The day would see me take my first ever run in Iceland, wander around the shops some more, transfer my hotel and finally get to meet the famous Giorgio, the RunIceland team and some of my fellow runners.
It concluded with some football-fever and delicious lamb.
Hitting the streets
I awoke early and set about getting ready for my first official run in Iceland. I was keen to get out, stretch my legs and inhale some of that fresh Icelandic air. Also, having only run in a warmer climate, I needed to practice my layering technique for the upcoming RunIceland event.
It had stopped raining overnight and there were breaks in the clouds, so off I went with a spring in my step. In the months leading up to the trip I had been scoping out my route using Google Maps. It was time to see if it looked the same in real life.
Perlan and Reykjavík Airport
Off I trotted across the plaza in front of Hallsgrimkirkja and down Eriksgata. I wound my way through the sidestreets towards my first goal: Perlan. I had visited this landmark in my 2004 trip and wanted to revisit it again, even though it was closed at this early time on Sunday morning.
I crossed the E40 and found a trail leading through low trees to the summit of the hill on which it sat. At the top fine views of the city opened up and took a moment to enjoy the view.
After briefly catching my breath and a few photos, I headed downwards and southwest to find the coastal trail that would loop around the southern end of the Reykjavik airport runway.
I joined the cycle path and passed the modern Reykjavik University building, finding myself at the Nauthólsvegur Geothermal Beach recreation area.
Eerily deserted when I was there, I could nevertheless imagine it being bustling later that day.
The path continued around the city aiport (not to be confused with Keflavik, the international airport) and I passed a fellow runner who greeted me a cheery góðan dag. Ah yeah, owning it like a local!
The path ran right along the back lawns of some very nice looking houses sandwiched between the coast and the east-west runway.
When eyeing the route on Google Maps I had originally hoped to run all the way around the Seltjarnarnes peninsula, but from where I was it looked a long way off. Given that this was meant to be a gentle shakedown run for the upcoming RunIceland, I turned of the coastal parth on to Sudurgata that would take me back into the heart of the city.
Crossing Hringraut I turned into the park that contains Reykjavikurtjorn and ran across the Skothusvegur bridge to pick up Fríkirkjuvegur. Continuing on Laekjagata, I turned right onto Bankastraeti then right again for the final climb up Skólavörðustígur.
Verdict on my layering technique? Too many layers!
Transfer to Grand Hotel
I grabbed some breakfast from the buffet (glowing after my run), then got cleaned up and went for another wander around town. As I was so close, it’d be a shame to waste the opportunity.
After some more photos and some shopping, I went back to my room to pack everything up for the transfer to The Grand.
As I am not the kind to mess about with taxis, I loaded up and looked like I was off on some kind of expedition. The walk took about half an hour and entering reception I saw some people who looked like runners but no sign of the RI team. I got some lunch from the bar and found an empty couch on which to relax.
Meeting my new-best-friends
After a while the RunIceland team showed up from whatever they had been doing and I finally got to say hello. I knew them all even though we had never met, all due to the social media and how we can be “friends” with otherwise complete strangers!
I chatted with some of the other runners while we waited for our rooms to be prepared.
Wandering the neighborhood
While most of my fellow runners had retired to their rooms to chill, I got my camera ready and decided to go for a walk in the nearby area. The hotel was a-buzz because the Kazakstan national football team were in town for the Euro 2016 qualifier against Iceland. The national stadium was only about a kilometer from our hotel, so why not head down for a snoop around? I knew there was a bunch of other recreational facilities down there and some parkland so I was curious to see where Icelanders hung out. Throughout this time it was threatening to rain with some ominous black clouds.
I walked down Sigtún and happened across the Ásmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Museum. You’ve got to be impressed by the Icelandic people. They are oozing with creativity and it’s not uncommon to find galleries and museums dedicated to a single artist.
I took a few pictures and made friends with a local cat who took it upon himself to “show” me around the museum grounds.
Heading off again, I crossed Reykjavegur and made my way to Laugardalsvöllur National Stadium. There wasn’t much happening at that time, with just a couple of bemused chaps stood around as the PA was tested.
I walked down Þvottalaugavegur, around the ice rink and along Engjavegur past Laugardalshöll. I paused here as my inner geek wanted to appreciate the significance of this, the largest arena in the country. It was the location of a Led Zeppelin concert in 1970. Inspired by their trip to the land of ice and fire, they wrote the mighty Immigrant Song in the following hours and days, debuting it a week later at the Bath Festival. Those were the day were writing epic classics could be done virtually overnight!
Brief briefing and off into town
Back at the hotel, I got ready for our introductory briefing from Giorgio in the hotel’s lounge bar. We assembled and had the preliminary. It was, however, just a precursor to the first adnveture into downtown.
A bunch of us assembled and headed off. It was a couple of kilometers to the city center along a nice cycle/footpath. The plan was to head to a reknowned fish restaurant by the harbor. I wasn’t too fussed about where I was going to eat, preferring to eat anything. I don’t do messing about with large groups trying to get food as it often doesn’t end well.
Food and football
En route to the Seabaron, we found ourselves caught up in Euro 2016 qualifying fever. In the square at the end of Austurstræti, the game was being played on a big screen and everything was in full swing. We soaked up the atmosphere for a few minutes then moved on in the quest for food.
Sure enough, the Seabaron was small and busy. There was no way we were all going to fit in there. The group meandered back towards the Icelandic Fish and Chips shop and I decided to “do one” and head off on my own mission.
I often am my own worst enemy when I’m hungry and usually end up in the first place I happen across. This isn’t always the best and is often the worst. However, this time lady luck was on my side as I dived into the Grillhúsið á Tryggvagötu on Tryggvagata.
Ordering the lamb skewer and a pint of Gull, I was not disappointed. Although it was the cheapest item on the menu, it was delicious. I was very pleased with myself, even if I was eating alone with just a copy of the Grapevine for company.
Leaving the restaurant, I headed back to the football-fun just as the match was winding down. It was a not-so-thrilling 0-0 draw, but meant that Iceland had qualified for their first ever major tournament. As the final whistle blew, the crowd went wild. Before I knew it, music started and the stage turned into a rap show as a local act started to drop some rimes. It was certainly creative; mostly Icelandic with some good ol’ English f-bombs.
Having my fill of celebrations, I turned for home as the rain set in. On the walk back to the hotel I passed many happy locals walking back from the stadium. The country was rejoicing.
Back at the Grand, I spotted on Facebook that Giorgio and the boys had been at the stadium during the game. I found out that they had “negotiated” tickets from the Kazakhstani entourage… who were now sporting some fine RunIceland clothing!