Here’s a race report from the globe-trotting Howard MacLennan:
Well I came back to a very clean Oslo to race the half marathon again. There are numerous races available for the weekend; 5k & kids races Friday evening, Saturday racing wheelchair 9.15am, 9.30am marathon (two laps), 1.30pm half marathon & 4.15pm 10k. Something for everyone! I gave some advice to a recent Durham graduate whom I met; who wanted to run but thought they missed out, which was to go to the marquee to ask & they were able to get a last minute number for the half marathon in the morning. If you didn’t know but most Scandinavian half marathons start in the early afternoon, just like the IAAF World Championship races. Advantages are you can get a decent sleep; give your stomach some sustenance in the morning & a chance to settle before the race starts – H Hour. Disadvantage you may not like running in the afternoon & it may not be so cold.
All races start outside the City Hall – Radhuset opposite the Nobel Peace Centre – Nobels Fredssenter, next to the harbour. Here there are marquees to collect your race number; Adidas sportswear, other shops for your last minute kits & latest gadgets. Most races are along the harbour; around Akershus castle & the resistance museum. But the marathons have far more.
The marathons cover some extra scenery; beautiful suburbs, large estate homes, the new harbour with its new art museum Astrup Fearnley Museet & the Grand Opera – Operaen. Also partially within site is the Royal Palace – Slottet when you run on the equivalent Royal Mile, then the hard left around Parliament – Stortinget & you’re making your way back to the finish line. If you didn’t know but the Sydney Opera House was designed by a Norwegian, & they just made one where you can walk up to the roof for grand views of the harbour.
I got to the start line but wisely left my kit bag at my very close accommodation to the race line. Squashed in my Race Group 2; I had a gut feeling how this race was going to turn out from the start. Suns out; guns out, it’s 18 degrees, no clouds or wind against the harbour, just blue skies & no cover from the sun.
Just before race day I did a 5k recce of the start; I made the tactical decision to pace myself the first 5 minutes as there is a slight incline with a few hard left around Oslo House, then right, left again, then a slight right onto a narrow path for a short while until you hit a declining straight road. Here’s a chance to drop the hammer & hit a gear up or two & start making your way past those who may have burnt out on that first beginning. You’re in the suburbs of large flats, estate homes & you will partially head North West away from the city centre. At some point you will loop back onto the harbour front going over a steep footbridge & you are on way back with a different view of the boat & ship harbours. This part is almost flat but there is no cover from that sun. At 5k there is a water stop, get your water here as in 2k is the coffee stop, yes coffee! When you hit the harbour it has been completely newly built with flashy apartments; outdoor restaurants, little bridges, art museum Astrup Fearnley Museet, & you are making your way to run past the Nobel Peace Centre & City Hall – Radhuset. You’re about 10k into the race, people are slowing down & some are stopping. This sun is grinding on you; it’s becoming a matter of being wise, drinking at every water stop. The next part is to run around the Akershus castle, opposite the harbour you just ran from. Cheer leaders are making pyramids; waving their pom poms at you & cheering you on! Then you cut back into the city briefly before you make your way along another harbour towards the new Grand Opera – Operaen. Partially you go behind the Opera where there is development work of new roads & accommodation being built against the harbour. You make a u-turn & partially run back along the same route as before; but here it gets tricky, a hard right & the incline! You’ve been running at almost sea level for a while but about 14k till 16k it goes up to 30m & I’m feeling the heat. You loop around a sloped park at the top, but then I saw a cracking site. Four young Norwegian children to my left armed with jugs of water & barely seen any action. Not for drinking. I was begging them with my arm signals & dropping my head. Boom, boom, boom & shacker boom….. My shorts were completely soaked but I kept moving onto my next target. All I can say is get your water to drink at the top, because you’re gonna loop back down this same route. I just closed my eyes partially; lifted my neck back, open my mouth widely like Scotland’s Eric Liddell, started breathing in as much air as I could & just opened up my legs for a fast downhill section. You will feel the speed but you’ll know inside you’re making up the time back. Eventually you are at the harbour & making your way back towards the city centre. You start zig zagging towards Karl Johan – partially cobbled roads & the top of this road is the Norwegian Royal Palace – Slottet. It’s short but you make a hard left around Parliament – Stortinget where there is a small incline again, then a hard right & another hard right of the city streets. Then the last stretch is one straight road; inside I knew just get past that small incline where the water fountain is in the square of cobbled roads & then you can see the finish line. It’s downhill; you can see the tram lines & Akershus castle to your left, my legs are tired but I know I just need to keep breathing & keeping those legs moving. You hit the soft blue foam covering on the road & I just sprinted past everyone that was in my site to that finish line. Unfortunately I didn’t break my race time last year; 1 hour 44 minutes 31 seconds, against last year time of 1 hour 40 minutes 51 seconds. Last year I completed two half marathons before this race within a month, so perhaps lack of races/training & way too much summer holiday time! I discovered from the stat’s during the incline at 15k, I was 1732nd but I finished 1613th overall, I made my way past another 119 runners in the last section. I asked the recent Durham graduate her thoughts in comparison to her experience of the Great North Run; response was Oslo was much harder, the heat from the sun & that big incline up to sloped park. I received my lovely medal; bag full of goodies of mocha drink; bag of numerous small cinnamon buns, sliced meat, chocolates from Freia, small shoulder bag & bathroom toiletries. I eat the banana, who wouldn’t! The Addidas tee-shirts are not free but you want one, it’s a good quality for training & unlikely you’ll ever throw that one away! Afterwards I grabbed by prepared kit bag, walked to the newly built harbour & dived off the diving board into the refreshing harbour water. My muscles needed it after that race; I would highly recommend it to anyone & grab an ice cream when you walk back! At night time I walked to the Scotsman & got myself a nice pint of Norwegian pale ale.
Additional holiday notes, there is plenty of hotels & hostels next to the harbour. I was 5 minutes from the start line, about 10 minutes from the Royal Palace, the Scream painting by Munch, harbour for boat rides to the islands, plenty of museums, plus plenty of shops. Almost everyone speaks the Queens English, so you’ll be fine. It maybe expensive but if you spend more than 315 Krones at Global Tax Refund shops, you can claim your tax back quite easily at the airport, as Norway is not in the EU. If you’re in a hostel; you can just buy your own food at the supermarket & make it yourself, eating out at restaurants is very expensive! Overall I love visiting Oslo; there are plenty of things to visit which are within walking distance.
Here’s a link to the race course map:-