Category Archives: Norway

The Oslo Marathon 2010: my 25th birthday celebration

I was in Europe for my 25th birthday, and I decided to run in the Oslo Marathon to celebrate it.

My college friend Glennda was living in Norway, and when she found out that I will be in Europe during the Oslo Marathon, she invited me to join her. Obviously, I said yes. I couldn’t miss the opportunity to join a running event in another country. It’s too cool an experience to pass up. Besides, the event was dated 5 days after my birthday, the race will be a very nice 25th birthday activity.

I originally planned to run the half marathon with Glennda, but my nasty bike accident prior to the Europe trip messed up my training. So I just accepted defeat and decided to run the 10km instead. Besides, it will just be my first time to run 10km on official race time. My last 10km was during my mountaineer training 2 years before this, when I sprained my ankle mid-run and dragged myself to the finish line with a time of 1 hr, 7 minutes. Obviously, I wanted to at least surpass this time even though I stopped running regularly since then. For the Oslo Marathon, my target time was 60 minutes, exactly an hour. I was not ambitious, I know I did not have the right amount of training to aim for a faster time, so 60 minutes was an (hopefully) achievable goal.

While trying to cram my training, I registered at the marathon website a week before the race. For the 10-km category registration, I had to pay 440.89 Norwegian kroner, which is around 80 USD or 3,500 Php. It was quite a hefty amount for a student on allowance like me, but I wanted to make the most of my birthday trip. I might be in Oslo only once in my lifetime, I might as well make it memorable. Forget the expensive registration fee!

I booked a flight with Norwegian Airlines, since they were the cheapest flights I could find. My supervisor in Sweden even helped me look for the best travel deal for this trip. Once in Oslo, I was lucky enough to be welcomed by a very hospitable Filipino family. They toured me around the city a day before the run, but not before cooking delicious Filipino dishes for my welcome dinner. Boy, was I spoiled! On the afternoon before the race, I met up with Glennda, then we met with Karen, another Filipina runner, and her Norwegian husband Robert.  We went to a bar to have some drinks (only a glass of beer! <look who’s defensive… haha>) to relax and exchange stories. We then went home to spend the night at Tanya’s (Glennda’s friend) place (It was really great that we did not have to pay for a hotel. Oslo is a very expensive city as it is).

We woke up early on race day, since the 10-km event was at 10 in the morning. We took the train then walked to Akershus Fortress, a charming and historic medieval castle near the sea. It was the perfect place to start and finish the race. Upon arrival, the first thing we did was to claim our registration kits and souvenir shirts (I loved the fit of the shirt on me, not to mention the bright pink color!). I then changed and got ready for my event. When I opened my sealed race packet 20 minutes before the race, I couldn’t find my timing chip! I panicked a little while I ran back  to the registration area. They were trying to interrogate me because I might have misplaced the chip somewhere, but in the end they gave me a new race number and timing chip. Too bad I had to run without the original race bib with my name on it. Oh well, the important thing was that I can run the race 🙂

Everyone was a little anxious about the rain, since it had been raining the previous days. Thankfully, that day was rain-free, though the temperature was still cold at 5-degrees Celsius. For someone used to sunny 35-degree weather, Oslo was too cold for me. I was wearing a jacket but I was still shivering in some parts of the race when the wind was too strong. I also regretted not wearing gloves, since my hands were just frozen numb throughout the race.

The mood was very festive at the starting line as the dancers on stage were leading the crowd into warmups to the tune of Shakira’s ‘Waka waka”. When the gun signal for the start sounded, everyone was in high spirits.

The race course was very scenic, with the seaside route including the famous Oslo Opera House and Oslo’s main road and shopping district, Karl Johan Gate. The race course ranged from flat to rolling terrain with a last uphill stretch before the finish line. I had no idea where the course was going, I just followed the stream of running people and the occasional arrows. Throughout the course, they were serving water, Gatorade and bananas , but the weather wasn’t really dehydrating so I drank very little. Glennda was waiting for me at strategic places and I gamely posed for some pictures 🙂 I sprinted the last 5o m of the race so that I would have a good photo at the finish line (The photo was too small, though. Of course, they have the high-res for sale). After crossing the finish line, they gave me my shiny medal to take home as souvenir. Lots and lots of bananas were also waiting for the tired runners at the end of the race (We saw lots of cut-up bananas go to waste after the race, it was sad. Some runners were taking it home, but you can only take home so much cut-up bananas at a time.).

