Treasurer goes to Iceland – doesn’t buy anything

Courtesy of club funds (just joking) our treasurer Paul Holborow recently made a trip to Reykjavik for their New Years’ Eve 10k.

An 11:30am start sounds leisurely but then again sunrise isn’t until 11:20!

And anyone that thinks Cross Country is cold should think again.

Well worth a read and who better than our finance man to guide you through how to do a trip on a tight budget.

Well I’d always fancied a trip to Iceland and, with a rush to the head and a few clicks on the internet, it didn’t take me long to book a couple of tickets to Reykjavik or to enter their end of year New Year’s Eve 10k.

The flights weren’t too expensive, but everything else was! Hotel accommodation over New Year was initially very worrying – everywhere seemed to be on the take but I eventually found a very nice and new Scandi hotel above some new boutique shops a couple of miles from town which actually was very good value. With a supermarket nearby (I think it was an Iceland) and a pizza takeaway next door, and some tours all booked in advance, we were all set for a mini break without the kids. Whooppee!

I don’t know about you but I always like to get a taxi at the airport to my destination, seeing my name on a board makes me feel important! But I wasn’t going to pay over £100. Next, shuttle buses – not much cheaper at £48 for 2. So call me a cheapskate but we opted for the state buses, £7 for 2 –  much cheaper, a bit slower, but a bit of fun and the money saved would go on something else.

After an evening hunting for the Northern Lights (we didn’t see them, it was too cloudy) followed by a day being driven round in a coach to a hot spa (fab), thermal geysers (fab)  waterfall (fab) and tectonic plates (fab), I was ready for the main event, for me anyway, the 10k.

With sunrise at 11:21am and sunset at 3:42pm, the days are short in the winter months. I got down to the race HQ at the futuristic Harper concert hall on the harbour at 10am, it was still dark and very cold and hardly anyone was around. I wondered if I’d missed it. There was a smell of sulphur in the air (not that unusual for me on race day I know) and I wasn’t feeling great as I had been tricking myself that I didn’t actually have a cold (I did) and that I was going to be ok (I was), but after getting my number and sorted with where the start and finish was (at the same place so that was easy) we had a quick walk round the city centre (it doesn’t take long, its quite a small place). Then back down to HQ again at 11:30 and the place was buzzing.

Now, I can feel the cold even on a hot day back home, and I knew I needed to layer up. Looking at the locals, they had loads of layers on, all but about 3 runners I saw wore long trousers, all wore hats, gloves, you name it. I figured they knew best and so followed suit and donned a long sleeve top, two tech t-shirts, club vest, running jacket; shorts, long running pants, long socks, hat and warm gloves. I was still cold.

At -5 on the weather app with another couple of – degrees for wind chill, it was cold. But it was a beautiful sunny day, blue sky, dry and still – perfect conditions really (if it had been a bit warmer). But you know one of the attractions of this race for me was the chance it could get really cold – like snowing, windy, blizzard conditions and there was a part of me that was a little disappointed that the conditions weren’t harsh as I did want to test myself. As it was though, the last week had been dry and cold, so no snow in the city and the road was free of any ice.

There were about 1200 runners on the start line for the 10k, with a family 3k race starting at the same time at the back of the main pack which was a nice touch for the little ones. Fancy dress was de rigour, and spirits were high. Almost all runners were lcelandic, only a relative handful from overseas. I thought I might warm up once we got going, but after a couple of k I realised I was still cold and that this wasn’t going to happen. I was cold from start to finish except for my hands – good gloves those afterall. I hadn’t run that much over the last couple of months so I felt a bit rusty, but I was ok once I got in to my rhythm although I was quite pleased to see the half way turn. A drinks station soon followed as we headed back and this presented a dilemma. I took the small paper cup and looked in to see the water had begun to freeze, there was ice at the bottom. ‘That’s a first’ I thought and I wasn’t sure whether this was really what I needed – would I really benefit from taking on water or would it make me feel even colder. I compromised – a couple of small gulps would be enough and I carried on.

Looking up, I could see the finish 3 k ahead, and this helped drain the tiredness from my legs and I began to relax and really take it all in and enjoy it. It felt great to be running again as I’m no way near my best, and at such a northern altitude, in one of the world’s most picturesque cities with great tradition, history and landscape. I was feeling great and welcomed the finish line home in just under 55 minutes. I was pleased with that having done no proper training for ages. I was the first Ponteland Runner home though and finished 566th from 1170 finishers, so that’s just in the top half! I’d taken a few photos along the way and just enjoyed it, as well as coming in slightly faster than I thought I would do.

Getting changed and packing on fresh layers, I was still cold until we found a chic café for some hot soup and coffee!

We went back in to the city for the New Year’s Eve fireworks at the Cathedral which was absolutely packed. We’d been warned about how the locals like to set off their own fireworks at any time and as we walked back about 3 miles to the hotel (the last bus was 3pm; taxis – don’t even think about it; no uber; no choice) we were accompanied by a wall of sound all the way.

What a trip – action packed. Great combination of independent travelling again without the kids, fabulous sightseeing, friendly locals, running & fireworks. Brilliant mini break I’d recommend. I wonder if there is a run in the summer months when the days are crazily long? What’s this, Midnight Sun Run? Looks interesting – 21.1k, 10k and 5k, – 21 June  £165 return, WOW! Indeed. Anyone up for it?


Travel details:

Paul travelled courtesy of his own funds! Wowair from Edinburgh; Grimur Hotel – bus stop outside the door; Northern Lights evening tour; 10 hour Golden Circle Tour including Secret Lagoon spa (the more touristy Blue Lagoon was full, need to book that one in advance), Strokkur Geysir; Thingvellir; Gulfoss Waterfall; New Years Eve 10k Run Reykjavik.

Useful links: and

Top tip: buy your own alcohol at the airport when you get there; take some of your own food with you!

And chill (that’s easy!).