L and I travelled to Tromso to run at midnight.
Our preparation had become increasingly warm and sunny, a year later and I still have tan lines. Though excited, we were completely and utterly exhausted by the previous 6 months of 35 mile weeks but we felt ready. Ready to get the race done and breathe out.
We flew into the valley through thick rain cloud, speechless, both looking out the window alarmed. I have no idea how it had not occurred to either of us that running a marathon in the Arctic Circle was likely to be cold and wet.
We were collected by Oystien, the owner of our B&B who bore a remarkable resemblance in both appearance and tone to Vincent Price. I secretly wondered if he was the sort of man who might have put a hidden camera in our room to record us changing. He had several pages of laminated rules including no talking between 10pm and 8am. He was the sort of man who just appeared.
Oystien informed us that there had not been sunshine for the marathon in the last five years. We laughed, mortified.
We walked down the hill into town at 10pm looking for a marathon pasta party that had been advertised but had seemingly vanished due to adverse weather. We found the only place that was still open, ordered the most expensive pizza I’ve ever eaten and tried to stave off the strange nausea of marathon fear and confoundedness from eerie grey midnight light. The check came, we laughed, mortified.
The following day the weather had not improved. I spent an hour convincing a beautifully stubborn Lisa to purchase a waterproof jacket in which to race. Eventually she conceded. We snacked, napped, panicked and readied ourselves. We headed towards the start line where I was momentarily grabbed by a drunken spectator in the street. I struggled free and chased after my friend.
With no time to even laugh mortified at what had just happened, the race began. We were running a marathon. In the rain. In Norway. At 8.30pm. L stayed with me out of camaraderie for an hour or so and took off after the bridge. I made some friends and slow, steady progress.
A man from Guildford called Paul who was running with his son, in the same way I was running with L, meaning the son and Lisa were at least 30 minutes ahead of us, kept pace with me. Paul was a tory voter, in any other situation I could not have held a conversation with him. We ran and talked together for four and a half hours.
At the point in the race where the pain plateaus I began to look out for L looping to the finish but she had slowed considerably and I began to worry. When we finally crossed paths she did not look well. She had refused to carry her phone. I kept running, the only way to check was to catch her.
Soaked through, blistered and grazed; as soon as I realised I was only a kilometre from the finish I picked up pace. The race had begun in town on Saturday night, it was now after midnight and revellers were falling out of pubs. I weaved between them to the finish.
I found L in the event building wrapped in several thick blankets and a man called Mario. Her lips were a little blue and she could scarcely limp. Mario had kept L from going into shock or succumbing to hypothermia whilst I finished the marathon. Despite all this she had still beaten me. Cow.
We shuffled our way to the taxi rank to get back to the B&B and queued behind a horde of drunken Norwegians who didn’t seem to notice how broken, cold and desperate we were or didn’t care and after an amount of time that I could no longer discern we were finally lying down in the warmth of our room.
We were mostly immobile for 4 days after, the rain kept on.