Levi's oldest event, the Ruskamaraton, confidently steps into its fourth decade.
This year, on September 9, 2023, its 40th anniversary is celebrated, with an anticipated 1,500 enthusiastic runners expected at the starting line.
Ruskamaraton was first held in 1984. The start and finish of the full marathon were located in Kittilä village, and the route made a turn at Levi Hotel. The half-marathon started at Levi Hotel and finished in Kittilä village. In 2010, Ruskamaraton was entirely relocated to the scenery of Levi, and the event has seen a variety of runners and incidents.
Martti Vainio roller-skied through the race
In the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Martti Vainio won a silver medal in the 10,000 meters but was caught for doping. This resulted in a competition ban, which he defied by participating on roller-skis in the first Ruskamaraton in 1984, as a marketing stunt for the event organizers. Vainio ran to victory in Ruskamaraton after ending his career in 1986, and in 1987 he came in second.
Many national and international stars have been seen at Ruskamaraton, enjoying the atmosphere of Lapland and the route. Olympic level marathon runner, British Fiona Oakes ran the Ruskamaraton in 2011. The woman holding four marathon running world records triumphed with a time of 2:58:12 in Levi, beating the second-placed Johanna Davidila by over 18 minutes.
Racing with bull reindeers
In 2017, the Golfranta service point experienced an unusual congestion when a large herd of bull reindeers appeared. Runners dodged the reindeer while grabbing snacks and drinks from the point. A few reindeer even decided to join the runners. A photo captured the moment a bull reindeer sprinted with the runners on asphalt.
Martti Huotari ran the Ruskamaraton 33 times
Martti Huotari, from Sodankylä, ran 300 marathons in his career, 33 of which were in Ruskamaraton. Notably, his 300th marathon coincided with Ruskamaraton in 2017, after which he retired. Levi's Heinäkengät commemorated him with a cake and a special trophy. Martti Huotari's record is permanently etched in Ruskamaraton's history.
Traditional shoes and plots as prizes
Ruskamaraton started in 1984, and the sports club Sporttiklubi Levi's Heinäkengät was founded that same year to support the marathon's organization. The club's name refers to traditional reindeer skin shoes, which traditionally have dried hay for insulation – hence the name heinäkengät aka straw shoe. The winners of the marathon have been awarded these shoes since 1984. In addition, plots of land in Levi have been awarded as main prizes. Three consecutive wins in the full marathon were required for this prize, and one year both men and women met the criteria. The value of the Levi plots went up at the turn of the millennium ended this tradition.
Ruskamaraton 2023: International lineup
This year's races include the usual full marathon, half-marathon, 10 km, 16 km trail run, and Ruskareissu 6.5 km. Young runners also have their own race distances to choose from. Registrations include participants from England, Spain, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Malta, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and the USA. Last year's winner, skier Riitta-Liisa Roponen, will be seen at the starting line of the trail run, with strong challengers, including some from Norway.
– This year, the Ruskamaraton will be held a week later than in previous years, and this is also reflected in the number of participants. We already have 40% more runners registered than at this time last year. We expect 1,500 runners at the starting line, says race director Jari Kinnunen.
Kinnunen also reminds that, in honor of the anniversary year, surprise prizes will be raffled on each running distance, meaning you can win even if you don't win the race itself. In addition, the event day market area features the Ruskamaraton Karaoke Teepee, where participants can sing out their last cheer.