A runcation in Iceland

I traveled to the end of the earth - well, Iceland - to discover these truths

Jovan Abernathy in Iceland. Courtesy photo

Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com.

So, I promised to tell you about my runcation to Iceland. I have to start with the race of course; that was my whole reason for going (Besides, I promised to give some shout outs. Before I tell you anything else, let me tell you about the Reykjavik Autumn Half and Full Marathon).

The local running clubs did an excellent job of showing the 300 run tourists and I the relaxed and friendly Icelandic running culture. Although small, the race was well organized. From the start line to the finish, we were kept as comfortable as possible from the freezing temperatures and constant wind.

Heated tents were there for us to gather in before and after the race. Once we crossed the finish line, we were handed our medals, a veggie sandwich, and chocolate treat, and most important, our beer.

They thought of every detail. Here is this for detail: the trophies that were handed to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd finishers were made of basalt column hand-picked from a secret place in the mountains. Truly one of a kind. The course was an asphalt, flat terrained running trail that circled the island. I can now say that I ran around the Island of Reykjavik. I totally recommend this marathon for a destination race.

And now the truths….

This trip was centered around the marathon. I have dreamed of seeing the Northern Lights for quite some time. Oh how much I wanted to hold an Iceberg in my hands and to relax with a face mask in the Blue Lagoon. But, it didn’t happen. Needless to say, I was disappointed. In fact, I didn’t know how I felt about Iceland. So, I walked about and this is what I found.

Truth #1:

Icelandic people are very hospitable. The first couple of days, I spent my time meeting locals (By locals, I mean bartenders) and the other guests in the guesthouse. Very sweet people who are ready to get to know you.

Truth #2:

Iceland is not ice and Greenland is not green. The myth was a trick that Ingolfr Arnarson, the Viking who first settled Iceland, pulled on the rest of the world so every other heathen wouldn’t junk up his country. It is cold though. I strongly suggest packing a heavy coat, hat, ear muffs, waterproof gloves, and a ski mask, yes a ski mask.

Truth #3:

Reykjavik is one of the most expensive cities in the world. No. 14 to be exact. Example: What can you get for $30 in Reykjavik? A 10 minute taxi ride to the start line OR (notice I said or) a burger and fries. The average price for a tour was 20,000 Icelandic Krona or $161.

Truth #4:

Transportation is free….because everything is in walking distance. During the days, I walked the city in search of murals to pose in front of. And at night, I walked the streets in search of Bjork and the Ice cubes, I mean Sugar cubes.

Truth #5:

Loki Guesthouse (where I stayed) is legit.

It has everything you need without being super fancy. This included a fully loaded kitchen, washer and dryer, and free wifi. Even though we had to share the bathroom, it made up for it with a shower with a hand held shower head with excellent water pressure (and ladies you know what that is good for, if you know what I mean as my eyes roll back.)

Truth #6:

Everything in Reykjavik is hard to pronounce.

Case in point. Loki Guesthouse is next to Hallgrimskirkja or as everyone calls “the Big Church.”

Truth #7:

You can drink the water right from the faucet.

But, please ignore the fact that it smells like boiled eggs. Just hold your nose and don’t ask questions.

Truth #8:

The Icelandic food tastes like…

I don’t know. You tell me. I could only afford ramen noodles from Bonus discount grocery store. It became a joke at the guesthouse. Everyone would go to Bonus and come back with Ramen noodles. You could also get a six pack of Thule (an ale with a smooth, crisp finish and official beer of the Reykjavik Autumn Marathon which means the ends of the earth) for 75 cents. Now that’s legit.

Truth #9:

Reykjavik has an entire museum devoted to the penis. The Iceland Phallocogical Musuem has 280 specimens from 93 species of animals including whale. No, they do not have human specimens though porn star Jonah Falcon, who has the longest penis on record, has willed his penis to the museum when he passes.

Truth #10:

If you can’t get to the Blue Lagoon, Reykjavik’s thermal swimming pools are the next best thing. Steamy oasis’ of hot water that stays open until 10 p.m. You can relax those muscles in a hot pot, hot tub, or sauna. Added bonus: Invest in a city pass and get free admission to all 8 thermal pools.

Truth #11:

Aside from Lake Como, Italy, Iceland is the safest place on earth. The police have only had to shoot one person in the history of modern police. The police don’t even carry guns. They actually have a special unit for that.

The last truth was revealed at the post race party which was held at...wait for it...Bryggian Brugghus Brewery in the Old Harbour. It is the poshest brewery I have ever seen. The race committee arranged for us to get half off beers if we wore our medals. So 12 of us got cozy on plush sofas in the corner.

We made our introductions. There was Antone (a Norwegian run coach), Svandhildur (who handed me my post race snacks), Craig (he ran his first full marathon in 3:53:00), his partner Shelley (who took the race photos). There was also Runa (the first Icelandic woman to run the Major 6 marathons) and Magano (who later drove me back to my hotel).

We took pictures, drank beer, and contemplated important questions on topics like which contributes most to Iceland’s GDP? Tourism or fish? Where’s you next runcation (Because there is always the next one)? And finally, what do you do when you client is faster than you?

