The waking of the bear

The second weekend of April? Ask Jaakko Nieminen or any other Finnish runner, and the answer will be: Karhuviesti [the relay of the bear]. Indeed, after the long winter sleep the bears have awoken, and fast they run! They run from the old town of Rauma all the way to the Karhu-sportshall in Pori.

Fifty kilometers, seven runners. The wind in the back and the sun on our shoulders, although they say that it always rains and the wind always comes straight from Pori. A day later, Matti Rauma confesses that over the years only the toughest conditions survive in the memories of the runners.

For the first time in my life I wore the mustakeltainen [black-yellow] outfit of the Turun Urheiluliitto. As a true marathoner I feared the 6.3km that I was supposed to run: it was surely too short. But guess what, I burned my soul and spit out my tongue, I ran harder than I could have imagined before and so did all the others and that’s how we won the whole road relay, in the best winning time in a decade. The team included Kennedy Charicha, a friendly guy who came last year from South Sudan and discovered the art of running here, in Turku. Although still learning the language he already is a true Finn and an inheritant of Paavo Nurmi’s breath.

Jukka Kero on the lead. (photo from http://www.porinkuntoilijat.fi )
Jukka Kero on the lead. (photo from http://www.porinkuntoilijat.fi )

Our team also included two members of the Kero-family (Jukka and Jaakko) who once came running out of their mothers womb and will never stop. Of those, Jaakko has run the European marathon championships in 2006 and he is now in his young forties and still possesses the power that many youngsters desire. The brothers and the others, Johannes Brunila, Kennedy Charicha, Matti Rauma, Maunu Toivari and I, ran with the wind and it was Jukka, who, as a real bear, took the lead in the last kilometers of the race and left of the other teams not much more than a few broken bones and salty shirts.

But as they say, there’s little meat on runners bones, so back we went to Turku and halfway we stopped for pizza and a pint of beer and we raised our middle finger to the police on the road who then came chasing after us with sirenes and helicopters and all that but we were the bears and we were not to be caught. Oh no, I’m lying, we drove back and went early to bed because the next day we had to wake up for a long run. Thus on sunday morning we ran through the forests and over the hills and the power of the day before was still in our legs although now the rain was pooring down on us. Does it matter at all? No, it doesn’t, not when you feel that the bear inside you has woken.

It has. With all the tough trainings that went so fine and the Karhuviesti and the light feeling inside when I run through the fields I am full of desire for the races which are soon to come:

Saturday April 19th: SM maantiejuoksu (Finnish championships 1/2 marathon)

Sunday May 4th: Hamburg Marathon

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