and sitting in our sweltering flat in London, an arctic half-marathon seemed like a reasonable thing to do.
Cut to 6 months later, and I question all of my choices. This is my sexy getting ready look: Realising I was ill-equipped to run this race, as it was clear that the course would be 100% snow and ice, I stopped by the outfitter to get a pair of “snow tires” for my shoes. This bit of kit is absolutely essential to completing the race, as without the studded grip, I would likely still be out there floundering on the race course. While I was at the shop, I was very tempted to buy this wearable sleeping bag, but figured it might not be the most versatile look for my regular life.I had a hard time deciding what level of layering was required, so I figured I would share a full gear list, in case you are gearing up for an arctic run.
- Long-sleeve Lululemon top (I am a fan of the Swiftly tops for all seasons!)
- Long-sleeve Icebreaker wool top
- Lululemon sports bra (the Enlite is the best!)
- Lightweight Patagonia windbreaker
- “Bun warmer” shorts from Sugoi
- Patagonia long johns
- Lululemon tight stuff tights
- Skhoop down skirt
- Hat, neck warmer, mittens, socks
- Running shoes with nano spikes
Race bib band (so I didn’t have to poke pins through my jacket)
So with some wriggling in the limited space of the camper van, we got suited up and headed to the start line.
Without further adieu, we were off. It is a relatively small field of similarly deranged individuals, so in no time at all, we were crossing the start line and off into the snowy darkness.
I had selected an audiobook, Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris, as my soundtrack for the race. I figured that the story of a young woman, upon surviving Auschwitz found herself sentenced to a Siberian gulag would be a suitable choice. In some ways, it was ideal, as her story of genuine suffering in arctic conditions in a work camp and enduring resilience dwarfed the difficulty of my discomfort. However, I realized the folly of this decision, as I was wheezy-crying about 18k into the race at an emotional point in the book. [Sidebar: I highly recommend this book! It was extraordinary. I have a full review on Goodreads if you want to know more].
There were some charming features of this particular race. The entire course was lined with outdoor candles, which flickered against the snow, adding beautiful ambiance. I also was quickly reminded of the Norweigian style of cheering, that I find utterly charming. They chant a two-syllable “hej-yah” cheer, which has a musical element that I found excessively lovely. I was also packing the ultimate Canadian running treat: packets of maple syrup [drooooolll].
I kept running slowly, fueled by sugar and stories, eventually crossing the finish line. And gratefully receiving a cup of hot juice, and joined some human baked potatoes sitting around a fire. We were not treated to a display of northern lights, but the Polar night half-marathon was still one of the most unique races I have completed.