On Saturday, July 18, a group of extreme runners will head to the scenic Icelandic highlands for a 34 mile mountainside race. The 19th annual Laugavegur Ultra Marathon is a long-distance mountain race that pushes competitors physically and mentally.
Named by the Wall Street Journal as one of the world’s best hiking trails, Laugavegur (or Laugavegurinn) is located in the southern highlands of Iceland and connects the nature reserves Landmannalaugar and Thorsmork. Due to its location, Laugavegur is only accessible for a few weeks a year. To put the terrain in perspective, runners face an incredible 1,640 foot climb throughout the first ten miles, followed by steep downhills that are sure to test participants’ stamina.
For many runners, the Laugavegur Ultra Marathon is the most enjoyable race in Iceland. The course takes runners through areas of outstanding natural beauty, all the while providing a tremendous challenge. Hikers normally cover this distance in four days, but many of the runners will do it in just one! The course features a variety of terrain: sand, gravel, grass, snow, ice, rivers and streams.
Last year, 345 runners started the race and 330 completed it. The male winners was Þorbergur Ingi Jónsson, 4:07:47 (that’s about a 7:20 split every mile!), and for the females, it was Elísabet Margeirsdóttir, who came in at 5:34:05.
This race certainly isn’t for the faint of heart; organizers stress the importance that participants are well-trained and prepared for this intense mountain running. Good luck, runners!
If 34 miles seems a little too long, you can still sign up for the Reykjavik Marathon taking place in August, because 26.2 miles is much more reasonable!