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Next Level Vacation: Running in Iceland

Looking to make your next vacation even more memorable? A destination race may be the answer. When you combine a 10K, half marathon or marathon with an exciting location, you turn the entire trip into one adventurous vacation.     

We recently had the opportunity to talk with Clare and Ingrid Bergquist, a mother-daughter duo from the Midwest, about their amazing 10K race in Reykjavik, Iceland. Signing up for the race with just 13 weeks to train, these two threw themselves into getting ready for an adventure of a lifetime. Their story will inspire you to make your next vacation a fitness-focused one. Here’s what they had to say.

Tell us about the race.                                 

The 34th Annual Reykjavik Marathon was held on August 19, 2017 in conjunction with the anniversary of Reykjavik City and Cultural Night, the largest city festival of the year. The race is open to anyone who wants to take part from experienced runners to beginners. They offer a fun run for kids, the 10-km race, a half or whole marathon. More than 15,000 runners from over 80 countries take part in the biggest public event of the year in Reykjavik.

When did you sign up?

Clare: Ingrid runs quite a bit and has done races in the past. She had the idea she wanted to participate in the Iceland run in the spring of this year. Coincidently I had the urge to start to running again, but knew I needed a goal to work toward in order to stay the course. I mentioned to Ingrid that we should do a 5k together, maybe in Minneapolis, Milwaukee or Chicago. Of course, Ingrid found a 10k in Iceland! At the end of April, she sent me a solid itinerary of how we would get to Iceland, what we could do while we were there and how affordable the trip could be. We signed up for the race in May of this year.

Ingrid, you had the idea to run the race in Iceland. What interested you?

I’ve always enjoyed travel, especially travel with purpose. I find engaging with a culture and events at a travel destination to be a very fulfilling way to travel. I had a great experience spending a college semester in Sydney, Australia living, working and studying. Last year, I traveled to Peru to hike Machu Picchu. I ran a half-marathon at the beginning of May in Minneapolis and thought how cool it would be to run a race in another city.

Clare, with only 13 weeks to train, can you tell us more about how you trained?

I literally had not run in 30 years. From the time, we signed up for the race, I had 13 weeks to prepare. I have always enjoyed sports and physical activities. I swim, bike, hike, golf, curl, do Pilates, yoga and Tai Chi. I did a Google search of the term “Couch to 10k” based on a friend of mine’s experience training for a 5k. I found a great training program online at The program started out by saying if you can walk for 60 minutes you can run a 10k. I thought I can do that! I did everything the program told me to do. I believed the program would prepare me and get me through the race and it did. The program also left room for my other activities and required cross-training on non-running days. I ran three times a week then swam and biked on the other days. I also kept up my Pilates, golf and Tai Chi routines.

Were there any trying times during the training period? How did you overcome them?

Clare: The program I followed mentioned that you may wish to stop running or feel like you can’t do it. They seemed to indicate this could happen early on, like during the second or third week. The program starts you out running in very small increments, alternating between walking and running. I did have doubts about my ability to run an entire 10k. I also worried I would get injured in the process of training. But I hung in there, believed in the program, pushed through the doubt and by the beginning of the fourth week running had become a habit and part of my life. I completely agree with your organization’s philosophy that you can change a habit in 22 days.

Ingrid, how was training for you?

I had just run a half-marathon in May, which left me with a sore knee. I’m a firm believer in letting your body heal before jumping back into things. Once I felt better again I slowly resumed training. My training consisted of running a few times a week and cross training with swimming and spin classes while my knee improved.

Tell us about the course in Iceland.

The course in Iceland was beautiful. It weaves around the lovely coastal capital of Reykjavik, hugging the shore line as much as possible. It starts in the city center and loops past historic and cultural buildings toward neighborhoods that run along the shore then back toward the historic midtown and harbor. The best part of the race is all the support from the locals along the race course. People come out and cheer, clang cow bells, blare music, bang drums or play other instruments, chant, and get bands together on their lawns to play music as you run. The people along the course create a very welcoming and encouraging atmosphere for the race. Kids line the course and high five racers as they go by. Other people offered us slices of watermelon and mini cupcakes. The entire city comes out to greet you and they create a fun party atmosphere for the race.

How was the experience for you both?

Clare: It was an incredible experience on so many fronts. I challenged myself to achieve a goal I was not sure I was capable of – running an entire 10k. I traveled with my daughter to a fantastic country, a new place for us and created a ton of wonderful memories. We got to experience a new culture, see an amazing landscape, so different from our own and be part of an event that made us feel part of the place.

Ingrid: We ran the entire race together, which helped keep Mom motivated to keep running the full distance and allowed me to run at a pace at which I could interact with the crowd.

How has it changed you?

Clare: I am still running. I have a new fitness habit. The experience instilled in me the desire to participate in another race in the near future. It has also made me think about incorporating more of these types of events into future travel plans. Lastly, it reminded me to keep on setting health and fitness goals. Healthy is happy.

What are the benefits to joining a destination race?

Participating in an event like a destination race in a different city, state or country makes you feel more a part of that place. We were running with many Icelandic people and we felt like a part of their city and culture. The race was also a great way to experience a place. We literally ran all over Reykjavik.

Any tips for visiting Iceland?

Iceland is also known for their geothermal spas. It was much more rewarding and enjoyable to experience their premier spa, the Blue Lagoon, the day after the race with slightly sore muscles. We thoroughly enjoyed our day of soaking in those restorative waters!

What tips do you have for others that want to try a destination race, especially an international one?

Planning ahead for international travel is key. Ingrid did an amazing job of researching the country, the race, and talked to many people who had traveled there to get insider tips for our trip. She pulled together a great itinerary ahead of time, which shaped our journey in a positive way and made the trip incredibly rich in experiences and enjoyable.

Will you do another race together?

Absolutely! We hope to participate in a local Turkey Trot over Thanksgiving. Who knows here we go after that.

Thank you Clare and Ingrid! We loved hearing about your amazing adventure. You’ve inspired us to book a destination race!