Andy Falconer

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Helsinki Marathon 17th August 2013

21 Aug 2013 | Leave a Comment |

I decided to run the Helsinki Marathon as part of my ‘do before I die’ wish to run all of the Olympic city marathons. I’ve done Paris, London and Berlin and this one was in the school holidays that meant I could do it. Helsinki also hosted the World Athletics Championships in 2005, so being able to finish the marathon by running into the Olympic stadium and around the track would be a very special feeling.

 

The Helsinki Marathon is sponsored by Gatorade and is relatively small, with 5,400 runners (1,000 of whom were from outside of Finland). Unusually for a marathon the start time is 3pm, but this means that you can go to the Expo on the morning of the race and pick up your number etc. The Expo was very efficient and also quite small. Asics had a big shop but apart from that there were just a few stands handing out information. Starting in the afternoon did throw me as all my timings are based upon a morning start – what should I eat at lunchtime, should I rest up in the morning or wander around Helsinki? Decisions, decisions!

 

I flew in from Manchester on the Friday afternoon, got the airport bus to the Scandic Continental hotel and then wandered down into the centre of Helsinki which is only a 10 minute walk. The hotel is just 5 minutes from the start/finish line and the airport bus stops across the road – very handy. They also put on a pasta buffet on the Friday evening. Helsinki is a beautiful city and I enjoyed just wandering aimlessly round the streets and down to the waterfront. The trams run past the hotel if you were wanting to conserve your energy.

 

There was torrential rain prior to the start, so we all stood under the trees trying to keep dry. Helsinki Marathon Pacers were available for times greater than 4:00 – I guess they felt that if you’re running sub 4 hours you should be able to pace yourself! The streets after the start are nice and wide so it was easy to get into a rhythm. The route is an out and back with some sections where you are running back the way you came but for the most part you are running on new ground. The route takes in the city as well as the bridges and forests that link up some of the islands near by. This makes for plenty of variety and some beautiful views of the water.

Helsinki Olympic Stadium

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The crowds aren’t huge but there are people lining some parts of the Helsinki Marathon route, particularly around the half way point when you go back into the centre of the city. I was really fortunate to have a family I know come out from St Petersburg in Russia just to support me!  They kept leap frogging me in a taxi to cheer me on for the first couple of hours and were there in the stadium at the end – it really helped to have their encouragement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are 16 refreshment stations along the Helsinki Marathon route, all of which have water and Gatorade sports drink. I don’t normally like the sports drinks on offer but these were fine and I alternated between water and Gatorade. The last 6 miles were quite hilly and made for a tough finish but the noise and feeling when you run into the Olympic stadium was amazing! After crossing the line your timing chip is removed, the heaviest medal I’ve come across is placed around your neck, and then there are a huge variety of snacks and drinks. I passed on the salted gherkins, but had a yoghurt and coffee. Free massages were on offer but I hobbled straight back to the hotel for a hot bath.

 

The Helsinki Marathon is a very friendly race, logistically easy, great finish but make sure you do a bit of hill work in your training.

(3 hours 54 minutes this time – new Personal Best!)