Helsinki City Marathon – 17 August 2013
Iain Donnelly recalls his Olympic Stadium Finnish!
I know l am a lucky lad… having the chance to run the Helsinki City
Marathon. After dubious marathon efforts previously, l was determined to
make this one count!!!
A well earned medal and beer for Iain in an Helsinki bar
Helsinki capital of Finland is a small city with very cold, long winters
and short summers. Apparently saunas are very popular followed by a dip
in the sea during the winter… l honestly do not know what they do with
the rest of their time. The Finnish people are very friendly and love
endurance sports… their countries capital cities marathon is a very
On the start line standing with 5000 people, normally l like to join in
with the nervous chat, it helps you to ease into the run with so many
runners around you. Unfortunately l did not have a clue what they were
saying so plan B, focus on your run as if it was just a training run.
All these people and l am on my own!
Crucially l had adjusted my planned split times from miles to kilometres
(marker signs in kms) otherwise l would need a calculator whilst
running. Instinctively however, l was in motion at 8 minutes per mile
taking in the atmosphere and scenery along the way. The route is
reasonably flat taking in suburbs, bridges and islands on the outskirts
of the harbour city. We drifted nicely into the city centre (great
atmosphere) with the very, very special treat at the finish to come!
My previous marathon experiences had confirmed that the shorter
distances, half marathon and 10k, were giving me better results. The
marathon in my eyes (and legs) still had to be conquered. Cramp is no
fun and it has over shadowed previous 26.2m attempts… was the cooler
temperatures of Helsinki going to help me this time around?
At 30km (19 miles) l was bang on 2hrs 30min as planned… happy days… been
here before and know the pitfalls. I deliberately slowed down, this one
was not going to slip away. Constant rehydration and gel refuelling
during the run gave me cautious optimism. I was not sweating so much
this time, it was cooler… but still… the ‘wall’ was ahead.
The wall for me is when my legs start to ping and twitch ensuring that a
shuffling walk is the best mode of personal forward motion. Running is
not an option. This time l consciously ‘listened, looked and felt’ for
the signs, at 38km l broke through the wall. Adrenalin kicked in, it
I spent the final 2/3 miles overtaking a number of struggling runners,
been there done that, it was my turn to fly!
Suddenly l was entering the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Stadium, l had not
given it a moment’s thought (prior to the event) due to my fear of
previous marathon experiences. My previous sporting achievements
include playing county/national golf at Muirfield, St Andrews and Royal
St Georges… entering the Helsinki Olympic Stadium easily matched these
wonderful experiences. Whilst it does not match Sydney, Athens, Beijing
and London in stature Helsinki has great Olympic history and longevity.
Also, on a very positive note, the stadium is used proactively many
decades after it hosted the games.
3hrs 37min 6secs after starting l had finished the Helsinki City
Marathon (615th out of 5000) in a superb stadium in front of
thousands of spectators. Finally l have chalked up a decent marathon
time, to do it in Finland made it all the more sweeter.