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Itsenäisyysmaraton December 6th 2017 (Finnish Independence Day Marathon 2017) by Terry Hindson

If any of you can recollect, No. 150 was in Finland and this time the warm summer evening was replaced with snow and ice. This marathon, an annual event was rather significant this year, as the country was observing a low key, sombre? remembrance of gaining independence from Russia 100 years to the day in 1917. Despite the general event being on my bucket list, it wasn’t going to be this year. However when my wife said that she would be having a meal out with friends on my birthday and then later going to a choral concert, I had one response – ‘Well I’m going to Finland’.

The night before I had about 3-4 hours sleep as I had fretted about my ability to complete the run. I had no grip on my shoes and I was going to run on snow and ice which I had been assured would be gritted. I left my friends house at 07.05 for a two hour drive to the event in Kuopio. Owing to it being a national holiday, the roads were pretty much deserted. En route I stopped at the Outokumpu turning as I couldn’t resist to run 5 meters of the route which was part of No. 1, yes No. 1! Back in the car, winter tyres doing their thing, it was a nice drive. Once on the outskirts of Kuopio I got lost. I asked a guy for directions to the start, the end result was him driving in front of me to the start and bidding a farewell.

Registration was inside the basement of a sports ground, most of us waiting patiently in the sub zero temperature outside. Slowly I managed to get in and the welcome of warm air. Number pick up and back to the car, engine on to maintain a warmth.

At 09.55 I walked the few meters to the start. There was a singing (or humming in my case) of the national anthem with veiled anti Russian sentiment and then the start. There were several distances and it turned out to be a record number of 200+ runners, just under 70 for the marathon.

The marathon route would be 8 flat loops (doesn’t look like loops on a map) which turned out to be one of the most boring loops I have done. At the end of the first loop I slipped and fell, fortunately this would be the only time this would happen. Anyway, I rang my wife after 6 miles to say I hoped to be finished by 12.00 (within four hours).

The laps were ticked off one by one, the same old and young faces appearing, the same marshals with some encouraging – how they stood out there for that long, but this is Finland, not quite a summers day but not a major problem for them. I had prepared well to keep the cold out and it was only on lap 6 did it start to have a bit of an impact. By this time a four hour time was a bit of a joke and it was all about finishing. At 12.22.25 hrs after a run through a snowy finishing straight of the stadium I finished with a time of 4.22.25, not great and 39/69. However when I consider the lack of sleep, the two hour drive, the state of my shoes, the wind chill being -7 degrees it was a fair effort. A small blessing was also the fact that last year the run was in a mere -20 degrees!

So that’s Finland, no plans to return until No. 200 in May 2020 and the meal the wife went to will be two days after my birthday in 2018, so no excuse there to pop back.

Happy 100th Birthday Finland – Elököön Suomi!