I am in love. Really.

Like any romantic story, it all started with doubts and insecurities. The course looked promising but I was quite tired and a bit lost in translation. The week before our first date had been quite rough. Lots of running; even more partying. From Vienna to Frankfurt via Paris and then finally to Helsinki. I wanted to prepare myself and read more about you on the plane, but then I was so tired that I fell asleep and woke up only when landing at the airport.

Then, I was there. And it first like home from the first minute. The seaside, the wind, the blue sky, the trees everywhere, the lively atmosphere in the city, the efficiency of the public transport from the airport to the city and the kindness of the volunteers at the bib collection point. Instantly, my doubts were gone and I knew that it was going to be an incredible weekend.

At the hotel, I met Margit, Xenia, Aki, Jaume and Fredric. Helsinki was the stage and we were the actors. The play was about to start although at first it looked like it was going to be a drama. It is the end of the season, so everyone was feeling a bit itchy the evening before the race. Some had back problems, other had pain in the legs and we were all simply quite exhausted. Then, Fredric confessed and we all knew it was going to be a comedy. In order to convince him to run, Aki had swapped its start money for a box of beers. We ate some pasta with salmon and chilled a bit together before going to bed. It was going to be an early morning.

Saturday. The D day. Months dreaming of it. And you did not let us down. Perfect temperature, clear sky, just a little wind and a fantastic organization. We walked together towards the starting area, change clothes and dropped our bags. I then warmed-up with Jaume. I enjoyed that a lot even though it became clear quite quickly that even injured he was much fitter and faster than me. Like half an hour faster.

I started the race at the right speed with the 95 minutes pace-making group. The legs, the chest and the stomach it all felt quite good. However, I had counted with a flatter course and after the second hill (around km 6) I decided to play it conservative and slow down a little bit. I lost the group and for a few kilometers the race was not so crowded for me. This is normally not a problem but I had not prepared well enough and I didn’t know the route so I felt a bit lonely and as I saw the 95 minutes balloons getting further and further away I was tempted to quit. Then, we came back to the city center. The isotonic drinks and the water were quite helpful given the higher than expected temperatures. I remember turning a few curves and arriving to the port area; the smell of the food market and the cheering crowds. We still had 10 km to go, but now I was sure that I would finish the race and that I would enjoy every single meter of it. The beauty of your streets and people gave me right the energy that I so much needed. It felt amazing but it was not enough. Two hills in the last three kilometers and a few hundred meters of sand soil just before the finish line made me lose the tempo again and, in the end, I was 30 seconds slower than I needed to beat my PB. It did feel a little bit like a defeat. However, it was the sweetest defeat ever. Some water, a banana, an ice-cream, finding the friends from the night before and laying under the sun for half an hour was all that I needed to recover.

The rest of the weekend was probably too much fun to be told in public but one thing is certain. When I am older, I want to spend the winter in Greece and the summer in Helsinki.

I will be back.