6.- 8. September 2019
Start: 00
00 : 00 : 00
et en ru fi de lv sv


The Marathon Day through the eyes of a runner


As I approach the starting area of SEB Tallinn marathon, the city greets me with a misty autumn morning.  It’s 13 degrees and you can barely feel the sun behind the fog and clouds.  It’s 7.45, the marathon starts at 9.00, but there are only a few runners gathering at the starting area.  Everything changes in just 15 minutes – you can see runners coming in smaller and bigger groups from the adjoining streets. 

SEB Tallinn marathon is a convenient and hassle-free race – you get everything done easily in 30-45 minutes before the start.  The start is within walking distance from the biggest hotels, the start and finish are at the same place in the very heart of the city and public transport is free for participants.  Plenty of toilets, bag drop 35 meters from the starting line, changing area next to the bag drop.

SEB Tallinn marathon takes place at the second weekend of September and it has quickly become one of the biggest marathon races of Baltic-Nordic region.  There are almost 20 000 participants but since the races have been spread over a three-day weekend, it doesn’t really get that crowded.  2000 runners take part in marathon, 3500 in half marathon, 10 000 in 10K and 2500 in 5K.  If you want, you can even take part in 5K on Friday, 10K on Saturday and 42K on Sunday.  Believe me, every year there are a few of those.

Marathon itself has become very international with participants from more than 50 countries, more than one third of marathon participants are international runners.


By 12.00, when the half marathon kicks off, the temperature has risen to 19 degrees and marathon runners have passed the first half of the race.  If you finish within 4-4,5 hours then you have the streets of Tallinn just for yourself, if you are slower then half marathon runners will join you at the last portion of the race.


Marathon is currently held on a 21km route that you have to run twice.  The route is very flat and it takes you around the medieval center city towards the seaside where you get a glimpse of quiet suburbs while later on you can enjoy the city skyline – medieval church-towers mixed with modern glossy high-rise buildings.


5K offers a different route – it takes you to the old town, where cobble-stoned and narrow 700-year-old streets offer you a different perspective of Tallinn.  Or if you choose to run (or walk) 10K then you’ll get another view of the city – you pass a unique Seaplane Harbour, an old Prison, historical wooden townhouse district and even run through the old Power Plant that is commonly called as a Pot.

Water and sports drink are offered every 2,5 km, you also get bananas, raisins, bread, salt, etc.  Or if you like sports gels then you can get even these – at 10km and 30km marks.

After passing the finish-line, I’ll get a big medal and a foil-blanket to keep me warm afterwards.  While I’ll receive a bottle of water plus a bottle of sports drink, I stumble and look for a place to sit. Medical personnel quickly notice me and ask whether I need any assistance.  No, no, just tired! I’ll soon get to the fountain where a fellow runner cools his legs.  Nice! He’s from Latvia and chose Tallinn marathon to be his first marathon.  He explains the reasons – well organized, everything runs smoothly, you don’t get mixed with half marathon runners on the route, and definitely the food and service that marathon runners get after the race.

There is actually real food offered to the marathon runners after the race, not just an apple or an energy bar.  You’ll get pasta, wraps, pastry, soup, yoghurt, bananas, different drinks and beer.  The only place you’ll see a queue is a beer keg . . .  Some runners stay at the food tent for hours, talking, eating-drinking and having a massage.  The words “sports bar” get a completely different meaning here.  Of course, all the service is free of charge for marathon runners.

After exiting the marathon area, I’ll walk for 50m to the nearest bus stop and withing 15 minutes I’m back home.  Tallinn is a small and convenient city – airport just 15 minutes from the center city, port next to the old town.  If you come by ferry through Helsinki or Stockholm, then you can basically walk to the ferry after finishing the race.  Well, if walking feels like a good idea after a marathon . . .  

Next SEB Tallinn marathon will take place from 8.-10. of September 2017, registration is already open.

Estonia is a small country with a population of only 1,3 million but with a booming marathon running culture.  The number of marathon runners has grown almost ten times during the last 10 years.  First marathon was held in Estonia already 103 years ago, in 1913.  While the most famous marathon runners in Estonia are the triplets Leila, Liina and Lily Luik – the first triplets to participate in marathon in Olympics in Rio – there have been strong runners also before.  Jüri Lossmann has won silver at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp while Pavel Loskutov won the same prize in European Championchips in 2002. The Olympics in Rio were also a success for Estonian marathon culture – in total five runners participated in Rio, a good achievement for such a small country.

SEB Tallinn marathon is the biggest marathon in the Baltic states, although in Estonia, there are almost 50 smaller marathons as well.  For example, there is an indoor marathon held in January, where runners have to run on a 250m track.  There is also a night marathon that starts just one hour before midnight – also run on a 400m track.  A marathon with the longest history dates back to 1956 and the oldest marathon runner in Estonia is currently 83-year old Benno Viirandi. 


Since the country is small and marathon running as a hobby started booming just a few years ago, every single marathon result and runner is counted for – as of September 2016, the number of Estonians who have run a marathon during the 103 years has been just 6903.  Every single Estonian marathon runner can look up his/hers position among other runners at marathon100.com, leading local running website.


Author: Janek Oblikas
Marathon runner

This week, AIMS (Association of International Marathons and Distance Races) measurer-administrator Hugh Jones is visiting Tallinn to officially measure the Tallinn Marathon 42.2km, 21.1km and Optibet 10km courses.