My official race time was 1 hour and 26 seconds. I was 26 seconds short of my goal, and I blame it on my poses for Glennda’s camera hahaha. But all things considered, I was happy with my time 🙂 I survived my first cold-weather 10-km!

After my race, we had lunch at McDonald’s before going back at the starting line for Glennda’s half marathon. I took pictures and appreciated Oslo’s seaside while she was running the race. We then met up with Karen and Robert at a nice burger restaurant. And as if we did not just finish a race, we went for karaoke and drinks afterwards! Team Philippines, FTW!

It was a unique birthday celebration for me. It is a weekend that I will remember for a long time, thanks to the wonderful people who took care of me while I was celebrating my birthday 🙂 Happy birthday to me!

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My arctic holiday: How Tromsø made me sing

The Gateway to the Arctic, The Paris of the North, Home of the northernmost almost-everything–northernmost university, brewery, cathedral, even the northernmost burger king– Tromsø is probably the liveliest city of the Arctic. And I do mean lively! Tromsø has the most number of bars per capita in the whole of Norway. Night life is just buzzing! But it wasn’t only about the night life, of course. It was a totally different world from what I, the tropics girl, am used to. The whiteness of snow blending with the colors of autumn was a real feast to the eyes. The view of snow-capped mountains and houses across the fjord was priceless, may it be day or night. I fell in love with this city over the weekend. As I was recalling my adventures in this city, I don’t know why I kept on remembering song lyrics and was subconsciously singing them in my head…

Late yesterday night, I saw a light shine from a window*… On flights, I try to sit by the window if possible, so I can have a view of the clouds and the land. For the flight from Oslo to Tromsø, I was sitting at the very back of the plane, on the window seat of course. Halfway through the flight, the pilot’s friendly voice announced, “Good evening ladies and gentlemen, if you look out the window both to your right and left, you can see the northern lights…” The rest of his announcement was lost to me as I looked out in excitement. And there it was, the Aurora Borealis. It has always been my dream to see the Northern Lights, and on Seat 24A of SAS Flight SK4434, my dream came true. I couldn’t quite put into words what the Northern Lights looked like. It’s like a green magical curtain that was slowly dancing. Well, it wasn’t dancing so much as shimmering. Aah, words are not enough to capture the beauty of the Aurora Borealis. I was glad I saw it from the plane, because then we were in the same level of the atmosphere, and it was so close… The only downside was that I couldn’t take a proper picture! The darkness and the thick glass windows of the plane made it impossible… So yes, I have fulfilled my dream of seeing the Northern Lights, but I have nothing to show for it. Too bad it was cloudy in Tromsø, the clouds hid the Aurora throughout the rest of my trip. But picture or no picture, the sight of the Lights will forever be ingrained in my memory.  Seeing a majestic thing like that is something I will remember forever.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow**… As the plane was descending and I looked out the window of the plane, I was treated to a view of white. I was pleased to see that the landscape was covered in snow. It was dark and all i could see were the white glow of the snow and the lights coming from the city. When we landed and I took the taxi, I couldn’t help but feel like a child seeing the snow like it was my first  time. I spent last winter in Japan, but since I stayed in the southern part of the country, the snow was no more than a few centimeters thick, which would easily melt once the sun came up the sky. What I saw was for me, THE snow: snow that covered the houses and mountains, snow that my boots can sink to when i stepped on it, real snow! Hahaha. I just came out of the airport and was just in the taxi and I already thought that the trip was worth every penny.

