Our intrepid editor reports back on his second attempt at the annual 80km Viking Run ice-skating race in Sweden. Did he clinch a coveted medal this year?

As I slipped, skidded and crashed helplessly to a soggy standstill on the solid icy crust of Lake Malaren, I looked around for my friends but they were nowhere to be seen.

“See you in Stockholm,” was the last thing I remember hearing from Peter den Dekker, the Dutch risk manager who’d roped me into this race in the first place, as he whizzed off gracefully towards the finish in Stockholm city.

That’s what happens when you agree to take part in an ice-skating marathon with Dutch and Swedish ‘pro-skaters’ when you can barely stand up on ice.

Not that I blame any of them (there were nine of us altogether, of varying degrees of ability, but I was clearly the novice of the group). After all, it’s not as if this was the first time I’d agreed to take part in the Viking Run, an 80km (50-mile) race that traces a Viking-era route from Uppsala to Stockholm.

It’s a tradition that was started in February 2011 by Peter den Dekker, as a way of promoting the Ferma conference (in Stockholm that year). Most of the risk managers left Stockholm when the conference ended in October, but I’d agreed to come back with a small band of them to take part in the Viking Run.

Last year (some readers might remember) I’d only managed to make 67km. Having reached the final checkpoint, exhausted, at 3.15pm, I was promptly asked to exit the race. I was 15 minutes late and the safety conscious Swedes won’t let you continue once the light starts to fade. I was devastated.

“Next year you have to complete the race, Nathan. It’s essential that you do that,” Den Dekker’s challenge still rung in my ears. I primed myself to take on the challenge for a second time. This time with my sights set on completing it.

Nathan Skinner Viking Run 2012

“Looks like the weather will hold,” mused Arjen Ronner, probably one of the most experienced skaters in our group as we prepared ourselves for the race on a teeth-chatteringly cold February morning.

It didn’t last long. Almost as soon as we hit the ice in Uppsala the conditions nosedived. A strong headwind picked up and as the air warmed the ice began to melt into a fudgy mess.

I looked around to see how the others were coping. It looked as if all the other racers nearby were having a tough time. Intermittently the ice conditions did improve, momentarily, but at about 40km into the race it started to rain.

“You’re not going to make it,” I heard someone say. I looked up to see one of the race officials shaking her head pitifully.

You’ve got another 5km to go to the next checkpoint and they’re closing it in five minutes,” she said with a hint of a sneer.

The next 5km were even more painful in the knowledge that it was all in vain. It was a small relief to discover that, in lieu of the horrible conditions, the race organisers decided to hand out medals at the 50km mark.

“At least you got your medal this year,” consoled den Dekker. He’d finished the race in darkness after about six hours. As a consummate risk management professional he had refused to leave the ice when the officials asked him to. “I had to finish the race,” he told me afterwards.

It had taken our best skaters, Adri van der Waart and Bas van Mullem, a good five hours to complete the full 80km. Out of a few thousand who’d started, only a few hundred actually crossed the finish line.

All scant consolation.

“Third time lucky?” It was a thinly disguised invitation from den Dekker to return again next year — and I’m not likely to turn it down.