As we stood on the pier in Neskaupsstaður, waiting for the boat and our turn to cross the fjord to the start line on the distant other side, it felt like a dream finally coming true.
It‘s a long time since we first toyed with the idea of running in the Barðsnes Trail Race in the Eastfjords in Iceland. Distance had been the main obstacle, as Neskaupsstaður is 700km away from where we live in Reykjavik.
Driving there in one day is not really realistic, nor much fun. We decided to make a road trip out of it, giving ourselves two days to get there. We spent one night at the camping site in the beautiful national park Skaftafell.
The Eastfjords are a slightly less traveled part of Iceland because of the distance from the main airport and the capital. It is however no less stunning than the rest of the island.
If you are driving the ring road like so many people, doing this race would be great stop in the middle of your trip.
Standing on the pier on race morning, the sea trip looked very exciting, may be a bit too much so. We had woken up in nearby Eskifjörður in stormy weather, wondering what we had let ourselves in for but as we drove over to Neskaupsstaður the weather improved dramatically and was now fine.
The waves hadn‘t settled down though and our friend and host Ingólfur Sveinsson at the Barðsnes farm where the race starts had been on the phone and reported that the landing conditions for the boat were less than ideal.
The great people of the local rescue squad however are people who do not give up easily, and they got everyone safely over to the other side.
From the Barðsnes farm to Neskaupsstaður town are about 28km. All except the last four kilometers or so are on trails of varying difficulty. There are old tractor roads, narrow sheep paths, deep rivers to cross and hills with steep climbs and descents.
At all times you have a mountain on your left side, and the sea to your right. Running in this part of the country felt almost foreign to us, with landscape familiar yet so different from our usual trails.
The last part of the race is on an asphalt road leading into the town of Neskaupstaður on the day of the yearly town festival. After a shower and a dip in the hot tub at the local pool, there was a reception for all participants at the art museum by the harbor. That was a lot of fun as we got to mingle with both runners and staff members of the race. There were also very generous refreshments and a prize ceremony. Even we picked up one of the prizes drawn from the pot of participants, a great meal at the best restaurant in town, a perfect excuse for a celebration dinner later that evening.