The Midnight Sun Marathon (minus the sun)
Tromsø, Sunday July 4, 10:00PM

My God, I just ran a Norwegian mile!

Over 5,000 people descended on Tromsø yesterday for one of the most publicised events of the Norwegian summer: the tenth annual Midnight Sun Marathon. There were only two viewpoints from which I might have written this story for you today: first, as a spectator watching the races from the sidelines. Or second, as an out-of-shape Canadian who maintained the ''do one thing every day that scares you'' attitude and ran.

Of course I ran it!

There were two events for the hardcore: a full, 42-kilometer marathon, and a 21-kilometer half-marathon. In addition, a 4.2-kilometer minimarathon led racers around the Sentrum, and the 10km Adidas Mila both began and ended in the Sentrum. (A Norwegian mil, pronounced ''meal,'' is just a bit longer than 10 kilometers.)

Ten kilometers sounded like more than enough for me, so I signed up for the Adidas Mila, which Dag-Frode was also scheduled to run. Edmondas and Karl promised to be at the race so that we'd have fans at the finish line, and Espen kindly took the majority of these pictures with the CoolPix 900.

Minimarathon warmup

Despite the fact the sun was nowhere to be seen, the crowd was tremendously upbeat at the Minimarathon warmup. The Minimarathon was to start at the Sentrum at 8:00 in the evening, an hour before the Adidas Mila. I had come into the Sentrum a bit early to register and get psyched up.

Minimarathon warmup continues

Witches at the minimarathon warmup

The Minimarathon is known for attracting people who dress up in all sorts of hilarious attire. Here are some witches who were hanging around before the race. I also spotted - but didn't have time to photograph - some ''genetically manipulated seagulls'' who were preparing to run the race.

Green crazies at the minimarathon warmup

These green crazies and their straight-outta-Bedrock viking friend were also raring to race the Minimarathon.

Minimarathon finish line

But the Minimarathon attracted its crowd of serious racers as well as the jokers. Here are some of the first people who made it to the finish line.

Minimarathon finish line

Here are some other powerhouse minimarathon participants. I stayed to cheer the next batch of people in, and then had to take off to prepare for the Adidas Mil, scheduled to depart momentarily at 9:00PM. We had our own warmup just like the Minimarathon one. It's not difficult to get excited at a warmup when it's led by energetic Norwegian women!

Frodo and Rob at the start of the mil

Here's where Espen took over the camerawork, with this shot of Dag-Frode and I at the start line.

Three-fingered Jesus at the start of the mil

And here's another of the two of us, just seconds before the starting gun fired. OYP friends from home will note that I am flashing Espen the much-revered Three-Fingered Jesus, which should be accompanied by a heavily-distorted guitar riff. (Steve Small will also note that, while this may at first not appear to qualify as a Three-Fingered Jesus with Tongue, immediately to my left in the photo is a Norwegian gentleman providing the requisite tongue action.)

And we're off!

And we're off!

Edmondas and the green crazies

Here's Edmondas hanging out with the green crazies. They must have finished running the Minimarathon by that point. Incidentally, take a look at all the smiling faces in this and the other shots. It was drizzling rain the entire night, but that didn't seem to phase the participants or the fans.

Norwegians enjoying the race

Here are some Minimarathon racers. Incidentally, some of the first racers who made it to the Minimarathon finish line were no taller than these two. The athletic ability of the children of Tromsø never ceases to amaze me.

The mil's route.  Feel my pain.

OK, now run the mil with me and visualize my pain. I ran from the Sentrum, past the Meieriet and our other favourite night spots and out towards the old Mack factory where I work. We ran past the factory, around the corner and past the beach we've relaxed at on a couple of Sunday afternoons. We continued past crowds of Norwegians shouting, ''Hey-yah! Hey-yah,'' a sort of rhythmic version of ''Go! Go! Go! Go!''

We hit the five-kilometer mark and I accidentally took just a little too much water as we turned back towards the Sentrum. Frodo and I had exchanged cheers when he passed me en route towards the Sentrum when I was at about the 4.9km mark, so I knew he was a good 0.2km ahead of me.

I fought off a cramp as we turned around the corner, repeating to myself Neo's mind-over-matter mantra from The Matrix, ''There is no spoon. There is no spoon.'' At around the seven-kilometer mark, one of Karl's predictions came true: I was repeatedly overtaken by forty- and fifty-year-old Norwegian iron-men and -women who managed to maintain, unphased, a steady pace throughout the race. It wasn't an embarassment, but rather something that awed me.

The nine-kilometer mark was just outside of the Sentrum, and at that point the ''Hey-YAH!'''s from the crowd picked up again.

Norwegian mil finish line

Here's the finish line of the Adidas mil. I'm not sure if that's the first guy in; I'll have to ask Espen.

Here come the hardcores!

Here come some more hardcore runners coming into the finish line.

Dag-Frode blasts past Espen with the camera

Frodo (white shirt, black shorts) blasts past Espen towards the finish line.

Oh my Christ, I'm going to die

Many thanks to Espen for this picture of Yours Truly thinking, ''Oh my Christ, I'm going to die'' as I head for the finish.

The finish line shortly after I passed through, with the time under an hour

And here's the finish line shortly after I passed through it. I don't know my exact time, but according to the readout and the order of these photographs, I know I accomplished my goal of finishing the race in less than an hour.

Another big three-fingered Jesus at the finish line

And here are Dag-Frode and I at the finish line. When compared to the rest of the runners, I mightn't have put on a Flåklypa-class show, but I was tremendously proud of the fact I had participated and survived the race.

Edmondas, Karl, Kjersti, Liz-Iren and photographer Espen were there to meet Frodo and I at the finish line. Despite the fact the Midnight Sun couldn't be seen through the crowds, the friendliness and hospitality of the Tromsø folk shone through once again. The organizers of the race should be praised for such a well-organized and enjoyable race, and everyone involved should be complimented for their high spirits despite the weather.

Well, I've climbed a mountain and ran a marathon. I think I'm going to go back to bed now.