When one signs up to a half marathon in a Scandinavian country in mid-September, the last thing one expects is 20 degrees and blue skies on the day! Needless to say, the excuses I made last week that the Great North Run was too hot were extremely well reused following the BMW Oslo half this weekend.
I spent the whole week leading up to the day eagerly checking the weather forecast hoping for very little wind (which I anticipated would be the biggest barrier to success given Oslo’s proximity to the sea). Instead I was greeted with rain, forecast up until the moment when it came to packing my bag, when the rain clouds cleared from my weather app, giving way to clear skies and temperatures of 20 degrees plus.
Arriving into Oslo at midnight on the Friday after a smooth flight and transfer from Manchester, I was quick to bed and set an 8am alarm to head over to the expo early morning to collect our race packs. We got there just in time to see the marathon (there was the option of half, full, or 10km) start at 9:30am. The marathon was 2 laps of the half course, which was due to commence at 1:30pm once the marathoners had done their thing. The expo was really well located next to the start line, right next to Oslo town hall, adjacent to the port. There was enough time for a wander, some breakfast, a little recce of the course before heading back to get our kit on and wander to the start line.
The half marathon event itself seems like it has possibly outgrown itself, with most competitors forced to walk over a small scaffold bridge to the start and to bag drop. This caused us to miss our 1:30pm start time and instead start with the 1:35pm runners (which was fine as we all had individual chips). Unfortunately, there were no time-graded starts and the route followed a very tight funnel for the first 500m which meant a lot of stop/starting in the first 1km, frustrating for someone like myself who was hoping for a smooth getaway. After about 1500m the crowd, thankfully, seemed to spread itself out as the course took us north west of the city through a business district and then back southwards towards the city past the start line, along the water the whole way. The scenery was stunning. The crowds were sporadic throughout the course, but generally great and motivating with their cheers (“heiiia” seems to mean “go” in Norwegian!).
After about 8km the heat really started to kick in and I ran through the spray of some spectators’ hose to cool down (all three of my group agreed there were too few water stations given the heat and the fact we were running in the full heat of the day). The course continued on to run its way along the water around the peninsula of the fort and towards the world-famous opera house. Crowds here were great and there were even cheerleaders and a steel band to up the motivation. Past the opera house was a 3km out-and-back stage along a gravelly path towards the docks, which was fine on the way out as I was in front of the bigger group, but coming back was dusty and somewhat uncomfortable.
The next 3km passed as a bit of a blur, the heat and a slight incline slowed my pace somewhat as the course took about another out-and-back route around a park then headed back towards the city. At 17km I could feel the fatigue from the Great North Run kicking in and realised that the 1:35 I was aiming for was definitely not within my sights today. Instead, I pulled back slightly, took out my headphones and listened to the awesome crowds tried and pronounce my name as I headed through the city’s pedestrianised streets, and relaxed to enjoyed the last 4km in a leisurely 22 minutes.
I mustered the energy to sprint the last 200m, bewildering a few Norwegians on the way last and completing the Oslo half in just over 1 hour 40 minutes. Despite the heat and a little lack of crowd control, the route was absolutely stunning (the best I’ve done!), and I’ll definitely be back next year. Another great feature and important mention goes out to the awesome technical shirt from adidas and great medal provided at the end… What else do we run for bit fabulous stash?
To top off the weekend, friends and I wearily made our way to Grüneløkka, an awesome suburb to the north of the city centre, to sample some local beer and refuel ready for a full day of tourist hotspots on the Sunday. Overall, the whole experience was a fabulous weekend escape from the UK, with an incredible run in a great city-the Oslo half gets 9.5/10 from me!
A few tips for anyone who fancies it next year:
– If you’re hoping for a good time, start at the front of your wave
– Stay central (Citybox Oslo is my recommendation) to avoid the pandemonium of bag drop if you can
– Approach the start from the city side to avoid the need for the crazy bridge crossing
– Wear sunnies to stop getting dusty eyes
– Sign up early to get the cheapest price
– Get the Tshirt-it’s awesome!
– Make the most of the run, it’s like being on a tourist route