First, to make things clear: The Tom Waits Run has nothing to do with Olympic marathon winner and World Champion Grete Waitz, even though she is still in our memories. This run is of a totally different caliber.
Participants in the Tom Waits Run in Oslo.
Yesterday, the 14th Tom Waits Run was held – a run that is often called Most Beautiful Adventure of the Year. The event is actually a popular pub crawl through the streets of Oslo, where hundreds of thirsty Norwegians participate every year. It is a stage race between brown pubs (dive bars), and it was first held in 1999. It is a low threshold run where the main goal is to socialize, and not necessarily to complete the run.
The run is named after American blues singer Tom Waits, who is renowned for his distinctive sound and voice. Among his significant albums are Closing Time (1973), Rain Dogs (1985) and Bad as Me (2011).
At 2.00 PM sharp, every first Saturday in May the race is on. Participants meet at the church ruins in the Medieval Park in Old Oslo and move towards the city center. They are not encouraged to run, and there is no timing. For the occasion, the pubs along the route play music by Tom Waits, and one of the bars also offers live music.
Their motto is “Fra ruin til Fiasco” (English: From Ruin to Fiasco) which refers to the starting point at the ruins and the final pub Cafe Fiasco nearby Oslo Central Station. Another unofficial motto is “Til fots over Grønland” (English: On foot across Greenland) which refers to the name of the neighborhood in Oslo where the run is held.
The event has even spread to other Norwegian cities like Kristiansand, Tønsberg and Trondheim.
This year’s news is that Tom Waits himself knows about the run. In an interview with a Norwegian magazine, he was first concerned about people drinking themselves to death or was injured while intoxicated. The journalist reassured him that no one had been injured during the run. Waits has not had a drink in 21 years, but said that “I remember my drinking days fondly”. In the same interview, Waits told that his grandmother on his mother’s side, Olga Johnsen, was born in Oslo.
At the end of the day when the thirst has gone, the participants return to their homes and perhaps listen to this 1933 American folk standard, the Tom Waits version of “Goodnight Irene”.
Text by: Anette Broteng Christiansen, ThorNews