For the past six years, the Estonian winter capital, Otepää, has played host to a 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, will be held for the sixth time on 22 February. Participants have to track down and visit the given saunas in the Otepää area as quickly as possible.
The number of participants – over 700 sauna friends participated last year – shows a great and increasingly international interest in this event. Last year, there were participants from Latvia, Russia, Spain, Italy and Finland, aside Estonians. It even made world news, being a relatively rare event itself.
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. Last year’s winning team won the race in two hours and 29 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.
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.
Pre-registration to participate in the European Sauna Marathon is open until 10 February.
The European Sauna Marathon is organised by the Otepää Cultural Center, the Otepää Rural Municipality and saunaowners of Otepää.
Pictures: Otepää Sauna Marathon.