Like many other countries, Iceland has its fair share of athletic endurance events. After all, races are a great way to see the country and get a workout in at the same time.
The routes that these events follow have been carefully chosen to allow for equal parts exploration and challenge. The most famous of Iceland’s sporting events is the annual Reykjavík Marathon. Let’s see what it’s all about.
Iceland's main marathon
The Reykjavík Marathon takes place around the end of August every year, coinciding with Reykjavík's Culture Night. The race route requires participants to go on a tour around the capital city, finishing in the downtown area.
First held in 1984 as a way to increase tourism to Iceland, 214 runners took part in the inaugural event, with many of them coming from abroad to run. This number steadily grew until a surge in 2006 saw over 10,000 runners participate.
The registrations topped 15,000 in 2014 and this figure has remained steady in recent years. Still today, around 20% of these participants are generally foreign runners, with world-famous racers traveling to the Land of Fire and Ice just to take part.
The great thing about this event is that you can choose between a number of distances, including 42.2 km, 21.1 km, or 10 km, and sometimes there’s also a 3 km fun run and a 600-meter Hero Race. Let’s take a look at the three longest distances individually.
The Full Marathon
About 10% or less of those who register run the full Reykjavík marathon. In fact, only those aged 18 or over may compete, and the time limit is 7 hours, 30 minutes.
There are refreshment stations every 5 km offering water and Gatorade, with bananas available in the second half. Every finisher receives a medal, with extra prizes for the top three men and women. The winner of each age group also receives a special prize.
As someone who has run a marathon, take it from me that you’ll need to train if you want to participate. Begin preparing months in advance and do your research on how best to approach a marathon. Of course, decent, well-fitting running shoes are a must.
The Half Marathon
The minimum age for this event is 15 years, and again there’s a time limit of 7 hours, 30 minutes. In this case, the refreshment stations are available every 4 km, and special prizes are awarded to the top runners. Even though this is half the distance of the full marathon, it still requires extensive training to be ready.
The 10K Marathon
The majority of the 15,000 or so participants in the Reykjavík Marathon choose to complete the 10 km race. You must be 12 or older to take part, and the time limit is 4 hours, 30 minutes. There is also a refreshment station at the halfway point.
Reykjavík Marathon Route
The route for the marathon takes runners through downtown Reykjavík, along ocean paths, and into the Elliðaárdal valley. The whole course is one lap, and is mostly flat, with a 174 meter (570 feet) climb.
You’ll mostly be running through residential areas, where the locals may come out of their houses to cheer you on. However, you’ll also be rewarded with great ocean and mountain views as you run along the coastal paths.
Regardless of the distance you choose, they all finish by Tjörnin, or “the pond” which is in the center of downtown, Lækjargata. The great thing about this, for those who travel to Iceland to compete, is its proximity to many hotels. Here’s our guide on where to stay in Reykjavík if you are already making plans to attend.
The Reykjavík Marathon 2023
Unfortunately, due to COVID, the race has been canceled for two consecutive years in 2020 and 2021. Meanwhile, the organizers have created a virtual race entitled “Run Your Course”, to facilitate raising money for charities.
Luckily, runners were able to run the marathon in 2022, and the 2023 edition will take place ion August 19th. Like in most marathons, many of the runners ask for sponsors to fund their chosen causes. This “Run Your Course” costs ISK 1,000 to join.
Registrations for 2023 opened already, and prices will gradually climb as the race draws nearer. Secure your spot early so that you’ll have the motivation to train hard over the summer. Once you invest money and make a tangible commitment, you’ll hold yourself more accountable to train consistently.
Dare to run the Reykjavík marathon
Most of us like to travel around the world, but how about running around the world? Challenge yourself to see how many marathons you can complete in different countries. In this way, you’ll get different insights to that of a traditional tourist, and stack up athletic achievements along the way.
This Iceland marathon is waiting for you; no matter where you’re from, all are welcome to take part. Lock in your rental car today, and you’ll have an easy and convenient way to reach downtown Reykjavík from the airport upon arrival.