Menapians Athletic Club's Finnish Adventure: Helsinki City Running Day 2024

June 14, 2024


Like all great ideas, it started with a throwaway comment one night after training. Menapians Athletic Club had finished a gruelling S&C class at the Presentation Secondary School, Wexford, and tired bodies gingerly made their way towards the exit when the suggestion arose: why don't we, as a club, travel abroad to enter a run? A quick Google search uncovered Helsinki City Running Day 2024, an event that none of us had heard of before. Hotels were booked, flights secured, and so five of us set off on an adventure to the Finnish capital.

Helsinki City Running Day

Helsinki City Running Day is an amazing festival of running, an event that attracted over 17,000 competitors this year from a whopping 98 countries, with the oldest competitor being 81 years of age, while numerous children competed in the 5K run.

The event has something for everyone: a 5K run, a half marathon, a full marathon, a marathon relay, and for the extremely brave, a marathon and a half! The only event it is missing is a ten-kilometre run, which I feel would attract even more competitors.

The marathon itself was first organised in 1981 and has since become the most international and largest marathon event in Finland. The route offers stunning sea views and the opportunity to finish at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium, the home of the 1952 Olympic Games and where Eamonn Coghlan famously won the 5000 metres World Championship in 1983, fist pumping as he celebrated rounding the final bend.

Race Day Experiences

We all strolled down to the start line for the beginning of the marathon where we bumped into Dubliner Ruth Lombard and her parents. Ruth was hoping to run the marathon and a half to raise funds for the Irish Hospice Foundation. Ruth managed to complete this in 6:01:53, and if you would like to donate to her worthy charity, you can do so here:

Two of our party, Ilsa and Samantha, competed in the five-kilometre run. This was an extremely fast-paced but highly enjoyable event, which the two ladies thoroughly enjoyed. The opportunity to finish the event in one of the world’s major athletic stadiums ensured a memorable occasion for all.

Tadhg, Brendan, and I all entered the half marathon, the largest event of the day. It began just outside the Olympic Stadium and wound its way around the beautiful city of Helsinki. As it was my first visit to the city, I decided not to worry about times but instead enjoy the event, look around, and admire the scenery. Thanks to the brilliant planning in Helsinki, at no stage did I feel like I was running in one of Europe's major cities. As the course meandered around lakes and the sea, it felt very much like I was in the countryside. The route took us through numerous parks, woodlands, residential areas, and we got to see the wonderful architecture, numerous sculptures, amazing bridges, and much of what the city has to offer.

Scenic Beauty and Support

The organisers of the run could not have wished for a better day. There was not a cloud in the sky, and I was very much relieved at my decision not to wear my skins during the run. Travelling over, I feared that the day might be freezing cold as the Arctic spring gave way to summer. However, Helsinki was deviously disguised as a southern European coastal capital, with the sun gleaming down as the temperature hit the early 20s. Numerous sailing boats could be seen out on the sea, enjoying the glorious weather while many people on bridges along the route took the opportunity to go fishing. Sun cream was the order of the day, and when I finished, the tan lines on my back were clearly obvious.

All along the route were numerous locals willing everyone on towards the finish line. Bands, dancing cheerleaders, and people pumping music out through speakers kept all the runners motivated.

The race was extremely well organised with water stations set up at approximately four-kilometre intervals, ensuring that competitors remained well hydrated. Every junction was marshalled, and it was impossible for a stranger like myself to take a wrong turn.

I personally found the route very flat with a few occasional inclines but nothing too serious. However, my Strava did register a 370-metre elevation gain. Such is the beauty of the city and the fantastic local support; people were easily distracted from the few climbs there were, so they were not a major issue.

Finish Line and Celebrations

Approaching the final kilometre of the run, I noticed the route was packed with spectators and those who had already completed their run, cheering us on as we finished our event. The run saw us approach the Olympic Stadium and we turned left and entered through a tunnel onto the hallowed track. I summoned my inner Eamonn Coghlan, looked up into the stands, and fist-pumped my way around the track, enjoying every second of the final few hundred metres dash to the finish line.

But the wonderful event did not end here as the goodie bag was the most generous I have ever come across in any race I have competed in. There were numerous protein bars, protein shakes, water, as well as numerous other goodies to reward the exhausted runner. This was yet another lovely touch that created a magical impression on this fantastic festival of running.

After Party

Like giddy twenty-somethings, all five of us made our way to Heidi's Bar in the centre of the city for the official after-party event. Heidi's Bar is an underground venue, and as we made our way down the steps, surrounded on each side by flaming candles, we could hear the music pumping out from inside, with colourful lights flashing all around. We paid a €3.50 entry fee and approached the dance floor expecting to see exhausted runners enjoying a new lease of life as they celebrated their achievement with their finishers' medals hanging proudly around their necks. Instead, what we witnessed shocked us all. The venue was indeed packed with twenty-somethings, but instead of dancing the night away, they were all gathered around tables studying the large TV screens dotted around the bar as they watched, with deadly serious intent, the Eurovision Song Contest! The music we had heard from outside was not that of a DJ, but instead the musicians, bands, and singers doing their best to capture the Eurovision title. I should have guessed as much from when I was running around the half marathon earlier that day, wearing my Irish singlet; locals were wishing me, Bambi Thug, and Ireland the very best in the Eurovision Song Contest that evening. Being perfectly honest, I didn't even know the event was on! My apologies, Bambi Thug.

Hotel and Logistics

We all stayed at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, which we highly recommend to any would-be traveller. Not only was the food fantastic, the rooms clean and spacious, but the location could not have been any better. The hotel is a mere four-minute walk from the start line, which was very welcome as the inevitable lactic acid quickly started to invade our legs upon finishing. The pool and sauna in the leisure centre in the hotel provided a welcome recovery session as soon as we returned.


Overall, I cannot recommend Helsinki City Running Day enough. It was the most enjoyable, unforgettable, brilliantly organised, and friendly running event I have had the pleasure of taking part in. As there are a number of different distances it is the perfect event for any club looking to travel abroad as there is an event for everyone. Further information can be found here:

Images - Courtesy of Enda O'Sullivan

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