Saturday, June 21, 2014


Last weekend I got to take part in the famous Jukola relay. For those of you who don’t know Jukola is a massive night relay event held in Finland.  This year it was near Kuopio and I was lucky enough to go! The relay involves two races, a women’s race, Venla, that starts in the afternoon and has 4 legs ranging from 5-7km and a men’s race, Jukola, that starts at 11pm and has 7 legs ranging from 7-14km. The winning time for Venla is around 3 hours and around 8 for Jukola. Which means Jukola is run throughout the night with headlights (the latitude of the location dictates how many legs have to wear headlights). Although designed as separate men/women relay a lot of women run Jukola as well as Venla.
Map of event centre 
After getting off the bus (I was traveling with OK Linné) and joining the crowd of people heading down the road I noticed a map of the event centre and really started to grasp how big an event for an expected 16 000 runners and 30 000 spectators really is. There are a couple fields full of personal tents and then a further field full of army tents that can be booked by clubs and beyond that are the RV and camper vans! To be honest it reminded me of the fourth Harry Potter book and the tent city outside the Quiddich world cup. : ) However, there were no dancing leprechauns at Jukola, and the tents were the same size on the inside as the outside...
some of the army tents - hard to capture how many there were 

Within the actual arena there were massive tents (reminded me of the type they have at Stampede) but theses were filled with orienteering clothing, shoes and nutritional bars… past that was the actual stadium with VIP bleachers near the finish and perfectly aligned rows of maps awaiting to be picked up.  Within the Stadium there were even more tents (not for sleeping but for pre and post racing). 
I was an extra runner, but, I was quickly able to find a Swedish club that needed one runner and so I was adopted into Sävedalens AIK for the afternoon. I was running with three girls about my age and they were very welcolming and even gave me a team jersey to wear, partly because the 4th runner hadn’t arrived yet and so would meet me for the first time when I handed her the map! I was to run the third leg which was around 6.9 km. After a slight delay in my start (I thought I had time to go to the bathroom and when I came back my partner was at the hand off fence..) I was off running down the 800meter chute to the start. Once on the course it was super fun! There were PEOPLE EVERYWHERE!! But it was almost less distracting because you knew there was so much forking that you really had to know where you were going and run your own race anyways. The neat thing was that once you had figured out which direction you were going there were others running in that same way. And if there was a patch of dark green between the control you were at and the next – no problem just make sure your bearing was right and there would be a path that has been thrashed though the forest going in the correct direction! (you just have to make sure it keeps going in the direction you want!) It was super fun because it gave me that little bit of extra reassurance that enable me to move though the forest that much faster. I had a couple smaller errors but nothing major (other than missing my start!) and was able to hand off to our last leg runner (who was waiting on time at the hand off exchange).
The 1200 or so first leg runners of Venla at the start
I was so pumped on the run and wanted to go again! There had been earlier discussion that one of the men’s teams didn’t have enough runners and so a couple of the girls not on the Linnés all girls Jukola team were talking about running Jukola also. I ran the 4th leg which was 7ish km and had an estimated start at  around 0330 for our team. I of course had to stay up to see the men’s start, so only had about 1.5hrs sleep …but, with the announcer heard clearly throughout and it still being light out, I told myself the environment wasn’t conducive to sleep anyways J I was in a middle of a crowd for the men’s start (watching the back of peoples shoulders with Emily – who ran in the all girls Jukola team for Linné) So even though I saw very little it was so nuts to be in a crowd so excited for orienteering! 
My view of the mens start 
For a much cooler view of the start watch this video!  

It was such an experience to go to sleep (sort of) with the loudspeaker man updating you on the races progress and the wake up at 0245 in daylight and head out on a course. It was absolutely beautiful running in the early morning, with the light streaming though the trees and mist rising off the lakes. The course went pretty well until the second last control and I am going to blame lack of sleep on the subsequent 10mins wandering with no apparent plan...

Sorry about this being such a long-winded post – but there is so much to tell! All I can say is that if you are ever in Finland (or anywhere remotely close) during Jukola it is DEFINITELY worth the trip! Such a cool environment! I mean when was the last time you were at an orienteering event with a sauna!


  1. Congratulations on getting to Jukola for the first time, and then actually run in both relays!

    My first time was in 1981, and it is still by far the best event of the year: Mapping, courses, organization etc,etc.

  2. Wow, sounds so exciting! What an amazing experience!