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Pints & Parkruns: Tampere

Hockey fans and lakeside views in friendly Finland

By Andy PottsPublished 2 years ago 3 min read
Tampere's course boasts beautiful lakeside views.

Tampere is a town of unlikely firsts. Back in 1984, it reportedly got Finland’s first ever branch of McDonald’s, some time ahead of the capital, Helsinki. Given the impact of fast food on public health, that might explain why, decades later, this lakeside university town also became home to Finland’s first Parkrun.

That was in October 2017. Blazing a trail, a clutch of runners set out from the footbridge next to the athletics stadium and headed along the waterfront to the arboretum and back. The idea caught on, and despite the challenges of keeping people engaged when the long winters leave the course too slippery to run, Tampere Parkrun is thriving. And the idea has spread throughout Finland. The following spring, two more started and the country now has five runs in total.

The crowd is a mix of locals and internationals, many of whom are connected with the university. Once in a while it gets a further boost from traveling sports fans: Tampere claims to be Finland’s ‘Home of Hockey’ and put weight behind that claim in 2022 when the local Tappara team won the national championship a few weeks before the national team won World Championship gold at the city’s newly-opened Nokia Arena (retro phone lovers can take a 15km trip to the town of Nokia, birthplace of those much-loved chunky 90s mobiles).

Hockey fans from Finland and Great Britain taking part in Tampere Parkrun (photo courtesy of the run's FB)

According to Nina Haikonen, run director for my first visit, an influx of World Championship hockey fans gave Tampere its biggest ever assortment of Parkrun tourists. Overall, numbers remain relatively modest, but that contributes to a strong social feel.

“As an international, it’s become a really good place for people to find a social life,” Nina, originally from Ireland, added. “I was living here for 17 years and I hadn’t found a group of people to go for a coffee after a run until Parkrun came along. For me, it’s pretty awesome.”

Sitting at an outdoor café overlooking the harbour on a warm spring morning, it’s easy to see the attraction. The course is fast – my Strava’s claim of zero elevation gain isn’t wholly convincing, but it’s pretty flat – and scenic, boasting beautiful lakeside views. The out-and-back route is entirely paved and easy to navigate, and there’s the reassuring sight of the faster runners coming back towards you as a welcome reminder that halfway can’t be _too_ much further.

For those less committed to speed, there’s also a chance to spot a few birds along the way: a couple of fellow runners with an ornithological bent enthused about the species they’d glimpsed as they passed. And, for visitors, it’s a great chance to see beyond the centre and see just how close to nature Finland’s biggest provincial city really is. Highly recommended.

The pint

Tampere was the birthplace of Finland’s industrial revolution, dubbed the Finnish Manchester after a Scottish expat, Finlayson, opened his textile works in 1820. As a result, it also has a long tradition of brewing, largely to quench the thirst of factory workers.

The big hitters in town are the Pyynikin brewery, which operates a bustling brewhouse restaurant overlooking the fast-flowing canal that links Tampere’s two major lakes, and the Kaleva brewery out in the suburbs. Both are mainstays on supermarket shelves as well – handy when bar prices in Finland can run close to 10 Euros for a local craft beer.

That said, it’s still worth taking a trip to some of the city’s brew pubs. The Nordic Brewery runs several of these, usually with a gastropub vibe. But the most authentic is Plevna, whose restaurant is part of the old Finlayson complex where industrial heritage meets contemporary nightlife. That Manchester theme continues into the present day.

Plevna is Tampere’s oldest craft brewery, dating back to 1994, and produces a wide range of beers. There’s a strong local accent to Purpalo, a lingonberry sour, while the special edition Hoki lager was a neat tie-in with the World Championship. The Siperia imperial stout works well – and at 8%, it doesn’t have the same powerful side effects of more traditional versions. The Morko dark IPA is also worth a look, sharing its name with both a traditional Finnish bogeyman and a star of that title-winning hockey team.

First run: May 14, 2022. PB: 24:09 (May 2022).

Thanks for reading. For more Pints & Parkruns stories, please visit the website.

athletics

About the Creator

Andy Potts

Community focused sports fan from Northeast England. Tends to root for the little guy. Look out for Talking Northeast, my new project coming soon.

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Comments (1)

  • Skyring2 months ago

    I didn't bother to run the course on Thursday when it was sparkling clear. It looks fabulous without the snow. Also awesome in the snow, but a whole different vibe. I enjoyed the experience and I'd do it again I may do so - I'd love to show my wife a bit of Finland. I went to both the brew pubs. And a beer cafe where we were talked through a flight of six different beers by people who obviously knew their stuff. I liked the Plevna restaurant best. Had dinner there twice over, to be honest. Their Bock was a great drop. Great write-up!

Andy PottsWritten by Andy Potts

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