The Icelandic Roots Fitness Challenge 2022 officially ended on August 6th. Altogether there were 14 teams ranging from 2 to 10 people and 28 individuals who walked, hiked, biked, swam, or ran a fantastic 12,332 miles /19,846 kilometers.
What makes this 8-week challenge different from other fitness challenges is that this was a virtual tour of Iceland using the My Virtual Mission platform. So when you entered your distances into your phone app or computer, it was as if you were traveling through the Westfjords or the Snæfellsness peninsula. You could find where you were on the route at any time, and using Google Earth, you would see the countryside as if you were there. There were 30 different milestones for the Westfjords/Vestfirðir route and 15 milestones for the Snæfellsness peninsula route. When the participants reached these milestones, they were sent a virtual postcard (email) containing a photograph and information about that location. It could be about historical events, saga sites, churches, important people, waterfalls, or an Icelandic folk tale.
Here is the virtual postcard from milestone 15 that the Westfjords/Vestfirðir route participants received:
You are now in Hrafnseyri, which dates back to the Settlement era and is the birthplace of Jón Sigurðsson, the father of Iceland’s push for independence from Denmark.
The settlement is named after one of its earliest residents, Hrafn Sveinbjarnarson (IR #133823), a chieftain and physician born about 1160 and who lived here. He was known as Hrafn the Healer and is believed to have had some connection with the first medical school in Europe, which was founded in the ninth century in Salerno, Italy. On his return to Iceland, Hrafn became a physician and was the most renowned healer in Iceland during the period of the Old Commonwealth (10th to 13th centuries). As a doctor, he never accepted money for his healing and would stay with his patients until they were cured.
Hrafn also operated ferries across Arnarfjörður and Breiðafjörður: such services were only reintroduced in the 20th century and he was a close friend and follower of Bishop Guðmundur Arason of Hólar. Hrafn and Þórður Sturluson were the only chieftains in Iceland who did not participate in the attack at Hólar after the death of Kolbein Tumason in 1208.
Hrafn died a violent death at the hands of his kinsman and rival Þorvaldur of Vatnsfjörður. Þorvaldur attacks Hrafn´s home and to spare his family, he gives himself up and is beheaded on March 4th, 1213. Hrafn is said to be buried under a stone at Hrafnseyri. The theme in his saga, The Saga of Hrafn Sveinbjarnarson, is that leaders should take care of the people in their community and serve each other. In 1228, Hrafn's sons killed Þorvaldur. The two families were on opposing sides during the battles with the Sturlungs.
This is also the same farm where fórseti Jón Sigurðsson, the hero of Iceland´s independence, was born on June 17th, 1811. His birthday, June 17th, was chosen as Iceland’s National Day when the Republic was established in 1944, as he was the leader of Iceland’s struggle for independence from Danish rule in the 19th century.
Jón lived in Copenhagen from 1852 to 1879. His former home is the property of the Icelandic government and is used for various cultural activities. After his death in 1879, he became a symbol of the Icelandic nation. He is often referred to as "Iceland's Pride, Sword, and Shield.” There is a life-size statue of Jón Sigurðsson facing the parliament building in Reykjavík and his face is on the 500 krónur note.
A memorial to Jón Sigurðsson was unveiled at Hrafnseyri in 1911, while a museum in his honor was opened there in 1980, featuring the story of his life and a replica of his childhood turf home (pictured). Since 2006, university-level courses have been taught at the museum in the summer and are open to everyone. The area also features a charming wooden church consecrated in 1886.
To read more about Iceland’s road to independence, visit https://www.icelandicroots.com/post/2017/01/20/iceland-s-road-to-independence.
At the end of the challenge, 9 participants were randomly drawn. They will receive a box full of Icelandic bling - including items such as a copy of our book Guðríður’s Saga, written by Bryndís Víglunsdóttir and illustrated by Gay Strandemo, Icelandic Roots pens, bags, a water bottle, and more.
Our next fitness challenge will begin in June 2023. Stay tuned for more information as it gets closer, and we hope you will join us for the Icelandic Roots Fitness Challenge 2023. Who knows what adventure in Iceland awaits you next year?