Our host Matias has a habit of signing up completely unprepared for long distance races. He isn't in them to win, just to prove to himself that he can do it! A year or two ago, it was a lengthy cross-country skiing event where he triumphantly took second to last (after having not set foot in a pair of skis for half a decade). Today, it was the Jakobstad Marathon.
Matias decided, perhaps wisely, to start with a half marathon, which is roughly 21 kilometers in length. Before this afternoon, the longest he'd had ever run was ten! Since his wife Mia and the boys were gone all day helping prepare for her sister's wedding, we acted as Matias' support crew for the event.
We met him at the race, and drove ahead several times, stopping to cheer and snap photos. I was the designated driver of our "getaway" car, and Tyler the action photographer.
Go, Matias, Go!
Matias' goal was to run the whole thing, except for stops at the water stations.
Somewhere near the halfway mark, he commented mid-stride as he passed, "It's getting a bit harder now!" Tyler and I immediately cracked up laughing, thinking this was really obvious and endearing. Like, in order to do something really big, you convince yourself it will be easy, and then you leap right in, and of course it isn't easy, so you just muddle along until you get stronger. I could relate.
Despite the difficulty, Matias kept up the running. After several cheering/photo ops, Tyler and I booked it to the finish line, where the race staff was unpacking medals for the competitors.
One by one, we clapped as athletes crossed the finish line. I was very surprised, though, because no one else was cheering! At races I've been to and participated in at home, a raucous crowd of onlookers clap and cheer for everyone, regardless of who they came to support. We were disappointed by the lack of Finnish enthusiasm, but we were elated for Matias when he came jogging to a finish:
After the race, we chatted while he gulped free smoothies and wolfed down a banana or two. Before we left, I asked him to get me a pickle (I couldn't work up the nerve to steal from the racer's table, that's just wrong!). He happily obliged. After re-fueling, we took him to his bicycle where he hopped on for a five kilometer cool-down ride (back home).
After dropping Matias off, we booked it back to the house to finish the baking and cooking we'd started earlier in the day. As soon as we arrived, Mia and the boys walked in the door. A few minutes later, Matias rolled up. Everyone chilled out for a few hours while Tyler and I worked on dinner.
We started with dessert first:
Then, while I got busy cooking chicken and veggies for pot pie…
…Tyler went out to play with Arvid:
When dinner was ready, we all sat down to eat. Arvid liked the star-shaped bit of crust I decorated the pot-pie with, but refused to touch rest of it. We didn't mind though because it meant there would be more for us!
After our feast, Tyler and Matias sat down for an hours-long discussion about Lightroom and photography, while Mia and I chatted in the living room about everything under the sun. We all re-convened before bedtime for cookies and ice-cream.
If great company and delicious food weren't enough to make our day (they were), we received an email from a Couch Surfing contact, saying he'd be willing to host us for a few days in Saint Petersburg too! With that niggling bit of Russian logistics taken care of, we happily set off to our "guest-house" to call it a night.
It was cold in the caravan, so we snuggled up in our blankets, excited to be in our cozy, lamplit surroundings. It was almost dark outside! We would have gone to bed, but we were eager to have a video chat with my parents. After catching up with a nice long Skyping session, we decided to call our friends Mike and Katherine too. It was the first time we've talked to them in 'real life' (as opposed to just emailing). It was so much fun!
Oh, and here's a final photo for the day. We see these nordic-skaters all over here in Finland! I think this lady looks like "Rollerblade Barbie":