For the past seven years, the Estonian winter capital, Otepää, has played host to the world’s biggest sauna marathon, where hundreds of competitors sweat to visit as many of the outposts as possible in the shortest time.
The European Sauna Marathon, as it’s called, was held for the seventh time on 6 February. Over 900 participants from 217 teams, including 12 international ones, had to track down and visit the given saunas in the Otepää area as quickly as possible.
The rules state that each team will get an orienteering map showing the locations of the saunas and the competition guide. All team members must be in a sauna for at least three minutes. As a bonus, there are also ice holes, plunge pools and other attractions and entertainment provided by sauna owners. When entering a sauna, every team must give their sauna chart to the owner of the sauna. The sauna owner confirms that the team members completed the sauna by marking their sauna chart. The winner will be the team that completes all of the saunas in the shortest time. After the competition, participants can also offer their verdict and choose the best sauna.
The European Sauna Marathon attracted 12 international teams this year: from Greece, France, Russia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania and the United Kingdom, including the staff from the British Embassy in Tallinn, led by the ambassador, Chris Holtby.
This year’s winning team won the race in two hours and 55 minutes.
Estonia’s national love affair with the sauna is going back many centuries and is rivalled only by the neighbouring Finland, where “taking a sauna” is an even more regular and usual activity.
Pictures courtesy of the European Sauna Marathon.