Marathon Dream

By Kärt Radik (Estonia)


In my childhood I was extremely fond of any sport including athletics training for five years. I loved booth short or long distances - like 60 metres or any distances from one kilometre upwards. I told my friends and coach that one day I would like to run a marathon. At age 15 or 16 I ran a 10km forest trail run in 45 minutes - which was pretty remarkable. Somehow I stopped serious running for 20 years and only came back to it approaching the age of 40. I don’t know the exact reason I did but I just felt that I needed to complete a marathon before I turned 40. I thought that I would just run one marathon and that would be it.


The snow fell in October 2012 and disappeared only at the end of April 2013. It was not the best time to train for my first marathon. I did a lot of cross-country skiing, went to the gym and used indoor sport halls. I made training plans and registered for the Riga Marathon which was taking place in May. I love the city – not too far away and good for a first marathon in early spring. But we never had a spring in 2013 as Riga welcomed us with thunderstorm the day before and 25C-33C on marathon day. The night before we had a nice pasta party with friends including a glass of wine. The nightmare started after 23.00 in the hotel. I was so excited that I just could not sleep. It was 04.00 when I opened the minibar in order to have some drink-assisted sleep. Perhaps I slept hour or a bit more, but no way was I  going to give up on my dream. The morning was already extremely hot and the Riga Marathon course is quite difficult because of its many bridges. I only knew that I had to finish. 4 hours and 44 minutes later I could feel proud of myself that I ‘just did it’.



I had a dream before Riga that I could easily run a marathon in 4 hours: 10km per hour and another 2km for the whole distance. After Riga I decided that I had to keep running until I could cover 42,2km in four hours. I joined a training group to motivate myself more and competed with younger people. Five months after Riga I finished the Tartu Marathon (in Estonia’s second city) in 4:15 - 29 minutes better than in Riga. There is always hope! Besides sport I love to travel and running in Tartu made me think that it would be nice to combine travelling with marathons. I wanted to find interesting places as destinations, with the chance to run a marathon - as a kind of four hours’ city tour.



As I worked as a sports journalist on a freelance basis and my very first interview was with Jane Salumäe who still holds Estonian national records at the Half Marathon and Marathon (1:10 & 2:27). I came up with the idea of asking Jane to make training plans for me to reach my goal. Our cooperation started in January 2015 with hard training and absolute discipline. I never gave up white chocolate or some glasses of wine with friends on weekends but I completed the training Jane planned for me 100%. I chose the Tallinn Marathon, held  in September, in which to fulfill my dream.



New year started differently compared to previous years with tempo, fartlek, long runs and intervals. Jane sent me plans for running and gym workouts every week and we analysed the results. No pressure: I did what I had to do and felt stronger and stronger every day. I was brave enough to run another marathon only one month before my target race. Tallinn Marathon was my 10th and I had developed certain pre-race routines to ensure complete relaxation: pasta, glass of white wine, a sleeping tablet. Only this time I took valerian instead of a sleeping pill because sleeping pills relax the muscles too much. Thanks to my coach Jane I had also made my marathon mornings very simple: coffee, toast with jam, an isotonic drink. Jane’s rule is “Don’t ever change your breakfast routine - if you drink coffee, drink it before the marathon as well”.


I put 3 gels, 2 caffeine tablets and 1 painkiller into my pants pocket and was ready to run. I did not mention my goal out loud but I was sure that I could run under 4 hours. I also decided to run alone, without any pace maker, because only this way could my dream come true. The Tallinn Marathon course consisted of two equal laps, most of which were run by the sea. I finished the first 21,1 km in 1.50 and entire marathon in 3:54:58. Most importantly, I was confident that I could control my race from start to finish.



I had continued to combine my passion for travel with marathon tourism. Riga marathon was a kind of home marathon for me. In 2014 I ran in Hamburg on a single-lap course which was perfect to appreciate the charm of the city. The start and finish were at Hamburg's TV Tower and Exhibition Center. We passed through Altona and St.Paul districts, the harbour, Fischmarkt, famous canals, the Reeperbahn “Red Light” area, the old town, the tunnels, Lake Alster and magnificent villas. At the end of the same year I ran with my friends on one of the most beautiful marathon routes in Europe. Starting in Nice the route runs through the beautiful town of Antibes along the seafront and through small villages to Cannes. The catchphrase of the race: "It's Nice and You Cannes" can’t be more fitting.


My next foreign marathon took place in one of my favorite cities, Valencia. I chose it because of the terribly bad weather we have in Estonia in November and the temptation of combining a marathon with a holiday in southern Spain. I had also heard of how the Spaniards line the course and shout encouragement. The course itself is great, combining both the beautiful old town and the imposing Arts and Sciences complex designed by the famous Valencia architect Santiago Calatrava where there is a spectacular finish to the race. Although I had eaten the "wrong" food the day before and struggled with stomach problems during the marathon, I finished with an ok time, 4:05.


I waited a long time for my next foreign marathon and it was one of the hardest in my life. Helsinki has a difficult route, very volatile weather conditions and there are fewer spectators than in most European cities and Mediterranean countries. But I did it and in doing so completed marathons in all neighbouring northern countries.


Next I decided to run in Ireland because during the Soviet era it was the first and last destination I traveled to. I remembered the friendly Irish people and the green views. With the help of google, I found the Connemara Marathon in Connemara National Park, run in April. The start was on a narrow winding road from Lough Inagh and we passed pleasantly up and down the undulations, where spectators were replaced by enchanting views in which Connemara’s predominantly green landscape was complemented by brownish early spring tones.


Where the next foreign marathon takes place is no longer up to me. Let’s see!


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