Take Part in the 5VH Trail Run in Iceland Skip to content

Take Part in the 5VH Trail Run in Iceland

By Michael Chapman

Photo: Arctic Running.

Athletes in Iceland – listen up! The 5VH Trail Run takes place at 9 AM, August 10, 2024, at Fimmvörðuháls Pass. How can you get involved in the race? What can you expect from the route itself? Read on for more information.


The following is sponsored content in partnership with Náttúruhlaup


Why Cross Country Running?

Cross country runners understand all too well the reasons why they are drawn to this unique and demanding sport. First, it is the profound connection with nature it fosters. It allows them as athletes to immerse themselves in the beauty of the natural environment.

Photo: Arctic Running

Additionally, cross country running offers the rush of competition. Victory hinges not only on the runner’s physicality and mental resilience, but the conditions of the day. The diversity of the terrain challenges and refine their endurance, honing their sense of self-reliance and determination.

Off this alone, it’s easy to comprehend why cross country running is an unparalleled and deeply fulfilling pursuit. And yet, these rewards are heightened tenfold when running in a country as unique and naturally captivating as Iceland.

For local and visiting runners, there is no event more prestigious than the 5VH Trail Run.

The Mystique of Fimmvörðuháls

Photo: Arctic Running

The race takes place in Fimmvörðuháls, a mysterious, yet stunning region that promises far more than first meets the eye.

Where is Fimmvörðuháls?

Fimmvörðuháls—translated to ‘Five Cairns Pass’—is a large area in South Iceland. It is situated between the mighty ice caps, Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull. 

(You may recall Eyjafjallajökull made headlines in 2010 following an eruption that halted much of Europe’s air traffic, stranding thousands of passengers.)

It boasts one of the most popular hiking trails in Iceland, a 22 km route between Skógar and Þórsmörk.

Skógar is an enchanting little village best characterised by its sublime landscapes; in fact, Skógar translates to “forests.” On the other hand, Þórmörk is a dramatic and untamed valley in Iceland’s Central Highlands.

Photo: Arctic Running

What does Fimmvörðuháls look like?

As you might imagine, the journey between these locales is filled with intrepid contrasts, otherworldly vistas, and unexpected secrets. 

It is a trail that is wholly Icelandic in its aesthetic, showcasing diverse scenery that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with this island’s many other beautiful wilderness areas.

While well-frequented in its own right, Fimmvörðuháls is only part of the great Laugavegur trail. This extended route takes hikers between the geothermal hills of Landmannalaugar to the shady valley of Þórmörk.

It goes without saying that Fimmvörðuháls contributes to a landscape of immense beauty. 

Much of it is stark and patched with black sand, almost moon-like in its appearance, forcing trailblazers to remain enclosed within a blockade of mossy hills marked by sudden cliffside drops.

It makes for a fitting location to host the popular 5VH Trail Run, an annual event that draws the very best country runners from not just Iceland, but often the world.

What Will You See During the Race?

Photo: Arctic Running

The race begins at Skógafoss waterfall, a popular attraction among sightseers on Iceland’s South Coast

At 60 m high, Skógafoss sees glacier water from the river tumble over the lip of a majestic cliffside, resulting in a glittering cloud of mist at its base. 

It makes for a gorgeous backdrop for the race’s opening phase, a place where you can take a moment to focus, breathe in, and prepare for the task ahead.

From there, you will charge inland, discovering countless more waterfalls as you run parallel to a cascading river.

At 1000 m, you will come across the first aid station, Baldvinskáli, before pushing on towards Eyjafjallajökull glacier and the volcanoes, Magni and Móði.

Is the 5VH Trail Run Difficult?

Photo: Arctic Running

It is important to realise one thing before undertaking this running adventure in Iceland. The route is not for the faint-hearted, nor the undertrained.

The plateau’s terrain is undeniably challenging. Races will make constant ascents over loose shingle, or push their tired bodies through icy glacial rivers and up steep embankments, all for the chance to come out on top. 

Serious competitors will, of course, be aiming to cinch a victory, meaning speed and pacing will be important factors throughout the race.

Still, the event is more than welcoming to those who simply want to participate without the pressure of winning or losing. 

If you’re here for little more than to take part in a community challenge and witness some beautiful scenery, tie up your running shoes and hit the track. Nothing’s stopping you!

In these cases, competitors are encouraged to walk and appreciate the environment around them rather than strain themselves. Keep in mind, however, that the route closes after 7 hours. In other words, the 5VH Trail Run finishes, on the dot, at 4 PM.

What Should You Bring for the Trail Run?

Photo: Arctic Running

You know what we’re going to say first—a good pair of trail running shoes is a must! Make sure they are both comfortable and capable of handling the terrain.

Other items are considered mandatory, including a working cell phone in Iceland, an aluminium blanket, a whistle, and a light running jacket that is somewhat windproof and rainproof. On top of that, you will want a hat and gloves.

Also, make sure to pack one litre of water (at least) as well as a sports drink, if desired. Gels and nutritional chocolates are also a must.

Whether you choose to bring a running belt or a backpack is up to you, and really depends on what you are accustomed to on runs such as this.

Participant Benefits

Photo: Arctic Running

Participants will find a number of things included on sign-up:

For one, you will receive something that is sentimental and essential to any runner—the age-old running bib. You will receive this alongside your time registration.

In the case of an accident, there are aid stations at Baldvinsskáli, which is 13 km along the route, and Strákagil, which is 10 km further.

The Volcano huts at the end of the route also offer shower and toilet amenities, and it is possible to receive baggage transfer between them and nearby Skógar.

The top three contenders will be awarded with clothes from Iceland’s top outdoor outfitters, 66°North.  

Whether you are a seasoned runner or simply looking to experience the natural wonders of Iceland in a unique way, the 5VH Trail Run is an event not to be missed. Prepare yourself for an unforgettable journey through one of the world’s most breath-taking landscapes.

What do former runners say about the race?

Elísabet Margeirsdóttir was the first woman to complete the gruelling 400 km Ultra-Gobi marathon in under 100 hours. 

Her professional career began in 2009 after signing up for the Laugaveg race, and since then, she has racked up achievement after achievement.

Today, she is considered one of Iceland’s best long distance runners. When asked her thoughts on the 5VH Trail Run, Elísabet eagerly replied:

"The competition is quite unique in that it covers the most popular and most beautiful hiking trail in the country. Even though the hiking trail Fimmvörðuháls is very popular among both Icelanders and tourists, runners will experience themselves in a real natural gem and feel a certain peace in this rugged landscape between the glaciers."

And there we have it. 

If you’re hoping to get involved, know that registration is currently open, costing  ISK 21,900 for entry. But with only a month left before the race begins, better get a move on! 

Register for the event at the Nattúruhlaup homepage. Good luck racers!

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