Winter sports are so ingrained in Estonians’ hearts that skiers and tobogganers turn out as soon as the first snowflake hits the ground. With the Tartu Marathon, we have put ourselves on the world map of winter sports.

All of this gives the impression that other sports are moving indoors when it gets cold, because the opportunities and also the dangers in cold weather are not worth the effort. In fact, it is possible to run, cycle and even play disc golf outdoors in winter. It’s important to be well-equipped and ready to enjoy the crisper weather.

Marko Torm, the organiser of the Estonian Night Run, agrees with this idea and is committed to keeping the excitement, motivation and interest of runners alive even in the middle of the harsh winter and has been organising spectacular and memorable Estonian Night Runs for several years now.

Why do the organisers do it, the participants drive and the spectators cheer? To find out, we took the opportunity to talk to a couple of Night Run enthusiasts who had made a plan to be part of the “STEBBY Estonian Night Run – Narva Winter 2022” on 17 December.

In total, more than 800 participants ran or walked the five- or ten-kilometre Narva Winter run, with another 500 virtual runners from all over Estonia.

It is the slippery and the cold that make the experience special.

If you ask Marko Torm, the main organiser of the Night Run, if they have gone crazy organising a running event in the slippery and cold night, he says that these are the things that make the experience.

“We still have to move and move throughout the year,” he says. “Obviously, there will be less running kilometres in winter than in the snow-free season, but an active lifestyle should always be with us.”

Why are the participants willing to do all this and why are the spectators willing to come along? According to Torm, it’s about discovery, vivid memories, proving yourself and going beyond your comfort zone. It’s about getting a feel for everything that’s part of the Night Run and securing a powerful energy boost at the end of the year. The spectacle will be enjoyed even as a spectator and in 10 degrees below zero. “That says something about the event,” stresses Torm.

The fact that the response to Narva Winter has been nothing but positive encourages Torm to offer the emotion all over Estonia in the future. People like it when the event takes place in different cities at different times and there is a lot of fun on the track.

Of course, the organisers also have an important mission in Narva – to bring more Estonia to the border city. Even at the most difficult time of the year, in the middle of freezing temperatures.

It’s all about emotion and stepping out of your comfort zone, a good result is an added bonus.

Stebby participant Joosep (24) didn’t let such an exciting opportunity pass him by and drove to Narva from Tartu.

Joosep revealed that, to some extent, participating in the event was a conscious temptation to get out of his comfort zone. It was his first time taking part of the Night Run event, and the aim was simply to enjoy the excitement and competition that the event would bring. “Exceeding the modest expectations of myself in two minutes was just a little bonus.”

Joosep had plenty of praise for the organisers and participants. “The emotions are great,” he said. Current running form was actually pretty bad, but the atmosphere on race day was intense and the adrenaline was pumping. So far, Joosep had always taken part in runs that started at daytime, but competing at night was a first for him. “I can honestly say that the emotion was stronger here.”

Joseph wasn’t afraid of the cold, but kept an eye on the weather forecast. It might have been a bit chilly waiting for the starting signal, but after the first few steps, the working temperature was reached and his mind was already elsewhere, and in the end it turned out that it was better to run in the cold, as it was nice to cool down the body.

Joosep also praised the course and the organising team. The harsh winter had reached Narva by the time the run took place and some of the turns were slippery, but the organisation team was up to the task and participants were warned of the dangers before the turns. The course was also exciting in the sense that quite a considerable part of the course was on small and narrow streets – a good change from the straight roads often found in larger marathons.

Ööjooksu fännid Joosep ja Markus Stebbyst.

It’s contagious

According to Rezete and Carol, who played the roles of spectators and media reporters, the competition also provided great emotions for bystanders.

Before arriving in Narva, Rezete seriously thought that people were crazy to run in such cold weather. Once there, however, she saw and understood how a sense of togetherness is created and things are simply done. It didn’t matter if you were young or old, in a Santa costume or wearing skis.

“I immediately had the feeling that maybe next year I should give it a try myself,” said Rezete.

According to Rezete and Carol, the organisation of the competition was excellent and so spectacular that they were caught in a frenzy as spectators. Stimulating the runners on the sidelines energises them and keeps the spectators warm. “It’s a really worthwhile event,” they both say, and what’s particularly cool is that the night run stages take place in different cities throughout the year.

In the interviews, Rezete and Carol also heard that people from all over Estonia had come to Narva, showing the wider impact of the event. The runners all had smiles on their faces at the finish line – even the shorter distance provided an opportunity to experience a bit more exercise for wellbeing and health. There were also those who simply walked the course, which is at least half the battle.

Skiing isn’t the only thing to do in winter – there’s more to Stebby than skiing

Markus Puusepp, Stebby’s Events Manager, said that although winter is a quieter time in the sports calendar, there are events both indoors and outdoors. If not for every day, at least for every week: the calendar includes a cult ski party, hikes at both a leisurely and fast pace, a crossfit race or even a stair run.

According to Puusepp, event organisers should be motivated – the beginning of winter has been very beautiful and why not offer the opportunity to enjoy the snowy Estonian countryside by participating in events. “The beginning of the year is certainly a time for many people to set new goals, so why not offer people the opportunity to fulfil their big goal at your event?” he encourages other event organisers to organise even more.

If I had to suggest one sports festival for this winter, Puusepp said the jewel would definitely be the Estonians’ winter song aka Tartu Marathon, which will take place on 19 February.

Finally, anything is possible in winter! Event organising a running race. All you need is the right frame of mind and some great people willing to do it all. Hopefully, events like this will bring more and more people into the sport every year and help them take the next step for their health.

Find the Estonian Night Run, Tartu Marathon, Sportland Kõrvemaa and other events on Stebby HERE

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