Tallinn. A city, that might not be on the bucket list of most people. And, to be honest, I had to check the exact location on google maps first when hearing of that event for the first time.
For my overseas readers - it’s the capital of Estonia, a small but lovely country in the north of Europe. And though it might not be as well known as other major marathons in Europe, it’s a true gem and a great race.
I took a simple Lufthansa flight to get there (Train wasn’t really an option due to the distance) with a quick stopover in Frankfurt. There are multiple connections a day and everything was quick and smooth (flight about 300 Euros, booked two weeks before).
When arriving at the airport, taking an uber to the city is about 10 Euros and takes 15 minutes (or simply jump on tram 4 for a cheaper and quicker connection).
The old city is truly stunning, revealing loads of history from past soviet times and the second world war - there is also plenty of museums to check out!
We stayed at the „Viru Hotel“, an iconic building in the city center, It comes with access to some gyms and has direct access to a shopping mall. The rooms are simple, but clean and nice.
Expo and 5K race
Whoha! The first race starts only two hours after landing in Estonia! I catch race mood the second I get to the city center. Live music, merchandise tents, the race info tent and warm sunshine welcomes us in Tallinn. The bib pickup itself only takes a couple of minutes, there is no classical bib bag, but the sign up comes with a shirt and pasta. I decided to race all three distances, hence I am in a rush to get ready for the first 5k with my fairy wings.
Thousands of runners and kids line up for that race. We quickly cross the start line and I am thrilled by that atmosphere. It is not a PR race (not that I would have tried) but OMG they invested so much energy and love for detail into that course. It is well decorated with colorful, modern art, there is plenty of music and even some small fireworks. IN A 5K! Amazing. The race ends faster than my legs actually take to warm up and we really had a lot of fun cheering with the kids (and even meeting the iconic pineapple runner). At night, we check out some bars and try various sorts of local beers. The city is full of further runners and basically everyone is on the hunt for pasta, carbloading for the upcoming races.
Saturday morning. We grab breakfast along with the Kenyan elites. (who basically eat a LOTS of bananas). It starts to be a bit rainy which is why I end up in a shopping mall, buying my first jacket: 40 trips a year and I almost always forget to bring a hairbrush or/and warm clothes.
I spend the rest of the day pizza-loading in bed as I am super exhausted from the past days of rushing and traveling. Kicking my ass back up for the 10k race is PAINFULL. Luckily, the fun mood kicks right back in when entering the start area with dancers, a warm up and soooo many people. I even head back two start blocks (really want to take it easy today) than originally planned. Wanted. But I didn’t.
A major problem I have in racing is that my mind and my actual physical shape are not aligned most of the time. I am running a chill 5:00 minute pace, which doesn’t feel heavy on my legs but is too fast considering my shape. After a quick stop at the porta potty (Guyssss. No heavy eastern European cheese pizza before racing), I finish around 52 minutes. My brain is still convinced that I am a 6 hour marathoner even though I killed the sub4 already a while ago, the 52 minutes feel way to fast. And my brain will be right. I am super sore before I even go to sleep. A marathon tomorrow on tired legs? Nahhhhh.
Sunday morning and I am suuuuper tired. For whatever reason, I always massively lack motivation the morning before a race. I go to breakfast with the other runners and together we have some bananas and peanut butter toasts. After grabbing a bite, I actually plan to go back to sleep for an hour, but have to get dressed and get going right ahead. My monkey costume is waiting!
I pick up my banana (the stuffed banana and Robert, the running banana) and together we head to the start just in time to make the race. There are maybe about 1000 runners for the full marathon and I am pretty sure we are the only ones running in costumes.But you know - why not. Start signal!
Even though Tallinn is quite chilly in the morning, I am not cold and try to stick to an easy 6 minute pace. The old city is marvelous and we make our way through the port area. There is loads of music and DJs everywhere and the aid stations are really great.
There is water, sports drinks, bananas (BANANAS!), oranges, sugar, cake and even salt! The volunteers are super cheerful as well. I have a bit of a rough start (I always take forever to catch race mood and really warm up in a full marathon), but we keep going and Robert is really kicking my monkey ass.
After a while, we reach the zoo (How cool is that? Crossing a zoo in a marathon?) and the halfie mark, while my mood slowly starts to improve. I start to warm up, dance around and spread many laughs. While we keep going, the finish line comes wayyy to quick.
We finish at 4:35 hours which adds up at an exact 6 minute pace considering all the dancing breaks and aid stations. What a perfect long run and nice preparation for my ultramarathon in three weeks!
The medal looks stunning and we enjoy a finish line beer with some friends before heading back to the hotel. After a quick shower I am in deep need of some food and we grab lunch at a great steak house around the corner.
TALINN, YOU WERE GREAT
The city is a true gem and quite underrated - same with the race! In terms of organization and planning (and aid stations and music), it can totally keep up wit the „big ones“ in Europe! Also, it is a super flat and fast course in medium-coldish temperatures without being too crowded - what a nice opportunity to hit a new PR!
Overall, Tallinn and the race are a lot less pricey than other races. I also used the weekend to head over to Helsinki, which is just a two hour ferry drive away.
Thanks for having us!