The foundation of Estonian grassroots sport – Tartu Marathon

Source: Tarmo Haud, Tartu Maraton

The foundation of Estonian grassroots sport – Tartu Marathon


Peeter Liik

Avid skier and member of Club Tartu Marathon

No other sports event has shaped Estonian culture quite like Tartu Marathon. The first ever marathon held in 1960 sparked a love for grassroots sport in Estonians that has today, more than half a century later, taken over the whole nation. Every year hundreds of various grassroots sport events take place in Estonia and Tartu Marathon can be considered the forefather of them all. It is noteworthy that in addition to skiing, the marathon – known also as the winter song festival – has initiated public races, cycling events and even roller-skating marathons.

Its near 60-year history has seen the event grow from a ski trip for a couple of dozen enthusiasts to one of the best-known ski marathons in the world with thousands of participants, offering an unforgettable experience in the Southern Estonian hill country.

Tartu Marathon in the 1980s

Photo: Estonian Film Database

The array of Tartu Marathon’s participants is as colourful as the rainbow. From ski lovers in chicken costumes and ski tourists from the southern hemisphere to the crème de la crème of the ski world together with Estonian legends, such as Andrus Veerpalu and Raul Olle.

And you can always count in the average Estonian skier – you know, the one who takes their skis for a spin once or twice a week, recharges their batteries in wintry outdoors and joins others on the third Sunday of February in experiencing the ancient joy of skiing.

Tartu Maraton’s programme is versatile, offering something for every liking – children and adults, serious athletes and casual skiers alike. The festivities start a week ahead of the main events with the Relay Marathon for teams of four. Teams often consist of friends, family members or colleagues.

Celebrations culminate between Otepää and Elva on the widest ski trail in the world with 63 or 31 kilometres of pure classics. As a new addition, this year Tartu Maraton will also include the no-stress Vintage event, allowing participants to excuse their below-than-average results to friends and co-workers with the requirement of competing in gear dating back to the previous millennium.

Last updated : 05.12.2019

In category: South Estonia, Activities & Adventure, Events