Running in Finland: An International Student’s Perspective

bridge_austinMy name is Austin Sears and I am currently one of University of Helsinki’s International Student Ambassadors. Last year I checked out the Midnight Run on a whim after seeing the Facebook post about it and found myself cheering on the runners from the steps of the University’s Main Building in the Senate Square. I thought about participating, but I was recovering from an injury I got while running last summer.

This year is a bit different. Like Dina, who wrote this handy little guide, I am participating in the Midnight Run on August 30th and I am very excited about it!

I picked up running in the summer of 2005 when I joined a running camp at my high school. Since then, I’ve found a number of different ways to share my love of running and to take part in a new and different ways of exploring what has come to be my favorite form of physical activity. In high school I ran competitively with my school’s cross country team in a number of 5k and other track and field races and during my bachelor’s studies I added a few half marathons and one full marathon to the list of my running accomplishments. This will be my first 10k race and I am up for the challenge!

The panorama taken from the Vantaa River.
The panorama taken from the Vantaa River.

One of my favorite things about running is that it is an activity you can do almost anywhere and one that allows you to see new places (and maybe even those that are not so new) from different perspectives. I’ve found running in Finland to be a very enjoyable experience. I live quite close to the Vantaa River, so I tend to stay near the river on my runs. The paths snake and wind through forests and the river eventually opens to the Baltic Sea. Even while I may stay close to home on my runs, Helsinki has a number of great running paths throughout the city, so there should be something close to where you are.

I’ve found running in the summer months to be particularly enjoyable, especially when trying to fit in my workouts around my work schedule. Since the sun rises early and sets late, there is ample light to work with when planning early or late runs. Though it’s been quite humid lately, dusk has been my chosen time for runs since the sun isn’t as harsh and the temperature is quite comfortable. Winter is almost the opposite, necessitating reflective clothing (though reflectors are easy to come by in Finland. Just take a look at the people around you in the winter months and you’re bound to find at least one reflector on a bag or coat!), lots of layers of clothing and hats and gloves. Last winter I took most of my workouts indoors to UniSport since my asthma doesn’t really allow for many outdoor winter workouts anymore, but I was satisfied because Unisport offers truly affordable gym training for students at all four University of Helsinki campuses.

Whether you’re training for a race like I am, or just running for the sake of running, I challenge you to explore new routes and take advantage of the sunlight while it’s still here before the winter months come. And, quite possibly most important of all, come out and support the runners at the Midnight Run! It’s sure to be a memorable and fun event!

Text and photos: Austin Sears, International Student Ambassador