Oslo – World’s worst marathon

Marathon start. A total of 18,000 participants, including five New Zealanders.

Several months ago I decided it would be a really fun idea to run the Oslo marathon.

I convinced Brian and another friend, Ever, to join me.

We enrolled in the half marathon.

Curiously, this was also around the time that we decided to stop training, and generally stop running entirely.

As the final week approached, we realized we better book some flights and hotel. As it turns out, when you have 18,000 runners in a small city, all the cheap hotels are full.

We went upmarket.

Offering a late checkout, a first class breakfast, spacious room with a luxurious toasty warm bathroom, it would later turn out this was the best decision we made that weekend.

After a few dramas, with booking the wrong flights (neurological failure with confusing the definition of prepositions ‘to’ and ‘from’), and accidentally attempting to smuggle weaponry on board the plane, we finally arrived in Oslo late Friday night, completely unready to run the marathon the following day.

We set out Saturday morning to pick up our race packs.

Picking up the race pack. Note the jackets everyone is wearing.

It was 22nd September.  In most normal countries in the northern hemisphere this is late summer with pleasant warm temperatures.   Here, it was raining, windy, and generally freezing.

Our planned running attire was not going to cut it.

We headed down to a sports shop and stocked up on running jackets, tights, outer pants, gloves and hats.

Now we were a little bit more ready, or at least, less susceptible to hypothermia.

I began to study the course map.  I was not impressed. Usually with marathons you have a specific destination to run to. In Auckland you start from Devonport and run into town for the half, or continue out to St Heliers and back for the full. In Wellington you run from town to the airport and back.

The Oslo route looked like event organisers had been allocated a tiny area and then had to resort to using google maps to desperately design a course to meet the distance requirements, with meaningless looping and double-backing, all while going out of their way to avoid any parks or scenic bits. If you were doing the full marathon, you’d be doing this ‘route’ twice.

Ugly and demotivating course map

Dressed in three layers and wearing hats and gloves, we mingled with the other runners, waiting for the start. Fifteen minutes prior to start, we reluctantly stripped our outer layers at the bag drop off area, and waited for the gun. As we looked at the runners about us, there was no exposed skin to be seen except for faces, and even those, some runners had covered up with scarves.

And we were off.

We started in central Oslo and after a few kms quickly headed out of the CBD. And that’s when the ugliness started.

We began to pointlessly loop around rundown warehouses, head up and down pokey side streets. We ran alongside the motorway, through industrial wasteland, zig-zagged through soul-less business blocks, and back again, and looped a few times through immigrant slums (well in Norway standards, at least), all-the-while trying to avoid pedestrians and cyclists disrespecting the course and crossing it as they pleased.

And it was freezing and raining. I was extremely thankful of my gloves, tights, last minute hat, and gloves.

After two hours, the end was finally in sight, and I pitied the full marathoners who would have to run this hideous course twice. Oslo has some pretty sights on offer, some nice water fronts, and awesome parks, all close by. Why event organisers selected this route instead, I have no idea. Maybe the local government hates runners, and allocated them the crappiest part of town. Or, maybe closing certain roads is a problem, although bigger cities manage fine.

Exhausted and cold, I reached the 19km marker, only 2km to go, and it seemed the longest 2km I had run.

1km to go.




I saw Ever and Brian already at the finish line waiting, and cheering me on.   A wonderful feeling.

I crossed the line.



25m from the finish

At 2 hrs 38 minutes, it was my slowest time yet. But in all fairness, a reasonable result given my excruciating training regime.

Brian, also without any training, managed a much more respectable 1.57.27, just one second ahead of Ever.

We did it.

12.1km. 1hr. 57min. 27s.


Reunited. Team photo.

Cold, and tired, we headed back to our hotels for a luxurious shower, followed by the best Indian dinner I have had for a long time.  And the following morning, was a long sleep in, before a delicious, relaxing breakfast.

With rain and cold outside, and some general lingering tiredness from the previous day, it made for the perfect Sunday.

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