Tokoinranta parkrun, Helsinki, Finland

Tokoinranta parkrun route
Tokoinranta parkrun route. Hill at first corner not pictured.

Tampere boasts the first parkrun in Finland but Tokoinranta, in the centre of Helsinki, started within the first year. It is easy to get to from anywhere in the city. I hopped on the 6am ferry from Tallinn, which docked at 8:20, leaving time to walk the 4.3kms for the 9:30 start. There are trams right outside the ferry terminal, though, if you want to get there more quickly (and, say, have a better warm up than I managed).

Many of the event team, at least for now, are ex-pats (also known as immigrants when talking about different groups of people) and the run briefing was just in English. Plenty of Finns are running, though, including the one who sat on my shoulder to halfway and then went by. I suspected he was a first-timer, and making sure not to go wrong – in which case, tagging along with me could have gone badly awry. But although the course describes a few elegant curves, it is pretty easy to follow. It’s an out-and-back, so you have a chance to see everyone as you make your way along. The course is scenic, too, running alongside a couple of lakes, separated by a barrier that carries a railway line.

There’s a steep hill at the first corner. It isn’t long, but it starts challenging and then gets steeper. Phew. Cross a bridge, and then down an equally steep hill on the other side. On this cold November day, with freezing temperatures, the next section was slightly slippery. Nothing that would make us fall, but enough to make it one step forward, 0.1 steps back. I guess that frost is the main thing that will affect that section – frost on wood is slippery, whereas if there’s snow or ice, it doesn’t really matter what the surface underneath is. And this is Finland; surely it’ll be runnable more often than not.

The start is at 9:30, to let the sun come up. It doesn’t come up very far, though, and was right in our eyes on the way back, both coming to the top of the steep hill and when bombing down it. It did take the edge off the freezing temperatures, though, and cast a beautiful glow over the lakes.

My fellow parkrunners were a happy and enthusiastic lot. A lady from Blackburn was making a return to running, and worried about freezing, but ended up just fine. A group from Stellenbosch were advertising their food bank and helping run the event. A couple from Bromley, he there on a conference, she joining in for Scandinavian fun, were happily planning their afternoon’s entertainment, with help from the locals. She was a big fan of Scandinavia, and attempted to sum up her feelings about the place – why like it so much, when it’s the dark literature that drew so many of us in? A British lady piped up, that “If I produced a marketing campaign for this country, it would be ‘Finland: no drama'” and that’s a pretty good summary. My French friend from the ferry to Turku has worked in many countries, and his pithy conclusion was that French, British, Dutch companies don’t care. Scandinavian ones do. It’s a lovely part of the world – expensive, because living right costs money. But lovely.

Coffee and other refreshment afterwards, at La Torrefazione, Siltasaarenkatu 12.

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