As we talked, I realized the final truth: that this moment was what I came for. It was hard as hell to get here. I had to get really creative to make this happen, but I belonged here and I deserved it. I smiled knowing that I had the experience and the drive to get my goals accomplished and that I had another one in me. And since I hate the cold, I think the next one will be in the Amazon. I’m dead serious.

A special thanks to Petur Hegalson, race director and international ultra marathoner for the insight and the pictures and thank you for the volunteers of the Reykjavik Autumn Marathon. The Reykjavik Marathon is held twice a year in the spring and autumn. If you want to make this a runcation destination, visit marathonlaup.is to register.

 

H-Town Run Tourist's Honorable Mention

How this Houstonian created a website that is Match.com for mental health

Courtesy of Ryan Schwartz

Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com. Follow her on Twitter @jovanabernathy. Instagram @TourismGymHtx. Facebook @TourismGymHtx

Have I told you how much I love writing for SportsMap and Fred for letting me be me? This week, I met with this exceptional Houstonian that I had to give him an honorable mention. Meet Ryan Schwartz (picture above). He is the creator of Mental Health Match, a website like Match.com, where people can choose the therapists that fits them perfectly. Having had both positive and negative experiences with his own therapists, he wanted to develop a site with the client in mind. He wanted to make it easy and confidential. It is the perfect way to finish my mental health series. Ryan and I chatted over calamari and shrimp and avocado toast so that I could learn more about Mental Health Match.

Here is some background: After the sudden death of his mother, Ryan looked for a therapist to help him cope with the transition. He was surprised that it took him a big effort to find the perfect fit. He had friends get so frustrated with their therapist search, he knew it had to be a pain point for more people. This is what led him to get the idea for Mental Health Match. With his background in communications and research for nonprofits for social change and a passion to help people, he knew he was more than qualified to pioneer this effort.

So, what did Ryan have to do to bring Mental Health Match to Houstonians?

First, I interviewed 50 people who were looking for a therapist. I then contacted a number of friends to refer one of their friends in a different city to me to be interviewed. I cold called about 20 therapists with questions. From all those conversations, I made a first draft of the webpage and after a lot of testing began making the website.

So, how does Mental Health Match work?

It is a free service that connects you with the therapists who is best for you. You take a 5 minute survey. We ask about your goals for therapy, what type of activities you are interested in. We match you by your location, how much you want to spend, your insurance, personality traits and styles you prefer.

Nothing like rock climbing to get over life's obstacles.

Pixabay.com

What are the different styles of therapy? What's the most unique?

You can do therapeutic yoga. You can take a walk with your therapist. One of therapist that I have interviewed offers rock climbing therapy.

What a practical way to get through life's obstacles by physically experience those obstacles on a rock climbing wall.

Do you recommend an affordable therapists over an expensive one or are they the same to you?

Therapists who are expensive have specialized experience. Such as? If a client needs therapy for a childhood trauma as well as an eating disorder, then go the more expensive therapist. If you need therapy for general depression, then a more affordable therapist will work just as well.

How many therapists do you have currently on Mental Health Match? 140.

What does it take for a therapist to get listed on Mental Health Match?

Right now, any therapist can sign up for free. We have to validate their license as well.

How did you get them? Many of the therapists have been telling their friends and colleagues.

What type of person uses Mental Health Match?

All kinds. All ages. All genders. It's very diverse.

What is their main concern?

Anxiety and relationships.

What do you do to stay up to date on psychiatry to keep the site up-to-date?

I sit down every week with my therapists to keep up-to-date.

Nothing to be afraid of. Having a therapist is just like putting on a safety harness before dealing with hard emotions.

Pixabay.com

I remember back in the 80's, if you said that someone had a chemical imbalance, it was like, keep that person sedated. We didn't even know what those chemicals were. Now, words like, serotonin, melatonin, oxytocin, and dopamine are in everyday conversation. What, do you think, has changed in the field of mental health? What have they done to eradicate the stigma of mental health?

We have had so many improvements. A big help is when high profile people talk about their mental health and how they sought therapy. People like Jay-Z, Common, Howard Stern, and professional athletes have admitted to being mental health recipients.

So, with sites like Facebook, there is a concern for privacy. This is a super sensitive topic anyway. How does Mental Health Match protect the clients privacy?

Its all anonymous. We never store anything that can be traced back to the client. We use several security measures to avoid being hacked.

What would you say to someone who is skeptical about getting a therapist?

We would have a conversation about what they are afraid of or why they are worried. I would put heavy emphasis on the circumstances and the stresses of today, not on them.

What if they REALLY don't want to go?

I would remind them that they deserve it and that they are worth it.

Well said. By the way, I'm stealing that last part. "On belay!" "Belay on."

Join me at Uncle Bean's Coffee at 8am on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 for our inaugural H-Town Run Tourist Social Running Club. Runners, walkers, strollers, and dogs are welcome to explore Woodland Heights and White Oak. Contact me at info@tourismgymhtx.com for more details.


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