Tallinn Half Marathon by Kathryn Roynon

It’s been a long time getting to this point. I originally entered at the end of 2019 for September 2020 (obviously postponed). At the time I was looking for somewhere flat to get a good time (I’d just done Chippenham half in 2hrs 1min), and Tallinn seemed the perfect choice. Thinking of my Granny escaping from Tallinn during the Russian invasion as a teenager in WW2 would be added motivation. She was the only person in her family to escape, her aunt was going to round up other family members to get on the next boat, but the Russians shut the port and there were no more boats out. My grandad was also the only person in his family to escape (separately, they met in UK) although I know his story less well.

The last few months have not been ideal preparation as I got injured and couldn’t run at all during June/July. By the start of August I was doing a couple of kilometres, half running, half walking and it seemed unlikely I would make it. But when I saw the medals of the Estonian flag on the top of Pikk Hermann (tower where Estonian flag was first raised when it became independent), I knew I had to get one. Even if I walked round most of it.

Walking to the start line today, we went past the town hall where I just found out my grandad worked in the accounts department before WW2 had other ideas for him. I’m not surprised he struggled with his mental health as an adult in England as everything about his identity had changed in an instant.

I didn’t have high expectations for how I’d get on today. Didn’t run for a time, just to reach the finish. But I’m pleased to report it went way better than expected. Somehow I didn’t walk at all, just kept on running. Adrenaline, and some friendly ghosts cheering me on.

There were so many ages and nationalities taking part. We started (and finished) by Pikk Hermann at the edge of the old town walls. With a “kolm, kaks, üks” we were off and ran out through Kalamaja district with painted colourful houses, then further west through a woodland park, out to the main road by a shopping centre then another wood, down to a marshy area by the sea and along past Stroomi beach. By this point, around 8.5 miles, it started to feel a very long way. But we turned a corner and had a stunning view across the Baltic sea in the sunshine across the town skyline and port. I briefly cried at this point and thought of granny getting on the boat as a 17 year old. I wondered if she would have got on if she’d known then she’d never see her mother again. I don’t know the answer to that, but she always used to say in her older years that she’d had a good life. She never had much, but she was very proud of us grandchildren. So anyway, kept on running round another corner where there was a drinks station (never seen so many on a course, I think there were 5 for a half), had some spordijoog (energy drink), chucked some water over my head and sped up. Angry running.

The next moment Tallinn gave me a much needed boost was at 11 miles, turning back in towards the old town and seeing the spires above the tree line. The last couple of miles hurt (not my injury but just tired legs). The very worst bit was up to the finish line – you turn the corner to the finish and have to run up Linda Mägi to Pikk Hermann. Why design a route that finishes up a steep hill? But at least I reached the finish, just behind a Ukrainian runner.

Getting a medal from a lady in Estonian national costume was cool. And being cheered on all the way round with shouts of ”väga tubli” and “hästi hästi hästi” made me smile! I’d like to be cheered on in Estonian at every race.

Strava may tell me it’s my “third fastest” half marathon (I’ve only done three). But it’s the medal I’m most proud of (and have you ever seen a medal that stands up by itself, how cool is that?) I will keep it on my desk to remind myself that nothing is impossible. You just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

The other reason I had to do this race this month is that I’m taking part in a virtual Lands end to John o Groats challenge with some team members to raise money for cancer research uk, in memory of a colleague who passed away in July. So my steps were doing good too. I know money is tight for a lot of people right now, but any kind donations would be gratefully received. https://fundraise.cancerresearchuk.org/…/dymag-team…

Oh, and one more cool thing about taking part in any of the Tallinn marathon distances is three days free travel. Made the most of lots of sightseeing, including relaxing at the beach after the race.

This morning, I got to enjoy the full marathon over breakfast, as the runners passed right under our balcony. A much easier way to enjoy a race. The winner ran it faster than my half! (We also saw the last runners in the 10K yesterday on our way back from the beach – one of them was casually smoking a cigarette as he made his way round!! Never seen that before…)

If you fancy a friendly autumn race of any distance between 10K and a full marathon, come to Tallinn….

(Finish time 2hrs14:37 gun / 2hrs12:55 chip time)