Going to Tiomila

‘tis the time of the year again. The week when you can hardly concentrate on your work, school or household. In a few hours we’ll jump in a ship towards Sweden and then drive to Eskilstuna and Gröndal speedway stadium which hosts this year’s Tiomila.

It’s hard to describe to a non-orienteer the feelings one has before an event like Tiomila (and even more, Jukola). It’s for many the event where the countless hours and kilometers spent running and xc skiing through the woods materialize, where the whole orienteering world gathers in one place to see which club has most successfully trained through the winter, avoided injuries and illnesses, and generally prepared for the major races of the year.

Let me in this entry stay in Tiomila. Late April, possibly sun, probably rain and cold. Lots of mud, sometimes even a hint of snow. Ten men in a team, all with a common goal of surviving through the night and the 111 km (of which more than 60 in darkness) as fast as possible, in the best case faster than anyone else.

Tiomila, and especially its 4th “LÃ¥nga natten” (“Long night”) leg, spanning 16,5 km, is full of legends. Once in mid-90’s, Sören Nymalm, my former clubmate and one of the greatest night orienteers of all time, was heading a pack of a dozen runners on LÃ¥nga natten. Sören had had pizza the day before which obviously wasn’t any good for his stomach. In the middle of the leg, Sören had to jump off a dirt road to relieve his abdominal pains.

What a great chance to escape for the rest of the pack! But what happened? The whole group waited for Sören, and someone even spared him some toilet paper. After (and despite) the accident, Nymalm continued to lead the group and ran one of the fastest times on the leg. It paid off to stand by him.

Another legend from about two decades ago is that the leading pack of runners on LÃ¥nga natten followed the wrong path and öup on the opposite side of a lake to their next control. According to some, part of the pack then tried to steal a rowing boat to cross the laöö others humbly turned around and ran back around the bay. The truthfulness of the latter part of this stoös över at least a bit questionable. The point is, however, that an event like Tiomila is a fertile ground for legends like these.

The modern technology has brought its own twists to the relay. With the help of live GPS tracking and öting, you can now follow through the night (or afternoon if you happen to live in US) and sense at least part of the atmosphere without leaving your beloved Aeron.

If none of my babblings got you excited, here’s a brief YouTube video from last year’s TV/webcast.

If you’re spending Saturday night in front of a screen, go ahead and dedicate your secondary screen for the webcast. The men’s mass start at 9PM GMT (launched by an AA cannon) is one of the most spectacular things you can experience in sports.

But now, it’s time for my last finishing up training and then some packing before our car heads to the harbor.