Organizers Shovel Snow from Mountain Path in Advance of Summer Trail Running Event

The Súlur Vertical trail-running event will take place on mountain slopes outside of Akureyri, North Iceland this weekend. RÚV reports that organizers and volunteers have been hard at work preparing the trails, even manually shovelling snow on the uppermost slopes of Mt. Hlíðarfjall in order to carve out a running path for the longest race.

This is the seventh time Súlur Vertical has been held and participation is higher than ever been before, with 556 people registered to take part in three races of increasing distances: 18 km [11 mi], 28 km [17 mi], and 55 km [34 mi]. The longest race includes a section on Mt. Hlíðarfjall and a 3000-m [1.86-mi] elevation gain (earning 3 points with the International Trail Running Association).

Súlur Vertical, FB

“This section has been impassable due to snow since the winter,” read a Facebook post about the organizers’ trail-clearing efforts on Tuesday. “But many hands, shovels, ( and chainsaws!) made for light work and [this stretch] shouldn’t be much of an obstacle this weekend.” Súlur Vertical director Þorbergur Ingi Jónsson later clarified that the chainsaws were used to break through hard-packed ice along the trail and said the whole process took only a few hours. “When you have such a powerful group, projects like this one are no problem.”

“This also opens one of the most popular mountain trails around Akureyri to the general public and we welcome that,” he wrote in Tuesday’s post, “as one of the goals of the Súlur Vertical organization is to promote outdoor activity and physical activity in the area.”

Súlur Vertical, FB

The weather forecast isn’t looking promising for the coming weekend, and there’s even the possibility of snow in the mountains. But Þorbergur isn’t discouraged. “We’ll just make the best of the conditions and we’ve got plenty of hot cocoa and things like that.”

Learn more about Súlur Vertical (in English) here.

Jogger Has Run-In with Aggro Owl in Southeast Iceland

“Tempo running” took on a new meaning for Þórgunnur Torfadóttir when she went out for a jog in Hornafjörður, Southeast Iceland last week and was dive bombed—repeatedly—by a short-eared owl (Asio flammeus). Fréttablaðið reports that the fearless flyer was most likely protecting its young, but a local ornithologist says that such behaviour is relatively uncommon among owls in Iceland.

“I was out for a jog and just starting a short tempo run—I wanted to push myself,” Þórgunnur recalled. “Then a bird flies toward me and I think: That gull is flying really low.”

‘I see a shadow coming up behind me’

As the bird got closer, it started hissing and spitting, Þórgunnur continued. “That’s when I see it’s not a gull, but an owl. And then she dived at me over and over with such horrible screeching.” In one terrifying instance, the owl’s razor-sharp talons were only about a metre [3 ft] from her face.

Þórgunnur steeled herself and did the only sensible thing: she hissed and screeched back at the owl while vigorously flapping her arms. The spectacle worked and the bird retreated.

Turning and running back in the other direction, Þórgunnur thought her ordeal was over. “But then I see a shadow coming up behind me and think: No, not you again! I ran as fast as I could and was finally able to shake her.”

Þórgunnur said she knew that skua, Arctic terns, sea gulls, and even redwings are known to take a flying peck at people who intrude on their territory, but the incident with the owl still surprised her. “I had my hair in a ponytail, and it occurred to me that maybe the owl thought it was a mouse or a fox’s tail or something.” But more likely, she said, is simply that it’s the owl’s nesting season.

Still loves birds

Ornithologist Björn Arnarson at the Southeast Iceland Bird Observatory confirms the latter speculation. He said this kind of behaviour isn’t common among owls in Iceland, but it does occasionally happen at this time of year. The owl was almost certainly protecting its young nearby. He explained that short-eared owls are very protective of their owlets, but agreed that this particular bird was unusually aggressive.

As harrowing as the experience was, Þórgunnur says she still wouldn’t rank it in the top ten worst of her life and moreover, wouldn’t even say that the short-eared owl is the worst of the dive-bombing birds she’s fended off. “The skua are the worst,” she said. “They crash into you like fighter jets, but they don’t make as much noise as owls.”

And none of her run-ins with feathered fighters change the affection she holds for southeast Iceland, which she said is a bird paradise, and its fauna.

“Adventures like this don’t change the fact that I still really enjoy birds.”

Ultra Marathon in Icelandic Highland This Summer

Fjallabak - syðra highland

The Environment Agency of Iceland has granted Arctic Yeti Ltd. permission to hold a so-called “Ultra Marathon” in Iceland’s highland this summer. It’s the first time such a run has been held in Iceland: participants will have six days to traverse 280 kilometres (174 miles) between June 26 and July 3. Arctic Yeti CEO Javi Gálves told the company hopes to make the marathon an annual event.

