Last weekend was the Sportyfeel Helsinki Marathon in Finland, the only marathon I’ve participated in that offers pickles gherkins at the feed stations… They’re really rather pleasant on a long run!

A runner rushing to the start line!

Sportyfeel Helsinki Marathon registration hall the day before

Having followed my pre-race rituals despite a lack of running training, I set off on the Saturday afternoon, running strong with a couple of friends, and the three of us maintained abiut 20 seconds between each of us for the first few miles: initially jostling for space in the crowd at the start, then finding our own rhythms over the first few miles.

Wow, Helsinki is beautiful! Maybe it was the 20c sunshine and that glorious pale blue light in the sky, but it felt so peaceful. And I ran, faster after seven miles, then again faster again through to mile ten, almost gliding, twisting my hips and landing gracefully. Dreams of great marathon time. Gaining places as I overtook other runners. Then a sharp pain in my left quadriceps.

Every landing jarred, and my pace slowed. As my pace dropped, I worked harder to try to compensate and my heart raced higher, and I got hotter. Suffice to say, the second half of the race became a literal pain. I ran and walked, with my left leg screaming with every step. So long, dreams of a good time.

As the stifling heat unrelented, I was cheered on by shouts of “yaksa yaksa!” A cabbie later confirmed this was a cheer for a weary runner to persevere. So apt. So long, dreams of a respectable time.

After a liberal application of a cooling spray, the pain in my leg dulled slightly, and I managed to pick up the paceover the final few kilometres. As I entered the stadium where the finish line was, I spotted one of my friends just leaving, who had also had a bad day on the course.

A medal, a bag of freebies, and a feeling of disappointment with myself. Memories of a well-wisher cheering me on with the enthusiasm of a close friends despite having never met me before. A warning cup of coffee. As I left the stadium I was already turning my mind to thoughts of redemption on other events, and as I watched more runners coming to the finish, I cheered them on… “Yaksa yaksa!”

Keep on running


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