Preparing for Running Iceland with Jamie Ramsay

Jamie Ramsay explains the preparation that has gone into his latest adventure. Jamie is planning a 700km multiday run where he will attempt to run from the east of Iceland to the west, finishing just beyond the capital Reykjavik. 

My next adventure challenge is coming up and right now all my focus is getting myself in the best shape to be able to successfully complete it. The challenge is Running Iceland. A 700km multiday run that will see me attempt to run from the east of Iceland to the west, finishing just beyond the capital Reykjavik.

 

Multiday running is a skill I have developed over the last few years. My first experience of this form of adventure was back in 2013. I had run the odd marathon and was looking for something a bit more challenging. While the Marathon des Sables looked interesting, I wanted to do something with less people taking part. At the MDS there can be over 1500 people and if I spend that amount of money to go somewhere beautiful and remote, I certainly don’t want to be surrounded by people. I stumbled upon a race called the Jungle Marathon in Vietnam. This was to be the first instalment and the thought of being one of the first to complete a course was certainly appealing. The race involved 240km of running through the Vietnamese jungle over a 6-day period. I entered, trained and got excited. Unfortunately, with one month to go, it was announced that due to “organiser illness” the race was to be cancelled. We were offered places on the Gobi March but not having the funds for new flights I was left distraught and no race to run. 

 

After a while I thought about my options. I could either quit or run. I had the training in hand, all the equipment and a flight booked to Denang. So, I decided I would run regardless of there not being a race because that is what I had told everyone and most importantly myself I would do! And that is what I did. I flew to Denang with a running backpack and ran from Denang to a small town called Bon Son. I found hostels and hotels along the way and learnt how to multiday run in the humidity of Asia

This adventure to Vietnam is what sparked my unquenchable thirst for endurance and adventure. Since then I have completed a number of multiday runs. These include:

  • 17,000km run from Vancouver to Argentina: This run passed through 14 countries and took me 367 days of running. I had to cross the Andes twice (4830m), run across the Atacama Desert and navigate my way around the Darien Gap. On this run I wore through 17 pairs of running shoes. My longest stretch of continuous running was 1575km over 28 days from Jujuy to Buenos Aires. For this adventure I pushed everything I needed in a Thule running stroller.
  • 700km Three Peaks Run: When I got back from Running the Americas I was keen to do a UK challenge. The UK Three Peaks challenge (with a car) is quite well known but I wanted to put my own twist on it. To do this I decided to climb the three peaks (Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike, Snowdon) and run between with everything I needed to camp on my back. This adventure took 13 days, 23 hours and 40 minutes – I was determined to do it in less than 2 weeks and over a year after completing I found out I had set the record!
  • 430km Scottish Isles Run: This was a glorious adventure run starting in Castle Bay at the south end of the Outer Hebrides and making my way north to the Butt of Lewis. I then made my way to Uig, on the isle of Skye and ran around the northern coast and then down to the southern tip. This run took 9 days.
  • 260km Transalpine Runs: In 2017 & 2018 I had the pleasure of running the Gore-Tex Transalpine runs as part of the GORE Wear Team. I can’t recommend these races enough. They are about 265km, stretch over 7 days and have to be run in pairs. In 2018, I ran with Eva Sperger and managed to finish in third place. https://transalpine-run.com
  • 400km Cape Wrath Run: This is known as the Scottish Expedition Race. The 400km stretches from Fort William to Cape Wrath and takes in some of the most breath-taking scenery. The race takes place every 2 years and is set to return in 2020. There are 8 stages and each night you sleep in a camp that is transported daily as you run. The comradery is huge and while it is daunting it is accessible to all levels of runners – they only requirement is determination! I managed to finish 3rd overall in 2018. http://www.capewrathultra.com/
  • 120km GR211 Trail, Mallorca: I did this as part of my race training. There is no better way to train for a multi-day run that by doing one. A nice three-day run in Mallorca gave my body enough of a shock that I was able to prepare both physically and mentally for the races ahead (and achieve my best results). 

So, having racked over 19,500km of multi-day running one would think that I am now pretty confident but that is far from the truth. The more you do and the harder you push yourself the wearier and more respectful you become of the trails ahead.

 

Iceland is going to be really gnarly with extreme terrain, long periods of wilderness, 24hr sun and changeable weather. With everything I need on my back, this will be the hardest multi-day run I have taken on to date. 

Therefore, to prepare for this I have to break things down into manageable stages:

 

1: Fitness:  A lot of people think that to train for a multiday run you just need to run lots. I disagree. You need to build up your running fitness, work on quick recovery, train your body to push through pain and operate on minimal sleep. You also need to build up general strength, especially your core, back and shoulders, especially if you are running with 10kg on your back.

 

2: Logistics: This is the difficult part. You need to come up with a plan that puts you in the best place to achieve success. Obviously, the route you choose determines how difficult this is but the more you do the more challenging you want it to be. For Iceland, I am giving myself 20 days to complete – that is from leaving my house to returning.

 

3: Kit: For me this is the fun part. For this adventure it is all about lightweight, packable kit that performs in a wide range of environments. The essentials are pretty obvious: backpack, tent, sleeping bag, cooker, clothing, shoes and navigation. But in each one of these categories there are numerous options and pros & cons. Every time I run, I tweak this and that is no exception for this run.

 

4: Food and water: This is always hard when you are running in a foreign place, especially when it is as remote as Iceland. But the challenge to find about 2000 calories for 13 days is part of the challenge and therefore the fun.

 

Running Iceland is set to start on 1 July (though may move a day earlier or later. It will be trackable on my website: www.jamieramsay.net and Instagram