It is estimated that there will be about 50 participants in the marathon, which will partly take place around Fjallabak and Þjórsárdalur, protected areas in Iceland’s highland. The running route contains a mixture of main roads in the area, dirt roads, and highland hiking trails.

Marathon participants will stay at campsites within Þjórsárdalur valley for the duration of the run. The campsites will be set up by Arctic Yeti, who will provide tents and other necessities to runners. Participants will be required to carry organic waste bags for their personal use, which will be disposed of in designated areas.

Arctic Yeti is a Spanish travel agency that specialises in trips to the Nordic countries. They have previously held an Ultra Marathon in Costa Rica.

Icelanders Run Around the World, From Home

A new website allows participants to participate in a virtual relay race around the world. The website Hlaupum kringum hnött­inn, or ‘Let’s Run Around the World,’ was started by a group of Icelanders looking to do “something constructive to lift our moods during the epidemic.” Participants are encouraged to log the kilometres they jog every day and take part in a virtual trip around the globe—” with a distance of two metres between runners,” of course.

The race kicked off on Monday this week, and at time of writing, 771 participants had run 6,033 km or 13% of the way around the world. The route started in Reykjavík before making its next stops in Þórshöfn, Glasgow, London, Paris, Florence, and Athens. Next up are Adis Ababa, Nairobi, Johannesburg, and the South Pole. Each participant has run an average of 7.8 km a day thus far.

Screenshot via Hlaupum kringum hnöttinn website

Þórlindur Kjartansson, one of the site’s founders, says that a project like this is all the more necessary while the gathering ban is in effect and people need to be prioritizing both their physical and mental health.

The group doesn’t yet know how the race will continue after the round-the-world goal has been reached, but plans to keep the site up and running until Iceland is no longer in a state of emergency due to COVID-19.

Northern Lights Run in Downtown Reykjavík Tonight

The Northern Lights ‘fun run’ (or walk) will take place in Reykjavík tonight, Saturday, February 8. Starting at 7pm, brightly clad participants will set out from the Reykjavík Art Museum on a 5 km trot through downtown, which will be illuminated for the occasion. Runners will all get their very own light-up gear as well, making them “part of the entire show from start to finish.”

The Northern Lights Run is part of the Reykjavík Winter Lights Festival, which has been part of the city’s event calendar for the last 18 years. Billed as an event dedicated to “feeling healthy, having fun, and spending an amazing night out with friends and/or family,” the run isn’t timed but is expected to take anywhere between 20 and 70 minutes.

The course runs past Harpa, through Hallgrímskirkja, past Hljómskálinn by Tjörnin pond, through City Hall, and ends back at the Reykjavík Art Museum on Tryggvagata. DJs will be set up at “fun stations” along the route and there will be a dance party at the art museum at the end of the event. The route will be closed to traffic throughout the event.

All participants must register for the event and are reminded to dress for the weather in bright, reflective colours so that they can easily be seen in the dark. Runners and walkers may not bring their dogs, but prams and strollers are acceptable, as long as they are fitted with reflectors or lights. Walkers are asked to stay to the right so that people moving faster can pass on the left.

Find more information on the Northern Lights Run website, here.

First Icelander to Run 10K in Under 30 Minutes

Hlynur Andrésson

Hlynur Andrésson became the first Icelander to run a 10k street race in under 30 minutes yesterday when he finished the Parelloop race in the Netherlands with a time of 29:49. Hlynur landed in 27th place in the run. Ugandan Mande Buschendich took first place in the race with a time of 27:56. RÚV reported first.

The previous Icelandic record in the category was set in 1983 when Jón Diðriksson ran 10k in 30:11 minutes in Germany. Hlynur also holds the Icelandic records for 10,000m track run, which he set in April 2018 in Charlottesville, USA with a time of 29:20.91. Hlynur has set four Icelandic records in running overall.

Icelander Wins Gold in Youth Olympics

Icelandic runner Guðbjörg Jóna Bjarnadóttir

Icelander Guðbjörg Jóna Bjarnadóttir won gold in the Buenos Aires 2018 Summer Youth Olympic Games on Tuesday, Vísir reports. Guðbjörg won Iceland’s first medal in the competition for the Women’s 200 metre run. Guðbjörg’s total time was 47.02 seconds, 0.67 seconds less than second place winner Dalia Kaddari of Italy.

The 16-year-old has had a standout year, breaking Iceland’s previous record for the 200-metre run three times since June. Guðbjörg also took home gold in the 100 metre run and bronze in the 200 metre run at the European Athletics U18 Championships in Hungary this July.

“She is both big and strong and has all the means to go far in the adult category later,” stated athletics specialist Sigurbjörn Árni Arngrímsson. “I think it’s realistic to aim for the Olympic games in Tokyo in 2020.”