Two English volunteers at the Rantamaraton in Finland

From 17th to 19th September, the annual Rantamaraton took place by the seaside of Espoo City. Our Finish member was supported by two volunteers from St John Ambulance in England.

Jamie and Diamond travelled to Espoo where they joined Johanniter Finland and provided medical coverage and first aid to the runners and spectators. Here is what Jamie reports on her Volunteer Swap experience in Finland:

” We landed in Helsinki after a calm flight and managed to make time to see the sights of the city. It’s so vibrant and welcoming, and we wished we had more opportunities to explore.

We were met that evening by Pekka and Merja, the event coordinators for the trip. They kindly collected us and took us to our accommodation, where our hosts, Jukka and Marju, had prepared a delicious meal for us all. 

The next morning, we set off to the depot in Juva to prepare all the kits and meet some of the rest of the marathon team. It was here that Pekka gifted Diamond and me with Johanniter T-shirts, hats, scarves, and stickers, which we were very excited to receive. We then spent the rest of the day in Otaniemi (the finish line site), setting up the medical areas. During the process, we learned of the Finnish efficiency when it comes to putting up tents – and the ingenious use of crash mats (like the ones we have at school back home) as overflow beds! 

That evening we were welcomed into a lovely restaurant in Tapiola where we ate with some of the lovely folks from the team of Johanniter Finland. 

On the day of the marathon, we found ourselves at the treatment centre with around 20 volunteers, including medical students from the local university, paramedics, and Doctor Reijo Luoma, with whom we talked many times about his trips to the UK. The day started off slow but entertaining, with us cheering on a few rounds of surprisingly competitive children’s races. Then, after a short break (and some excellent hot food) it was time for the 5K, half-marathon and full-marathon to begin.

The team of Johanniter Finland with Diamond and Jamie (in Green) at the Espoo Rantamaraton.

The ambulance crew at the event were kind enough to allow myself and Diamond to be passengers as they drove some of the marathon route – my turn even included a blue light response to a patient! We had lots of laughs with the medical students while stationed at the finish line, which – due to the rainfall near the end of the day – was much appreciated. 

It was exciting to see how the Finland team worked. We learned that it is possible to do a lot with far fewer resources than we are fortunate enough to have access to in St John in the UK. We also learned that Finnish runners do a much better job of clearing the finish line for those that come after them than UK runners! 

Sunday was a very chilled but lovely day. One teammeber, Gustaf (pictured), was kind enough to take myself and Diamond on a trip to Nuuksio National Park, where we went on an 8km hike around the forests and lakes. We were both blown away by the gorgeous landscapes, and our phones are full of pictures! 

Gustav from Johanniter Finland with Diamond (left) and Jamie (right) at the Nuuksio National Park (all pictures by Jamie Thomas St John Ambulance)

And now, as I sit at the airport at 5 am waiting for our flight back to London (back in time to support the medical provision at Her Majesty’s funeral in Westminster), I’m able to reflect on the kindness and hospitality of the whole team of Johanniter Finland. We learned so much about this amazing country from them. 

We would like to give special thanks again to Merja and Pekka, and the rest of the Johanniter team for making us feel so welcomed on our trip. They are excited to welcome volunteers next year for an even bigger event! “