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How long is 2.5 kilometres?

As every year, backed by the non-profit association SEB Heategevusfond, children from shelters and substitute homes all over Estonia participated in children races at this year’s snow-blessed Tartu Marathon Each participant was gifted a shirt and gloves and after sports efforts and a hearty meal, everyone relaxed at the Aura water park. Those interested were also given a chance to take a tour at the Upside Down House.

Each child could pick a distance that they felt matched their skills best. It was not the first time for many to participate so they were fully aware of what was in store for them. However, there were also lots of novices to the sports fest. Although the children’s distance at the skiing marathon was not as easy as some had thought, hard work on the tracks paid off in heaps – the joy from having challenging their own limitations and conquering the finish line made up for the difficult climbs up the hills, tangled up sticks or falls.

Does time run differently when you ski?

One family of marathoners started to discuss the day ahead already during the drive to the destination. The children were a wee bit worried about the distance to be covered. This issue was solved “on the go”. The teacher explained to the children the length of 2.5 km from the speedometer: she called out the point the distance started and when it ended. The children knew that distances could feel quite short when driving; however, when it took 1.5–2 minutes for the car to cover 2,5 km, they were left with eyes boggling: Was it really that long? 

And after the finish, these young skiers were overwhelmingly happy. They were surprised that the distance that had seemed to be so long in the car had gone by fleetingly. It was an eye-opening experience for the youth where one and the same distance seems to have an entirely different length: depending on what you are doing, time can go by quite differently.

Meanwhile in another family, all children had already partaken in the Tartu marathon and knew what to look forward during the day. However, for one boy it was the first marathon of his life. Before the start, all the boys were sure that they were going to face the 2.5 km distance; however, when it was time to gather into the start corridor, they changed their mind and instead went for the 1.4 km with girls. All children were excited at the start, searching for familiar faces with their eyes.

Kärola’s stick somehow got tangled up with another child’s minutes before the start; however, she managed to run an excellent race. Fjodor was the first of the family to arrive at the finish and was delighted. Sister Jekaterina came in second right after the brother – exhausted but obviously happy! For the boy who completed his first ever marathon, the competition was harder than he had imagined but he was proud of his accomplishment – as was everyone else.

Gloves on loan from a “gentleman”

Aleksandra had forgotten her gloves. But in utmost distress, the help is nearest: a boy the same age and she, Mark, was there to offer help. Mark is a very active young boy and his hands had warmed up already before the race. So he did not particularly care for having gloves on and instead offered them to Aleksandra – it was heartwarming to see a little boy help another little girl in need. Actually, Aleksandra did not even ask for help; it was Mark being a gentleman and giving up his gloves. The “saga of the gloves” was consummated at the eatery where every child was gifted a pair of gloves Alexandra was overjoyed with her present.

Other families had their adventures, too. One child had brought two right-foot boots and another had grabbed a broken stick from home. Fortunately, the lady at the ski rental was very kind and helpful and the children were able to exchange their faulty equipment for proper one. Many children lent a helping hand to their co-racers on the course, either by picking up a dropped stick or helping up someone who had taken a fell. All young skiers did a sterling job and despite some serious faces during the race, after it was over most children felt that the event should be repeated next year.

A record number of children from one shelter participated in the Tartu marathon this year. When they were initially told about the marathon and the length of the course, everyone was excited to participate and so they did, all of them. Skiing turned out to be harder than they had anticipated – there was this especially challenging ascent; however, the much-awaited visit to the water park gave strength to battle on! Quite a few children said that it was the promise of having a swim at the water park that had motivated them. 

And then the medals: no matter if you are nine or 14 years old, a medal always counts! While the fourteen-year-old was proud to show the medal to the teacher, the nine-year-old took to wearing it around the neck, not letting it go even for bed, one teacher of a shelter wrote in her feedback.

Two hours of frolicking in the water 

When the children arrived at Dorpat for dinner, they were met with a nice surprise. Everyone was presented with a shirt and a new pair of gloves by the non-profit association. And later in the evening, back at home the present had their test run on the sleighing hill – everything was immediately put to use. 

At the Aura water park, everybody had some really good time. Children could play water basketball. Some girls took a more relaxed approach and enjoyed some bubble bath and sauna time. There was no problem getting the children in the water, it was getting them out when the time came! The children enjoyed these two hours to the fullest. Kärola emerged from the water with a bump on the forehead – a little somersaulting accident – but this mishap did not steal her fun.

Those interested made a trip to the Upside Down House. And the point proven – everything was really upside down at the house. Quite hilarious! Of course, all these fun moments were captured by a picture.

Completed the course, did not give up!

Immediately after the race, on the drive back in the bus, the children’s emotions were at their most sincere and genuine: there were laughs about the stumbles taken, recalls of attempted “shortcuts” as well as pride for a mate that had arrived last but one. The teacher was especially proud of the “last but one” – what mattered was that the skis had been put on. The boy concerned was also proud of his accomplishment, Completed the course, did not give up!

During follow-up, it was agreed that if you try hard and give your best, then you feel really great afterwards. It is the way of life: when you contribute, then you can afford more but you must contribute. You must be able to make choices or, in this case: do I go skiing or to the mall – and, of course, you must have luck!

Back at home, the children excitedly demonstrated their medals and shared the events of the day. Once again, the children had an experience of challenging their limits. Teachers also noticed how important for children it was to encounter familiar faces by the tracks, someone to cheer them on before the final effort and make them smile. 

Quite a few participants from shelters said they wanted to be on another outing with the shelter. It is good to know that wherever these children end up, they will be able to reminiscence about their participation in the Tartu marathon. Hopefully many of them will grow up liking sports!


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