I visited Helsinki last week for a convention, and managed to combine it with the Helsinki Street Run, a 17K event through western Helsinki that was part of the Helsinki City Marathon weekend. We had had a fairly hot week, with temperatures picking up at the weekend, so I was a bit anxious when I headed out to the race. The announcers kept telling us that a thunderstorm was on its way, saying wouldn't it be nice to have a little rain to cool us down?
I ate a salad and a bread roll 2 hours before start, then followed this with half an energy bar while I was waiting for the race to start. I hadn't overly hydrated, as I find it difficult to drink much before a race. I didn't see many people carrying sponges. I haven't raced somewhere completely new for a while, and if it hadn't been so hot, it probably would have been a fairly easy race. It was fairly flat, and most of the small hills were up and down bridges. We ran through the city, suburbs and lovely parks. I did slightly better than the St. George's 10 mile race in that I didn't stop until 4K. I also took advantage of most of what they offered along the route. They were handing out raspberry gels, and they were much easier to eat than the ones I tried last week. I accepted water and sports drinks. I even stopped one place where I thought they were spraying people with water, but as I left the area, I saw that sign that said "Ice Power. Against muscle pain". I didn't have any muscle pain, so I don't know what effect it would have had, but it did cool down my legs and make them a bit tingly. The one thing I didn't take from a refreshment station was the huge pickles on offer. They were definitely something new.
So I basically repeated my St. George's experience, walking and running, even getting in a decent pace late in the race. I wasn't the only one walking. Lots of people were. So it didn't feel too depressing. My spirits were also lifted by the wonderful Finns cheering us on. Even when we were out in the middle of nowhere, if there was only one or two people by the road, they would clap and cheer me on. Of course I didn't understand what they were saying, but it was really nice. Norwegians have something to learn here - they just stare at you.
The elite marathoners caught up with us at 10K, and we merged with the rest of the marathoners at 14K. After running in such a small group for a while, it was strange to suddenly be in a busy pack again.
My husband and a group of our friends were on hand towards the end to cheer me on as I ran into the sports arena where the finish line was. It was really nice to hear them announce my name and country as I ran to the finish line. I was immediately greeted with a bottle of non-alcoholic sparkling wine, then plenty of snacks (no more pickles, though).
I completed in 2:10, which wasn't too bad, considering the conditions. But I think I should avoid summer races that take place during the day or afternoon in the summer.
Best of all, the storm didn't break out until 1 hour after I finished, when I was back at my hotel. It was a horrible electric storm, and I felt really sorry for the marathoners who were still out there. The storm brought down several trees in town, so I hope nobody got hurt. So much for the nice storm to cool us down!
Little update! I just found this video of the marathoners during the storm.