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Runners at the Tartu City Marathon 2023Source: Adam Illingworth

Tartu’s marathons — the biggest athletic events in Estonia

No sporting events have shaped Estonian culture as much as Tartu’s running, cycling, and skiing marathons.

Mart Einasto aka Jooksuvana ("Old Runner")

Grand Ambassador for the Tartu Marathon

The Tartu Marathon Club offers participants of all ages and abilities five great events throughout the year: the original ski marathon, a city marathon, a cross-country marathon, and two cycling events.

They all have routes of different lengths, exciting courses, and are impeccably oranganized. During the events, you also have the chance to attend sports fairs offering high-quality equipment at an affordable price. Over time, the events have become part of the local culture. 

Here are three simple recommendations to help you enjoy yourself:

  • Learn about the route. In addition to familiarizing yourself with the course’s length and difficulty, explore the places and landmarks that make the route more interesting. These will inspire your post-marathon conversations!
  • Make plans early. In addition to saving on event and accommodation costs, it will be easier to motivate yourself to train once you’ve committed to participating.
  • Enjoy your training. Avoid overtraining to ensure a great experience that will stay with you for a long time.

Tartu Marathon

The Tartu Marathon (which has taken place 50 times) is the world’s largest skiing event. People call the event the Winter Song Festival; they say you aren’t a true Estonian if you’ve never taken part in the Tartu Marathon. Different tracks on different days allow participants to try freestyle and classic skiing. Hiking groups give those who aren’t athletically inclined the opportunity to enjoy the competition, too.

Skiers at the Tartu Marathon in February 2024

Source: Adam Illingworth

Tartu Forest Marathon

The Tartu Forest Marathon (which has taken place 42 times) is Estonia’s largest cross-country run. Estonian runners say, "Spring begins with the Forest Marathon." By combining the start and finish, spectators can enjoy the activity centers, workshops, and forest-themed tours. This family-friendly festival becomes an enjoyable day out, even if only a few family members take part in the running or hiking.

Children at the Tartu Forest Marathon

Source: Andri Tallo

Tartu Rattaralli

The Tartu Rattaralli (which has taken place 43 times) is the largest highway cycling event in the Baltic and Nordic countries. Here all cyclists can experience the feel of a famous road tour. Inspired by those same tours, spectators write words of encouragement on the road with chalk. The route changes every few years, so you can discover new locations and landmarks, even if you're in a slower-paced group.

Cyclists on the highway at the Tartu Rattaralli in 2024

Source: Adam Illingworth

Tartu MTB Marathon 

The Tartu MTB Marathon (which has taken place 27 times) is the biggest mountain bike race in the Baltic and Nordic countries. It is Estonia's only mountain biking event suitable for all experience levels. The exciting routes through South Estonia's stunning nature allow you to explore hills and valleys while being comfortable and safe for participants of all ages and abilities.

A man and a boy at the Tartu MTB Marathon in 2023

Source: Kiur Kaasik

Tartu City Marathon

The Tartu City Marathon (which has taken place 13 times) is Estonia’s largest street running event. It makes everyone feel at home in the university town of Tartu. Known among running and walking enthusiasts as the season's final city marathon, the Tartu City Marathon offers amazing opportunities to cross bridges, run along river banks, see the old town and newer neighborhoods, and run through large and small parks. The start and finish are located in the heart of the city, and all routes are designed so spectators can cheer on their favorite runner several times on the same course just by taking a short walk. The newer tradition of showing up near the track with banners makes this event an unforgettable experience for both runners and walkers.

Runners at the Tartu City Marathon in 2023

Source: Aldis Toome

After the event, we recommend three activities to help you recover and extend your high:

Sauna

Whether at a fine spa or a friend’s house, it has to be close to the finish line so you don’t cool down by the time you reach it. Make your sauna plans ahead of time. It’s worth taking advantage of the sponsor’s offers because there is no better way to hear tales from the event and share your own than on the sauna bench. Here’s where to find saunas in South Estonia.

Food

Now is the time to relax and enjoy yourself. The richer and heartier the food, the better. Plan your meal for after the sauna, preferably with friends and family, so you have more to discuss. Here are great dining locations in South Estonia.

Rest and relaxation

After all the exertion, you'll want some downtime, preferably near your dining location. You don't want to waste time traveling after such a long day! Here are accommodation options in South Estonia.

Get inspired

Mart Einasto aka Jooksuvana ("Old Runner")

Grand Ambassador for the Tartu Marathon