Friday, 24 March 2017

Event Review : Polar Night Half Marathon 2017

There's quite a back log of races to write about, and while some I may not, I wanted to share my experience of the Polar Night Half Marathon that I revisited back in January. You may recall I ran this last year with a couple of friends and at the time thought "great, that was fun, another tick" and toyed with the idea of the Midnight Sun Marathon but not the night one again.

Ha! What a fool was I? My friends signed up again almost immediately and eventually I was persuaded to go back out to Tromso too. And then Dean said he'd come and run too, as some partners were also coming out to Northern Norway, so that was that. Hotel was booked, flights sought, down jackets prised out of the wardrobe and ice grips left until the last minute to buy (and failed to turn up in time).
Landed in Norway!
The trip out was fine and we were delighted to get snowfall on our first night. There was already snow on the ground but it wasn't as thick as the year before and it was a little warmer, meaning conditions were slushier underfoot. Discussions were had about the merits of trail shoes against road shoes either with or without grips. As the race doesn't start until 3pm we had a morning to try out some options and ask the locals at the race pack pick up.
As last year, registration was busy but efficient. Timing chips were checked to be working, we were given a bottle of water and a race paper (in which two of my travelling partners made an appearance) and able to ask the burning questions. "If you want to get a time or win, wear spikes" was the advice of a local. I hadn't brought trail shoes so road shoes it was! There was no further snowfall and temperatures were verging on comfortable. Whilst I was at the "expo" I pawed again at the race t-shirts and other items. Everything in Norway seems expensive and if you ever thought a race vest was pricey in the UK you can imagine how much more it might be out there. Regardless, Dean bought us both a race t-shirt and an additional reflective beanie hat for me. Bless! They didn't half look smart and they were duly worn over base layers for the event.
His and hers t-shirts. Here, have a sick bucket...
On the start line once more I was looking forward to it all. Dean was nervous and excited and just a general bundle of fizziness. We set off, slowly at first as we got used to the ground underneath, and to be fair we didn't get an awful lot faster. Conditions were ok, slightly slippery, but calm in the residential areas that the route winds through at first. There was just as much support as last year, lots of marshals around and torches all along the way. As we came out of the residential area and beside the water towards the airport the winds started to whip the snow around us. My face started to feel red raw on one side and I gave up wiping my nose. A gel was consumed at 5 miles and half way was a very welcome sight. Dean was seeming strong but I was finding it all very hard going from mile 9 and eventually I had to call out to him to slow to a walk for a moment. I had the second of the gels I had with me and we walked for a while. Turns out he wasn't feeling too great either and we ran-walked a couple of miles, managing to jog the last mile (I can always run a mile, but stringing them together doesn't alway happen).
Post race with medal. 
Some of our group had done the 5k option and others in the half marathon had beaten us home so we got a nice cheer on the final straight. Hot squash and bananas were hoovered up, alongside several snickers bars (Dean) and we all retired to our hotel to defrost, clean up and rest in advance of a group dinner and drinks later. Olhallen, the brewery bar we enjoyed so much last year, was the go-to destination.
Fighting with the bear in Olhallen
With the race being on a Saturday we had a couple of days after to relax and sight see. We were fortunate enough to get the last few spots on a whale watching trip on the Sunday and took some time to meander around the town, on Monday, after the obligatory recovery run over the bridge to the Arctic Cathedral and back. And just to top everything off we saw the Northern Lights again whilst on the plane heading home.
Dressed for whale watching
Whale!
Arty photo moment
A great time was had by all and despite the event being such hard work on this occasion, I thoroughly enjoyed it (in hindsight) and would absolutely do it again, although I think we've got our sights set on the Midnight Sun event for 2018! These events are well organised, not too huge, and a real novelty for those of us used to running in the UK. They're not cheap but it's a great excuse to travel and maybe fit in some other activities while you're there.

What's the most unusual event you've ever taken part in? Does night running or ice running appeal?

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