Reality sets in when you pick up your race number and race shirt!
Greenlanders love to escape to the backcountry to have barbecues, hunt, relax, and even exercise! In Nuuk especially, there are quite many possibilities for organized runs like the Nuuk Marathon, a 120 km / 75 mi race from Nuuk into Nuuk Fjord, a mountain challenge to the tops of Ukkusissat and Quassussuaq (780 m / 2559 ft and 443 m / 1453 ft, respectively), and this very 20-35 km / 12-22 mi KangNu Race from Kangerluarsunnguaq (the next fjord south of Nuuk) to Nuuk.
Now, just because I participated in the KangNu Race, please don’t confuse me with some über-fit and dedicated runner. The only reason I felt comfortable signing up for the KangNu Race was because there was the possibility to hike the course – an option that 59% of participants opted for this year, actually.
While it is true that I love to get that post-workout high, a Runner I am not. In fact, the longest run I have ever done in my life is perhaps 10 km / 6 mi. And, a Trail Runner I am certainly not! As in, I have never run in the nature before. Herein lies the reason why the KangNu Race was such a personal achievement for me!
Believe me when I say that running the KangNu Race was never on my radar until the very moment the clock started at the starting line in Kangerluarsunnguaq, on 9 August 2014. A perfect storm of motivations, and the coolest new friends, just made my feet start running. Even at that time, I never formulated the goal to run the entire race.
Though I was by no means thinking to such a highly composed degree on race day, after 2.5 weeks of reflection I have come up with three mantras that quite accurately represent my mental state during the KangNu Race. Sorry in advance for turning into a life coach for a minute 🙂
1. You can do anything you put your mind to. Physical challenges are 20% physical strength and 80% mental strength.
I wish I could say I eat the world’s most balanced diet and that I had been training for weeks to conquer this run, but truthfully, it was all mental right there in the moment. I just took it from minute to minute thinking, “This feels okay right now. I could keep running”. So I did. I did not even listen to music during the run, and that is amazing to me, even now! What was I thinking of for so many minutes?? I cannot remember.
Instead, I watched my footing like a hawk, enjoyed the mountain- and fjord-view that literally never loses its impressiveness, and talked myself through sore hip flexors and heel blisters a few times. Suddenly, 3 hours and 8 minutes was over and I felt on top of the world!
2. Compete with yourself, not others.
There is something to be said about setting realistic goals and that all starts and ends with you. What works for someone else has absolutely nothing to do with you, so the only sustainable routine is to keep your focus inward. At the end of the day, you are your own biggest motivation.
There were one or two periods of the KangNu Race when I was totally alone in the nature, unable to see anybody in front or behind. At those times, how does one measure whether she’s going fast enough, pushing hard enough? You can’t. I couldn’t. I could only look at myself and ask – am I going fast enough for myself? Am I happy with myself? The answer was yes, so I was right on track 🙂
3. Every time you do something you thought you could not do, you set a new bar for yourself. Live life by constantly setting new bars and you will naturally evolve into the best version of yourself.
Sometimes these tests of character and willpower and strength come at the end of a long road of deliberate training and focus, and sometimes they fall into your lap out of nowhere. But no matter what, these events are monumental in shaping your person and eventually even a “new you”. Recognize that you have done something great, and give yourself every bit of the credit you deserve! Then promise yourself to always strive to recreate this experience with something a bit different, a bit bigger, a bit better.
As I said, before the KangNu Race I didn’t consider myself “a runner,” but now I am thinking about what races I can do in the future, both in Greenland and in the United States. The wheels are certainly turning, and so it seems maybe I am in the midst of creating a new Me…
Now for some pictures to show the day!
Kingittorsuaq is the landmark that lets you know you have reached Kangerluarsunnguaq.
Eager participants at the starting line in Kangerluarsunnguaq. With participants arriving just 12 at a time via boat transport from Nuuk, there was bound to be a little bit of standing around and waiting. It’s all part of the experience!
View from the starting line in Kangerluarsunnguaq. If you are ever so lucky as to stand here, please please take a moment to be grateful for everything in your wonderful life that has brought you to this point.
… And in the midst, one woman just running from yellow dot to yellow dot until she reaches the finish line! Photo taken after exactly 1 hour of running, 2 hours to go. Starting line was down by that island in the background.
Of course, my adrenaline was so high at the end that I completely forgot to take finish line pictures, but Qanorooq, part of the Greenland national broadcast, actually captured me on film crossing the finish line (cue to 7:20). How cool!