Running and You: Road to Helsinki City Run 2011

For once I decided to take upon a non-gaming, non-technology topic. Hell, it would not even fit into the casual nerd talk category if I were not the one typing this. So, what could be the reason I am not going out and about, but striving for something out of the ordinary? In fact, I accomplished my second half marathon almost two weeks ago and so I decided to sharpen my pencil (or maybe stretch my fingers) and share my journey with you. Physical prowess is, after all, only second to gaming skill on my scale from zero to awesome.


The Leivo Dynasty has long been engaged in numerous events related to running. It was not until last year that I had the opportunity to be asked to join this great bunch of people for the whole duration of a half marathon. Naturally, I could not (and still cannot) refuse that kind of challenges.

Due to numerous coincidences and some mitigating factors, I ended up running last year as Jaana Olkkola, my (female) alter ego. Being the first time I actually ran for that long, and without proper training, my target was merely to finish the course and see how it goes. Well, I guess I was not too shabby, as my time back then was around 2 hours and 2 minutes. That is roughly a pace of around 6 minutes per kilometer. Somehow, and maybe for a good reason, I had the gut feeling that I could do better and that this had not been the end of my running endeavors.

This fateful Saturday afternoon things were different. I was prepared for what was about come and I knew I could definitely beat my old record and maybe even surprise myself while doing so. I had the right mindset and I had even considered what to eat beforehand to maximize my performance. I even had the right kind of lenses for my sunglasses. My choice of eyewear definitely did not go unnoticed.


Instead of really concentrating on work and studying, I have been endorsed in taking the physical capabilities of my body to the limit each week for the past three months. It started with buying a runner’s card to a local indoor arena when I got back from Japan. Then I ventured forth and began to go the gym a couple of times each week. Soon, my evenings were filled with different types of exercises. Now I find it hard to spare one or two days each week for resting purposes. My housemate has been a great motivator. Together, we have been aiming for maximal stress (i.e. the state of Hapetus, for those familiar with our training methods) when doing lunge jumps, ankle jumps, squat jumps (among other kinds of jumps) and different types of running exercises.

Not all training was for this single half marathon. To tell the truth, I was not even supposed or prepared to participate in the competition a week before. However, thanks to Antti not being here to uphold the Leivo dynasty, he wanted to transfer his participation right to me thus allowing this feat of strength to happen. Instead, I have been training for an orienteering relay called Jukola along with a couple of mountain biking events. Then again, orienteering mainly consists of running so it’s a win-win situation when it comes to participating in this year’s HCR.

The act

After a slowish start to the course (first two kilometers took roughly 5 minutes 50 seconds each) I was a bit uncertain if I could make it under my initial goal of 1 hour and 50 minutes. Sadly, most of the people in my group (with target time between 1:50 and 2:00) should not have been in that group – at all – as they clearly had no incentive or capability to accomplish what they had bargained for. Without giving it too much thought at that point, I aimed to up my pace to around 5 minutes per kilometer. As I had my watch with me this time around, I could easily keep track of time spent covering each kilometer.

I recall arriving at the halfway mark at around 53 or 54 minutes, which was in line with my expectations. However, nearing the latter part of the course, first at maybe 12 kilometers and then at around 16 kilometers (after passing Antti’s brother Aleksi whom I had been following for the majority of the run) I realized that I might actually make it under 1 hour and 45 minutes, which was nothing short of a magic barrier for me. Were I to make it, I would have definitely outdone myself. I remember thinking while running about how Antti had commented earlier on one of my trainings that he had a hard time believing my results. Perhaps that gave me the final boost.

At exactly 1 hour, 44 minutes and 33 seconds after walking over the starting line along with a merry crowd of people, I crossed the finish line at the Olympic stadium. This year’s HCR was over!

My feelings at the end of the course were quite magnificent. It had been a wonderful day. I had not had any kind of trouble during the run. I beat my old record. Moreover, I beat my target time. I could even surpass the magic pace of 5 minutes per kilometer which had been my maximum training pace. As an additional bonus, I even beat the Super Leivo Brothers. All things considered, I am happy to admit that I am damn proud of all of it.

– Joona

PS. Next up in my schedule are the following physical challenges: Lohja MTB next weekend, Jukola in mid-June, Tahko MTB in early July and finally Espoo Rantamaraton (another half marathon, target: under 1,5 hours) at the end of September this year. I can hardly wait!

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