Trail Running at the Edge of the World

Lying volatile in the North Atlantic Ocean, 100km South East of Iceland, a puzzle of 18 islands called the Faroe Islands is battered by arctic conditions.  As we spiralled above the frosted ridgelines attempting to land, we could tell this place is a trail runners dream, and couldn’t wait to step out onto the edge of the world.

 

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This unspoiled and unexplored cluster of rocky islands is home to under 50,000 Faroese people, known for a relaxed way of life in a country where the weather makes the decisions. The laid back approach of the Islanders is a welcoming contrast to the hectic lifestyle of London, and we soon learned to adopt the carefree attitude of the people we met.   Whilst it’s inhabitants are calm and composed, the Faroe Islands landscape is dramatic in comparison, home to powerful cliff faces, unforgiving sea, and sharp edge mountains, making the archipelago a dreamscape for outdoor enthusiasts. As avid ultra trail runners, we know we’re going to find what we came for, but it’s going to come with its challenges.

 

The Faroe Islands boasts approximately 300 days of rain each year, and when it rains, the mist descends and engulfs everything in its grasp, making the weather unpredictable and potentially very dangerous. An impromptu booking to come to the islands in December for a week of mountain running was a risk, but one that would be highly worth it.

 

Day one of our Faroe Islands trip and I was blown away by the scenery. On driving down into Tjørnuvík along the coastal road, we knew we’d made the right choice for a trail run.  A gaping bowl deep in the valley, opening out into the ocean, sits a small town, home to grass roofed houses, a small church, and a wild cold water surf. On arrival, we meet an old man in a typical Faroese hat, who in Summer, cooks fresh pancakes for anyone who knocks on his door. The encounter is endearing as he welcomes us into his town. We parked up and quickly made our way up the mountain, meandering up along the stream, taking regular glances back at the view behind us.

 

After a very steep ascent up onto the ridgeline, the low afternoon sun, and the most amazing panoramic view of the mountains of north Esturoy greeted us. We ran the length of the ridge several times, filming on DGI Osmo and capturing the height of the mountain.  The sun came through the clouds and reflected beautifully off the thin dusting of snow on the mountains, and it made the ridge-line look even more of a pristine trail runners dream. To the right lay a large expanse of mountainous view, and to the left ascended down into the valley then up again to form another ridge on the Northern side of the island. Despite being high up and close to the clouds, we could still make out the waves crashing against the sea stacks behind Tjørnuvík

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Even at midday, the sun barely made it above the horizon, and it was only a matter of hours before the Islands would be consumed in the darkness of the early winters night. When the winter weather is good, there’s 5-6 hours of daylight, but when the bad weather comes, it’s like it never gets light. We made the most of the crisp sunny day because of the storm due for the rest of the week. The added time pressure made for an unforgettable day of running, exploring the trails that may have been impossible on a rainy day.

 

There’s a huge attraction to discovering trails that might not have been previously run on. The anticipation distance, terrain, and possibility are an exciting mystery, only to be answered if we run them ourselves. There is currently only one annual 21km trail race on the Faroe Islands, and after exploring just a small piece of this untapped jigsaw of land ourselves, we knew we had to create the first ever Faroe Islands trail marathon and ultra-marathon, and invite people to run on this magnificent labyrinth of mountain summits and ridge-lines.

 

In September next year, the Faroe Islands will play host to the an international trail race and adventure festival. It will be the first of its kind the Islands have ever seen - a weekend combining competitive trail races, adventure activities, and a party welcomed by the Faroese locals.

The Útilív Adventure Festival will take place on the 7-9th September 2018 in Torshavn, Faroe Islands, for people to enjoy trail running and adventures at the edge of the world.

For more information click here

Sarah Pritchard