This weekend I travelled to Finland with Ok Linné to run in my first ever Jukola. Jukola is by far the biggest club relay of the year with 1600 teams in the mens race, and another 1200 teams running the womens relay called Venla. There is a lot of history surrounding this event, with its origins being traced back to some story with 7 dudes chasing one chic called Venla. After being a little disappointed with the size of Tiomila, I was really excited to see what Jukola had to offer.
We travelled to Finland on Wednesday by boat, a massive multi story ferry, so that we could do some relevant training before the competition on Saturday. There were numerous games of 7 wonders played before we finally hit mainland Finland in Turku. This year Jukola was quite far north, in Kuopio, which meant a bit of a drive after the boat trip. It also meant that there would only be 3-4 hours of night during the relay. After a few days of easy training in some nice terrain we were ready for the big night! I would run first leg for the second team. Running first leg at Jukola is kind of one of those things you must do in your orienteering career, and I have heard the likes of Tom Reynolds rave so much about it. So to put it mildly, I was excited!
The race was an unforgettable experience, simply because of the scale and number of people running. I entered the pre-start area and the first person I saw was Tim Robertson! He had made it safely to Europe and would be running his first Jukola also. We spent the good part of 20 minutes running up and down the start chute, in a state of awe and exhilaration. The number of people in the start chute grew and grew over 30 minutes, and it was then I fully understood how big this relay was. With 5 minutes to the start, everyone went to their respective start positions. I took the opportunity to jump and look behind me, to see what can only be adequately described as a ‘shit tonne’ of people.
The start was insane. Just before, the organisers had said that there would be jet planes flying above us during the first part of the run to the start triangle. Like seriously, come on; jet planes! After the start gun was fired, it was a frantic stampede for 1km as runners jostled for position. People were falling, deafening jet planes, and thousands of spectators lined the start chute, screaming at their teams. It was nuts!
For the race itself you can read about it on my doma. I finished 47th which I am mostly satisfied with. I just wanted to experience Jukola this year, so the end result was not of great importance. Of course I still pursued a good performance, but unfortunately I made some mistakes. I think my best position throughout the relay was 26th, but then I didnt have the speed in the end and lost 20 or so places.
Post run, Niklas and I enjoyed a refreshing sauna (along with copious amounts of naked dudes) and I stayed up and watched the rest of the relay. The Linné first team had a really strong finish to end up 14th, so hopefully next year we can do better! My team finished in 100th position, 6th places better than last year. I am writing this blog in a pretty tired state, after an epic Jukola boat party, another insane experience. A similar boat to the one we took to Finland, except this, time filled predominately with orienteers celebrating an awesome Jukola. So now I better get some sleep, and get ready for next weekend when I will be going to Czech for a 4 day training camp, including the Czech middle distance champs.