For my 30th, Clare kindly took me to Iceland for a relaxing break. What could be more relaxing than running around some lava fields and an old volcano?

As I’ve said many times before, I don’t really do ‘relaxing’ in the typical sense when I’m on holiday. It’s very rare that I’ll sit quietly by a pool, or spend hours sunbathing on a beach – as my see through, casper-white skin proves.

I’ve always been more of a get-out-and-go kinda of tourist. If it involves getting out up close to cliffs, open fields, caves, ruins etc., I’m there. So when we had a whole week to fill up in Iceland, I started looking at trail running.

Surely a country that is well known for stunning mountain and hill regions, there must be a great selection of trail events and communities. After some Googling and sifting through social media, the events I did find were either held during the warmer months, or were cancelled / merged into other things.

I did eventually find a company called Arctic Running, who offer trail running tours for people who like to exercise and enjoy nature at the same time. In the weeks leading up to our trip, we messaged Birkir (who runs Arctic Running with his wife) a few times about the tours and what kind of day we were looking for.

The Tour

We went for the Volcano City Trail Tour, which seemed like the perfect option for us both. Clare being a geologist, and me wanting to do something nuts. Our tour took us around the lava fields near the Búrfell crater, which is located about 7 km east of Hafnarfjörður.

From their website:
The tour starts in the Heidmork Nature Reserve and continues towards the lava tunnel of Burfell. You will see caves and old sheep gathering areas before we climb up to the ridge of the volcano and down to the crater. You will experience the absolute remoteness of Icelandic nature and run wild and free far away from the stress of the city.

.Birkir picked us up just outside of our AirBnB, and on the way, he talked about his Arctic Running business, his trail running community and his experience of running in different events. During the ride over, and throughout the day he reminded us that today was our day, and that we could change the pace, distance and route to our needs.

Getting out of the car, the first 2 things you notice are the views, and the silence. And by silence, I mean total, calming nothingness. Aside from the 3 of us, there was no one for miles around. The views of the surrounding mountain ranges are nothing short of stunning.  We started our run across the pathways and through what was once a series of lava tubes. We took it fairly easy to begin with over the undulating terrain – which changed from dust, dirt and rock, to huge boulders, snow and moss – and made regular stops at different photo points. Birkir would often sprint ahead to check the route, and take some pretty cool photos and videos of us running.

Getting your own action shots running across such wicked terrain is a great touch to the day. I even managed to keep my eyes open for most of them!

Difficulty

I’d say their rating of 2 – 3 out of 5 on their website is pretty spot on. If you’re a total beginner to trails, you might find the different terrain a bit of challenge, but Birkir and the team are happy to make sure you have the best time. If you’re an intermediate or expert runner, there’s still definitely an appeal to running in such a unique, almost untapped location.

Verdict

Running with Birkir didn’t feel like a typical tour of the outdoors. It was like running with a friend, who knew the ins and outs of the area, the history of the volcanos and the best routes that tourists, and most local runners, don’t know about. We were out for a good 3 hours, and had we planned it a bit better it could’ve been more.

In terms of cost, I think it was great value for money. Our tour cost around ~£240 (written April 2019, before Brexit destroyed the £). There are a cheaper standard coach tours to the national parks around Reykjavik, but considering the personal touches, the freedom you get to explore and the insight from the guide this seemed pretty reasonable.

So if you’re a trail runner looking for something unusual to do in Iceland away from the typical tourist thing, I highly recommend getting in touch with Birkir and the team at Arctic Running.

Me, Clare and Birkir

TT