Focus on a race Interview

Terwa Marathon : Petri Huhtala's Interview

02 Mar 2008 22:43
Jean-Loup Fenaux

Petri Huhtala is a 44 year old freewheeling civil engineer and a member of YMCA of Oulu which is organizing this marathon. He used to participate in this event as a runner but for past 3-4 years he has joined the organization committee too. Over the past decade he has run 21 marathons, in seven different countries, and each time he says he has received the same wonderful exhilaration at the end of the race – even without looking his finishing time – He has become aware that reaching the finish line in a marathon is to enter a top-notch group: only about one-tenth of one percent of the population does it. After the many marathon experiences he warmly recommends everyone to finish at least one marathon – it surely will leave you feeling like a champion – that how he has felt every single time!

Petri Huhtala

Hello, on May 24th, you’ll be organizing the Terwa Marathon. Can you tell us where it is located? Our event is arranged in Oulu which is Finland’s sixth largest city with population of ~130,000. Oulu was founded in 1605 and it locates on the shore of the Bay of Bothnia, along the Oulu River. Oulu has transformed itself from a city built around an economy of pine tar (terwa in Finnish) and salmon into a modern forerunner of high technology.

How old is the marathon and why was it created in the first place? In late 1980’s there was a growing demand for road races in Oulu region and finally in 1989 a group of local YMCA runners joined their forces and arranged the first Oulu Marathon which included also quarter and half marathon distances. The first event attracted about 300 runners and through the 1990’s the turnout remained quite stable from 300 to 400 participants. It was not until 2002 when event started to grow in popularity. That year event was renewed and renamed to Terwa Run and Marathon. YMCA of Oulu has been and is the event organizer and year 2008 is special because we celebrate event’s 20th anniversary.

What kind of route have you set up for the runners? How would you describe it? The route is 21.1 km long and marathon runners loop it twice. The race start and finish are at the same place – few steps onshore from Bay of Bothnia. The course is relatively flat and fast: the difference between the highest and the lowest point of the course is 16 meters. This course is perfect to improve your personal best time and is an easy course for first time marathon runners. It safely runs along paved pedestrian and bicycle ways in very scenic waterfront, over several bridges and through peaceful neighborhoods of Oulu. Terwa Marathon course is measured by AIMS (Association of International Marathons and Distance Races) certified measurer.

How many runners do you expect on Saturday morning? What type of runners do you plan to attract? We expect about 2000 participants: ~500 runners for the marathon and ~1500 for the shorter distances (including children’s Minimarathon). Last year we had 378 marathon finishers and 1556 finishers in shorter distances. We want to attract all kind of runners. Running is everyman sport. It doesn’t matter who or how old you are, or what you look like, or how much you weigh – you are warmly welcome to our event, be yourself and become a runner, just as hundreds and thousands of others have done too!

Do you organize other races during the Week-End? If so, on what distances? Besides the marathon we organize three other races during Saturday: simultaneously with marathon 10K and half marathon distances and on the morning, before the main event start, we organize free Minimarathon for children (age 0-13 years).

At that time of the year, what kind of weather can we expect? Late May is probably the best time of the year to run a marathon in Oulu. It may be little windy but the average maximum temperature on Race Day is around 15 degrees. (2007 provided soft rain, calm wind and a maximum temperature of 12 degrees).

Have you planned festivities around the marathon? On Friday evening, day before the main event, we arrange a pasta party in Holiday Club Oulun Eden which is our event headquarters. After the finish line each runner receives a finisher medal and has free admission into Holiday Club Oulun Eden Spa which offers unique ways to recover from the achievement: different types of saunas, plenty of water fun along with many types of other relaxing water treatments. An award ceremony is arranged late afternoon on Saturday: trophies and prizes are handed to overall top five winners and to the first three age division winners. There are many drawing prizes too. Nightlife of city is very vivid and versatile, so surely everyone who desires will find suitable place to celebrate their personal achievements at Saturday night.

The marathon finished what advice would you give a runner who has never been to Oulu before? A good restaurant, a fancy sightseeing? For first timers I recommend to study LOOK at OULU brochure which helps to discover Oulu or visit the Oulu Tourism website. Race headquarters itself, Holiday Club Oulun Eden, is good place to stay, eat and relax. In downtown of Oulu is ‘Rotuaari’, a lively pedestrian street, which invites you to enjoy the pleasant and relaxed atmosphere year-round with good shopping, cozy cafes and restaurants with their patios. Top three personal favorite restaurants in Oulu are Istanbul, Pannu and Sokeri-Jussin Kievari. Top three personal favorite Bubs & Bars are Gloria, Jumpru and Leskinen.

In a single sentence, what would you tell the readers of 42k195 to make them register for the Terwa Marathon ? Life is short, but a marathon stretches it out for a little while, giving you enough time to realize that life is good … you have the good health to move, the heart to know you can do it, the endurance to get there, and now you have good opportunity to do it in our beautiful and friendly event – life is short, so run long and enjoy – welcome to Oulu!

Thank you very much Petri