Oh, I love the night life, I got to boogie***… I must say, Tromsø parties. It parties hard. I have already been to Oslo on a Saturday night, and the capital’s nightlife is nothing compared to Tromsø’s, where there are much more people out on the streets at night than during the day time. When I was there, it was the beginning of the Insomnia Festival, a celebration of techno music and culture. We watched remarkable performances from Norwegian bands at Driv, a popular student bar. Almost all the bars are open until 3am, filled with people dancing like no one is watching… and yeah, with people dancing TOGETHER like no one is watching. I have never seen so many couples kiss and make out in a dance floor before my Tromsø trip… It was one of the most interesting people-watching experience I have ever had.

You can paint with all the colors****… Going around Tromsø is like visiting another planet for me, what with the snow enveloping everything. Sometimes it’s puzzling to see the red and yellow leaves strewn on the snow, and the snow in turn is covering the green grass… I mean, is it autumn or winter? But I guess that’s the  beauty of Tromsø, you can have the best of both worlds.

Come on, vámonos*****… Sometimes I feel like I’m like Dora. Hah. It’s really stupid to compare yourself to a cartoon character with ugly bangs, but I sometimes remember her theme song out of the blue when I’m exploring a new place. I really enjoy going around and have the feel of discovery, taking pictures of anything I find interesting; and Tromso has a lot of interesting things to offer.

We wandered a bit around the University of Tromsø, where my friend Glennda is currently studying. It’s the northernmost university and offers a lot of good courses, especially on Arctic research. I love that they have a Geology Walk, where the rocks in that region are displayed. So cool!

We also went around the city center, where most of the shops are. In the middle of the shops and pubs, Tromsø cathedral stood proud in its wooden glory. It is said to be one of the biggest wooden cathedrals, and is the northernmost Protestant Cathedral in the world.

My friend brought me to Polaria, where I got to know more about Arctic wildlife, travel and research. The building looks like a stack of books left in disarray after getting a book in the corner of the shelf.

For some reason, I especially enjoyed playing with the seals inside the museum. I felt like a young kid again, enjoying the simplest of pleasures. It was really priceless.

We also went to Fjellheisen, where a cable car brought us up to Storteinen (421 m asl) so we could have a proper view of the city. It was my first time in a cable car! Not that it was a big deal or anything, I just realized before we stepped into the car I have never rode on one before. Anyway, up in Storteinen there was a quaint cafe, where I sipped hot chocolate and ate traditional Norwegian waffles while I enjoyed the majestic view of the island, the fjord, and the snow-capped peaks… I went out of the warm comfort of the cafe to take pictures and to have my picture taken (of course) in the shin-deep snow (I am not sure when I will get to walk in snow this deep again, so shin level is high enough for me).

We also passed by the Arctic Cathedral, a parish church (which technically does not make it a cathedral) built in 1965. It is probably the most famous landmark in Tromsø because of its unique architecture. It is certainly one of the most uniquely designed churches I have ever seen.

I will survive******… To cap off my weekend holiday, I went with Glennda to Roger’s, a pub that transforms into a karaoke bar on Sundays and Tuesdays. I met a lot of Filipinas (where else can you meet a lot of them in one night? hehe) and we sang our hearts out. In my case, I sang my lungs out. I had a cold since before I came to Tromsø and the  Arctic weather plus the night partying made it a lot worse. I barely had a speaking voice that night, but I still managed to sing two songs. My first song was Top of the World by the Carpenters, because I was in the Arctic and I felt it was apt :p My second song, I Will Survive, was the finale song that night! I did not let a little (a little?! I had to drink a lot of salabat–ginger tea and suck on a lot of Strepsils) cold bother my singing the finale song. It was a lot of fun belting out the notes (with a lot of difficulty, mind you. I was really hoarse that night) while the people were dancing to the music. When it all ended, I did survive (with no voice, though) and had two hours of sleep before catching my flight and coming back to reality.

Tromsø really made me sing, literally and figuratively.

*From a Window by the Beatles

**Let it snow, the popular Christmas song (’nuff said)

***I Love the Nightlife by Alicia Bridges

****Colors of the Wind from the Pocahontas soundtrack

*****Dora the Explorer theme song

******I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor