The kaleidoscope of colours on the morning horizon would give way to a monotone grey sky later that day, but I didn't know that when I went down to the basement to get my Mirage. They lay almost forgotten in a box, unused since Göteborgs Varvet last May. Today was the day I thought I would be needing them again. Today my feet would be needing some help, which I doubted my Kinvara could offer. Today I was going to run 30K.
I wandered around the hallways of Skellefteå's hockey stadium, trying to find the team's head office. I was carrying three bags with me: one containing my camera and a fleece in case I had to drop out, one with my winter coat and a pair of warm trousers and one with a change of clothes and shower paraphernalia for after the run. We were going to run from Skellefteå to Varuträsk, a village around 15km outside the city, where the annual Christmas market was taking place. Once there, we would take an hour-long break to eat and have a look at the goods on display, hence the coat and trousers which would hitch-hike their way there in a car. Then we would run back the same way.
The ground was frozen and all 16 of us ran stiffly, bracing ourselves for a fall. But northerners are tough folk and learn to negotiate icy surfaces before they can even walk. No one slipped. No one fell. People chatted and laughed all the way to Varuträsk, as we left the city and got surrounded by mist and fir trees.
The long line of parked cars along the road informed us that we were getting close. The Christmas market takes place outside an old mine. Our support vehicle was there waiting for us with our clothes in the trunk, and we went into one of the buildings to put them on. We then split up to look around and to get something to eat.
The others feasted on hot moose soup (eaten with a wooden spoon, which apparently created a problem for some, when it stuck to their tongues) but I -not keen on moose meat, what with being a vegetarian and all- had brought a peanut butter and banana sandwich which would hopefully give me the energy surplus I'd need on the way back.
It didn't. While I sat there and ate, my body temperature slowly dropped and I shivered so much that I probably burned off any calories I might have consumed. When it was finally time to head back, it only took five minutes before I was warmed up again and had to take my gloves off, but the damage was done. My legs felt fine but I didn't. Maybe it was psychological, but I had to struggle to keep moving forward, and I was certain I'd have to drop out. Then my stubbornness kicked in and I used my old reliable trick of counting backwards. I had run a half marathon! Not even 10 km left! It's nothing! I can run 10 km in my sleep!
It worked. I forced myself to look around instead of at my feet, trying to take in the view, and talked to people. Time accelerated. Only 5 km left, and the long uphill slope was nothing I couldn't handle. We were running on city pavements now, we were getting close, and the insane runner in me hoped we'd get to the nice, even number of 30 before the run ended. With the hockey arena in sight, I glanced at my Garmin and was happy to see that we would, indeed, pass the 30 km mark. The runner in front of me picked up her pace, the guy by my side followed suit and suddenly there I was, increasing my speed to keep up with them while running up the final hill up to the stadium.
A warm shower later, we were sitting down to eat a root vegetable soup that one of the runners had made and fresh bread that another had baked. As we enjoyed the delicious food on the table, stories were told, races were remembered and Christmas songs were sung. All body parts that have been injured at one time or another were content and silent, and I had just run 30 km. The future looked bright on this dreary November day.