One of the reasons why I enjoy living in Estonia so much is the Estonian passion for doing sports no matter how cold it is outside! There is a great variety of outdoor sports events going on in this small but lovely country and the atmosphere is usually cheerful.
Anyone who has ever participated in a public run with many other runners knows this feeling of shared excitement when the race starts, random people cheering and supporting you along the way, the way the other runners motivate you to keep at it, and obviously the pride and happiness once you cross the finish line. And in Estonia these well-organised events take place all year long, minus degrees are no excuse to turn into a couch potato! I would like to share with you my three favourite outdoor sport events, out of the ones I have participated in during my time in Estonia and which I would highly recommend to all of you (no need at all to be a sports freak!) especially because of the amazing atmosphere and the empowering experiences you can gain by taking part.
Number 1: Tartu Õhtujooks – 7.7 km
First of all, this event is suitable for people who want to start slow as the distance is only 7.7km. As the title indicates, this run takes place in the evening when it’s already dark. The participation fee is about 6€, you get something warm to drink halfway and a nice hot soup after the run. What I particularly liked about this event (apart from the usual nice atmosphere) were the details: for example, every runner got a glow in the dark wristband. My favourite part was one strip of the road without any streetlights. Instead, the organisers had put big candles along both sides of the street which created a really lovely running atmosphere.
Apart from that, I can say that the organising team was very helpful. I messaged them a question and five minutes later they called me already in order to answer. But I have the feeling Estonians in general are pretty helpful people. If you’re interested in this particular event you can check out some pictures here.
Number 2: Saaremaa Kolme Päeva Jooks – 42.195 km
This trip to Estonia’s biggest island Saaremaa was by far one of my favourite journeys during my Erasmus semester in Tartu. Each year in October a three day marathon takes place and turns the island’s cosy capital Kuressaare into a busy runner’s hub. But don’t worry! It is not about running three marathons in a row but one over the period of three days (one weekend).
So, the first day starts easy with a 10km run around Kuressaare while the next two days cover 16 km each and take you further inward the island. On the second day for example, the starting point of the run is an hour bus ride away from Kuressaare. The third day starts and ends in Kuressaare again, however, the route takes you a bit further out of the town while passing the city’s main tourist attraction, Saaremaa castle. I had never been to Saaremaa before and I have to say it was a unique way of exploring a new place.
Never before had I discovered a completely unknown area to me by just running through it; accompanied by so many other people. I went together with a group of friends (you can also register as a team if you don’t feel like going there all by yourself) and we had such a good time. Most time during the day we spent running. The rest of the day mainly consisted of eating (a lot!) and recovering for the next day. Apart from the last day we were also really lucky with the weather. Of course, at times all you can focus on is making it to the next kilometre sign but do take a deep breath from time to time and admire the landscape around you instead – it’s worth it!
For more information check the website.
Number 3: Tartu Linnasprint
One of my favourite events! It takes place a few times per year and as you can guess from the title: it’s about being quick! The Tartu city sprint is more of a race than a run and you need to sign up in pairs.
At the beginning of the race (you can start at almost any time during the day), you will be given a map of Tartu (no street names etc, just landmarks). On this map certain checkpoints are marked which you have to find as quickly as possible. Eight in total, with two of them being obligatory ones, the rest you can choose yourself. Once you found a checkpoint, you have to mark it on your checkpoint sheet and the fastest team wins! It’s like a little treasure/scavenger hunt and lots of families participate as well. The registration fee is about 2-4€ and you automatically take part in a raffle (last year my friend won a huge box full of ice cream).
I’d recommend choosing a partner who knows Tartu relatively well otherwise you might get totally lost (happened to me the first time but maybe that was also due to our poor map reading skills). On the other hand, getting lost is also an exciting way to get to know the city better. I am still trying to figure out how the hell some teams manage to make it in only 12 minutes… Apparently this event has a “night version” as well which I have not checked out yet myself but it’s definitely on my list.
For some more information, have a look at the website.
Ready, set… Go!
It might sound like a cliché but it’s indeed all about participating – not being the fastest. Don’t look to your left and right the whole time but try to find your own pace and rhythm and enjoy the run! Set yourself a goal and try to achieve it. If that goal is finishing the 10km Tartu run in under an hour, be proud of yourself if you manage to succeed and finish after 58 minutes and don’t be disappointed because someone else did it in 48. With regular practice, you yourself will become faster and faster. Taking part in these events is even more fun with a friend! If you’re not so much into running, there are other marathons happening in Tartu too (skiing, inline skates, bike). However, me skiing or skating comes close to a suicide mission so I have not dared to join these events (yet!).
In case you need some extra motivation, watch this movie.
Finally, if you’re looking for an even greater challenge, come join the Tartu rugby team on Mondays and Wednesdays. Practice takes place from 18:30 – 20:00 at the Mart Reiniku sports field (Riia 23). We’re always happy to see new faces!
And if you feel like I missed another fun event, you think is worth sharing, feel free to let me know in the comments!