The "Scoutsrännak" military sports race took place for the 20th time this week, at the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) Central Training Area (Keskpolügoon) in Harju County, with a record 1,441 people embarking on the arduous, 30-kilometer course.
The tradition of scouts travel was introduced by the Scouts Battalion, and the first journeys took place at the then location of the troop on the Pakri peninsula. It was originally a joint event for power structures, modelled on the Danes' march in mission areas – getting to know each other, but also taking measurements.
The EDF's Scouts Battalion (Scoutspataljon) initiated the tradition, with the first event taking part on the Pakri peninsula, near Paldiski. Modeled on a Danish military event, the Scoustrännak was originally intended for different ranks to compete and get to know each other, but also to assess fitness and other capabilities.
Lt. Col. Ranno Raudsik, the Scouts Battalion's commanding officer, told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) that: "When an infantry soldier performs an attack operation, then their average distance traveled per day could be from 15 to 25km, depending on the task at hand."
"This 30km distance therefore requires kind of effort where you have to get out of your normal comfort zone," Lt. Col. Raudsik went on.
By the present day, the trek has transformed into an open military sports day, with the EDF's competitive section just one aspect of it. Uniformed personnel must carry a day-sack containing at least 10kg (c. 22lbs) of equipment, plus their service weapon, ie. a several more kilograms (see gallery above).
Non-EDF guest participants must also carry a total weight of 15kg with them, while there is also an extra sports category which does not involve carrying weight.
The race can be conducted as a run, a speed march, a walk, or at any pace that suits the competitor.
One entrant, Gunnar, told AK that: "The plan is right now that we'll run for 10km, walk for 10km then we'll crack on to the finish as it comes."
Another, Liis, said: "You definitely have to distribute your energy over that 30km; there is nothing to be gained from going like a bat out of hell right from the start."
Participating British, U.S. and French soldiers in Estonia, including those based at Tapa, were taking part for their first time.
Leivo Sepp won the 15kg load carry category, while the equipment run category was won by Steven Rehelem, a Police and Border Guard Board operative, AK reported.
Rehelem said: "You just have to walk the dog over and over again, and that's how the miles rack up [in preparation for the event]."
"I got only a little running in, but the marathon I did last year counted for something and I was able to beat last year's track record," he added.
As for the dog, Rehelem said, "They stayed at home, they can't last an entire 30km."
Past participants of the event include former President Kersti Kaljulaid.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael
Source: Aktuaalne kaamera