Saturday, 3 February 2018

Marathoning in the Faroes in a Paramedic anorak

For two years, I have been active as a voluntary first aider for St John Ambulance, which means I get the opportunity to help out in case accidents happen at local events. I have also covered a number of smaller and bigger runs, including the London Marathon. London, which I had run twice, is a hotbed for costumed marathoners, who try to collect funds for the charities of their interest, and among the starters are bobsleds, Darth Vaders, toilets, and deep sea divers, not to mention the large number of Elvis impersonators. So why not running a marathon in a costume myself? Dressing up as a first aider would be straightforward and more or less authentic, as I already had my uniform, consisting of green shirt, trousers and belt, and I would add a hi-vis anorak and boots. I could not find a world record for the fastest marathon dressed as a first aider in the Guinness book, but I would get a chance, though as a paramedic. Anyway, except for the job tag, the uniform looks quite the same. I had already planned that my next marathon would be in Tórshavn, the capital of the Faroes, in June (when it would hardly get dark at all, or hot anyway). Islands in the North Atlantic would probably be not the worst place in the world to run with an anorak on, and with an exotic uniform on, I wouldn’t be mistaken for a local first aider on duty.

The Faroes (Faroe Islands would be redundant) are a group of islands between Norway, Scotland and Iceland. They are a constituent nation of the kingdom of Denmark, but with an autonomous status. The Faroes got their name from the sheep that thrive here since the settlement in Viking times, and wool or knitwear pullovers are great souvenirs, be it high fashion or from charity shops (though fish are the biggest export). On a tour through the islands, the towering bird cliffs of Vestmanna were admired, but also the spectacularly situated and inviting town of Klaksvík.

Chickens in Klaksvik
Being an exotic and very accessible marathon at the same time, Tórshavn attracts runners from far afield, and Marathon Country Club Members and/or Globetrotters accounted for quite a large fraction of runners. The Marathon is a part of Tórshavn’s annual culture day, including many events, such as free visits of the local museums.

International Participants 
The largest exhibit in the National Gallery is an artwork by the local sailor, sculptor and adventurer Tróndur Patursson. It consists of the inside of a shipping container covered with mirrors and glasswork on all sides. This piece conveys a sailor’s experience of being beneath kilometers of atmosphere and above kilometers of water.

While carbo-loading on the day before the race, I had to learn that the USA (or more precisely their president) threatened to leave the Paris Climate agreement. No one should believe that the effects of climate change wouldn’t affect. From the perspective of a runner, who knows if it will be possible (or desirable) to run a marathon in some regions of the world in some decades from now. And here the anorak comes in again: as a clumsy statement of solidarity with people affected by global warming. Actually, my travels to marathons have produced quite a bit of carbon dioxide: A cycle ride within Cambridge to the start of the Boundary Run would account for 150 g CO2-emission, and a flight to the Faroes from Edinburgh for over 400 kg. Altogether, my travels to and from 102 marathons in 33 countries have caused nearly 7.5 tons emission! Though the marathons were often not the main reason for a long distance travel, it is clear that offsetting this was the least I could do, but there is a lot more to think about.

On Saturday, 3rd June, the marathon (including half and fun run) was started in the central pedestrian zone, heading out to the port (all of my recent marathons in countries seemed to pass marinas). The course took a few turns through and around the city, and then went on along a spectacular undulating road around the Kaldbaks-Fjord towards the village Kaldbak and back. The well-kept road along new buildings (many cheers came from the retirement home) and a sea backdrop might even look somewhat Californian on some photos.

Along Kaldbaks-Fjord
But luckily for my body temperature, it was less sunny at about 10°C, and had lots of fresh air (maybe a bit too much of it in the form of headwind). And the best thing is, on the Faroes you are never far from a waterfall, which helps to maintain a cool head- the islands consist mainly of tilted layers of basalt, from which the rainwater flows down in many little streams. Actually, there are not only few trees, but also very few flat areas, and those tend to be boggy (no problem for the sheep). Because there wasn’t any suitable ground around, the national football team had to play their first international against in Sweden – and promptly beat Austria with 1:0.

On the road to Kaldbak
Finally, I made it into the finish in 3:58:17 h, a world record in paramedic apparel, and eventually got the record ratified by Guinness World Records. My run was way slower than the world record for Elvises (2:38:04 h), but still faster than for deep sea diving suit-wearers (six days). I got a medal with a ribbon in national colours and Thor’s hammer on it (he is the city’s name patron). My feet had become a bit thick from running in boots, and finally I could put them up and have some fish soup. Fortunately, the help of my first aider colleagues was not needed. But the next London Marathon is coming up, and after many tries, I surprisingly won a place in the lottery for 2018. Will I provide first aid there as well?

London Marathon Fundraiser for St John Ambulance

No comments:

Post a Comment