Get inspired by the Summer 2019 run schedule in Greenland’s southernmost region
These long Arctic runs must be the most mentally challenging races that can be found. Mostly because there are not thousands or tens of thousands of competing athletes, like at some of the better-known marathons, not to mention the hordes of spectators. Here, sometimes we are lucky if there are even 20 athletes!
But who needs a 42-km-long human tunnel of shouting strangers when there are flocks of wooly sheep and a few horses around to give supportive… cheers. And the view! All of these unique elements are exactly what makes our events exhilarating.
A summer full of races
This summer, people from all over the island and the world will push themselves into the backcountry and farm country at Greenland’s southern tip to complete not one but four different marathons and races. Each has its own exciting twist making it nearly impossible to pick just one.
Tasermijit Marathon, 15 June (Tasiusaq)
No concrete jungle here. Within the first minutes, the 44-person settlement of Tasiusaq and its one and only sandy road are behind you, and you are well on your way to 42.2 km along one of the most spectacular fjords in the entire region, Tasermiut Fjord. As always, the most spectacular views are from above, and the best is saved for last. This marathon ends with an elevation climb, and then another, and another. And this is the easiest marathon of the three! This year, just 7 athletes registered for this marathon.
Boat charters down to Tasiusaq can be arranged with local sailing companies from either Narsarsuaq, Narsaq, Qaqortoq or Nanortalik (the closest town). Most athletes go the day ahead, take a test run and camp overnight. With the long summer light, the urge to stay up and watch the sunset and its pastel afterglow is strong! But try to get good rest. Waking at the race site after a night sleeping on its very ground is like soaking up a secret energy to help you move through the terrain effortlessly.
Psst! There is also a 10k and half marathon route here!
Qaqortoq Marathon, 29 June (Qaqortoq)
Here the big town feel complete with clapping spectators and hooplah at the start and finish line is achieved at the center of Qaqortoq. But do not be fooled. In between, you must fight your way through the shrubbery and soft mossy ground as you run past the big lake, into the hills and finally back to town by way of a gravel road. With a total elevation climb of 1200 m on pure terrain, this marathon is actually the toughest of the three.
This mostly backcountry marathon gives a unique opportunity to make an entire holiday out of the experience. The very same evening in Qaqortoq, there is what South Greenlanders consider the social and family event of the year - the annual Sheep Farmer Festival. Think: horseback racing, lasso competitions, flea market tables with jewelry and accessories made of sheep horn and wool, and beautiful meats from the sheep farmers’ own flocks, which their lives revolve around every day of the year. This is why they celebrate so grandly, and after completing the most difficult marathon in South Greenland, you, too, will have something to celebrate!
Tasikuluulik Adventure Race, 13-14 July (UNESCO Area 4)
This race is not a marathon but something far more adventurous - a multidiscipline backcountry race spanning two days with an overnight DIY camping trip. A combination of running, kayaking and cycling on Day 1 will lead you to cross the UNESCO World Heritage line, but not yet the finish line. Only after camping overnight in a beautiful open valley, repelling, cycling again and running a little more than a half marathon toward the Greenland Ice Sheet can athletes say they conquered the Tasikuluulik Adventure Race!
This is not a Tough Mudder but you will get muddy.
This is not an Ultra Viking but you will be surrounded by dozens of Viking ruin sites.
The race organisers arrange transport to the Tasikuluulik peninsula just half an hour from the town of Qaqortoq by boat. However, athletes must provide their own equipment or rent it.
Leif den Lykkeliges Marathon, 17 August (Qassiarsuk, UNESCO Area 1)
Speaking of Vikings, the last marathon of the season is named after Viking nr 2, Leif Erikson, and takes place in the same area that his father, the most famous Viking in history, Erik the Red, settled at the end of the 10th century. Now called Qassiarsuk and deemed UNESCO cultural world heritage, this Inuit sheep farming settlement is home to approximately 40 residents and the population more than quadruples when the marathon runners come in!
The Leif den Lykkelige Marathon is a Y-shaped route leading from the coastal settlement of Qassiarsuk on one fjord through the lake-spotted landscape to the sheep farm Nunataaq on the next fjord over. Turning and retracing the steps halfway finds a fork in the route to head toward the southern coast to the sheep farm Inneruulalik.
This is the easiest of the four events as it is nearly entirely on gravel ATV paths built and used by the area sheep farmers – their lifelines to their fields and each other.