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“We did it!” Exhaustion fades quickly, while joy from running remains

The Autumn Run, held each year in September, has become a fun and active tradition in many of Estonia’s safe houses and substitute homes. This was another year of the children racing together with their teachers. Some families challenged themselves without racing against the clock, while others joined the timed 10 km walking and running race. The smaller children were eager to participate in the children’s races.

Many families trained hard before the day of the race. There were meetings held in many families to discuss who was interested in participating and which distance would be doable for whom.

Exercise is good for you!

The Autumn Run is an event that always gets the children excited. Running is an endurance sport, and the girls were eager to learn if they had what it takes to tackle the 10 km race. They were also excited about the new course. The night before the race, they looked up the course on the Internet, getting to know the various sights and objects of interest in Tallinn. 

On their way there, they discussed the benefits of exercising. Ele said: “See, teachers, I’m participating for the fourth time already, I think, and I’m healthy and well; while others who do not exercise as much are ill today.” Everyone agreed with Ele. 

One family decided that all the teachers, children and the manager will take part in the Autumn Run. Together they decided which run each of them was going to sign up for. They also needed to keep in mind that there were three children with disabilities in the family home, who also wanted to test themselves on the course. They also made the decision to leave out fast food, to honour the sport-filled day, and to take a picnic basket with healthy snacks with them instead. 

Another family decided together with the children that all the older children will be walking through the 10 km distance. Whether the collective spirit or cruise vouchers offered to the participants were the deciding factor, even the children who were not interested in such events before were willing to go along with the idea.

That fuzzy feeling in the soul and the feet

When taking their seats on the bus, the children started to make more concrete plans on who was going to run with whom. In many families it has become a custom that there are groups of 2–3 completing the race at the same pace, which provides a great opportunity to talk about everything and anything. The boys decided to run; most of the girls and the teachers decided on a brisk walk. Before heading out onto the course, there were families who went for a group hug and energy circle; others, a spirited group picture. 

Many of the families have taken part in the SEB Autumn Run for many years. It is not unusual that the decision on whether to run next year is made right when the race ends, as the children still have a fuzzy feeling in their souls and feet. 

After arriving at the location, the participants got their numbers and waited for the race to start. Their hearts were beating with anticipation as they saw how many sports-loving people had gathered to race that day. There were young and old, fitter and not so fit runners at the Autumn Race. Ele and Tatjana talked between themselves: “There must be thousands—our numbers start with 13,000. 

Once they made it to the starting line, many were so excited that they immediately started to run at full speed. At first they had to make their way between the people walking to find space to run, but it got easier after the first kilometre. The more walkers they passed, the more driven they became, constantly upping the pace. One of the family groups was encouraged by a noticeably zealous lady, probably also caught in the spirit of the race, and they would keep passing each other.

Stepping side-by-side with “almost the President”

This time everything was different, from the course to the spectacular views of the city and the sea. This year’s circuit and course were quite wide, making it possible to pass those who were moving a bit slower. New sites would provide many familiar moments on the city streets, helping to replenish one’s strength during the harder parts of the race. It was fun for all to see that the course passed the Cultural Hub, entering it on one side and exiting on the other. The children also passed the Seaplane Harbour, which they were already familiar with. The spirits were raised by the rowan berries on the trees lining the street.

At the Culture Hub, one of the families was walking side by side with Marina Kaljurand for a while. The children were whispering that when she would become the president, they could say that they have been in an actual competition with the president. 

Around 3 km before the finish line, Cäroly thought that – as a girl who is into exercising – it was time for a spurt and took off. Her friends tried running a kilometre before the finish, but they ran out of breath and bravely walked to the end holding hands with each other. Everyone was happy with their accomplishments. Despite the long distance, everyone completed it happily, either walking or running.

The children from Tallinn Safe House competed in the children’s race, where earning second place was cause for great joy. In the evening, grandmother came to see the children in the Safe House, where they recounted the events of the day and showed off their gifts. But grandmother worried instead that the children’s feet were hurting due to not training beforehand!

The little ones were not left behind by the older ones

Even the smallest of the children did not want to be left out from the festive running event. The 3-, 5- and 6-year-olds of one family were positive that they would be able to walk the 10 kilometres. They, too, wanted to earn the opportunity to travel to Sweden like the older ones, who had gone to the race and on the award trip in the past. Even so, the littlest member of the family was assigned the role of cheering for the others along the course. But the 5-year-old sister and 6-year-old brother of the little girl started the long race bravely with the other, older children. School-aged children went for and run, and the nursery school children for a timed walk. The fear that the little ones would get tired was unfounded. 5-year-old Johanna took off so fast that it was necessary to hold her back and talk her into walking to prevent her from hurting herself.

It had been agreed before the start that everyone would run according to their limits. If they cannot keep up, then they can walk. Feeling good is what matters. Assar, aged 6, had a hard time accepting that his little sister was faster than him. To make him feel better, the teacher told the boy that even she struggled to keep up with Johanna, and they just need to train more for next year’s race. That was something Assar could agree with. Both the younger and the older members of the family still had plenty of strength, and “even” the teacher was able to keep pace with the children.

After the great effort, they were also ready to start the children’s race. Just to make sure, Johanna asked if the distance was not as long as the 10 kilometres they covered this morning.

Getting better every year

There were two brothers participating from one family. The older one had run in the previous year and remembered the sense of pride, which also brought him to the starting line this time. That was a boy who disliked exercise as much as one could at his age! He was not fond of most physical activities, and it was impossible to have him go outside to play a bit of ball. Practising regular sports had also never become a habit for him. But he is always ready to go on the Autumn Run as well as the bicycle marathon.

A teacher from one of the families was moving with an 8-year-old girl who also needed some motivation to finish the course. Consequently their pace was a bit slower. On the last kilometre, it was even said that they were the last ones on the course, but then it appeared that there were still three people behind them. But when they arrived at the finish, the girl was very proud to have walked such a long distance.

The teachers were very proud of the children. And the children were proud of their achievement at the finish line. The positive emotion from challenging oneself will be remembered for a long time.
After the race, Denis was insistent that he wants to do a timed race next year, to improve his result. Renno was a bit behind him, but his emotions were also running high. 

After finishing the race their first question was, if they would be returning again next year. Many plans were made on how to train better to improve more for the year to come.

The families who had taken part in the Autumn Run before could compare their times. So, one family found that the result was a whole 52 minutes faster than two years ago: when in the first year the course was finished in 2 hours and 40 minutes, and in the previous year in 2 hours and 23 minutes, then this year the result was 1 hour and 48 minutes. This gave them plenty of encouragement for future races. At the finish line emotions were mixed with exhaustion, but promises were made to return next year.

It gets easier with more training

After finishing the race the children were eager to speak about what they felt and how they did. Some had moved at a faster and some at a slower pace, but the good mood from finishing was not ruined by either blistered feet or almost finishing last. Several of the children learned to make an effort and to keep going, despite being tired. The older children were able to cover the course independently and took on the responsibility of meeting later at the designated meeting spot. The teachers, on the other hand, were free to practice quite a bit of motivating.

The results of the race were soon revealed — on the way back they were able to check their preliminary times and compare them to those of their friends. 

Tatjana: “I am now a year older, but the end was hard for me last year.” The finishers, with their flushed, yet happy faces, looked at each other, and the teacher said: “We did it!” Ele said to the teacher: “You should train more, then it will be as easy for you as it is for us!”


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