“A true champion can accomplish things that a normal person would think impossible.”
We always love when people write to us and share their crazy stories. Over here is a story of our friend who wanted to test his limits and see how far he can go!
The idea of doing a 24h run started after my first 100 kilometers running competition. Being the youngest participant over there (only at the age of 21) I decided to take part in the Haanja 100 km that was the greatest challenge for me so far. With my last strength finishing the race I knew that this is not gonna be the spot where I will leave my crazy challenges. Nono…I got hooked even more! I wanted to see how far I can push myself and test my limits, and now I had cool friends, with whom I was able to do that.
Where the idea to run 24 hours started?
Martin and Birgitti, those were the guys I was running the ultramarathon with, and after finishing the race, they were already offering me a new challenge – a 24-hour run, but I have to say, the first time I heard that, just after finishing my first ultra-marathon, the voice in my head was telling me: “No way I am gonna do this!” After finishing the 100 km running race in 13 hours, my analytical mind was telling me, if I run for 24 hours, there is no way I’ll survive it! It seemed impossible. At that time it was a big NO, but there was still half a year remaining until it took place, so without any effort, I forgot about it.
My Final decision
It took me 3 times to finally decide that I was going to do it, the 3rd time being approximately 2 months before the said day. The organizers had just announced that the applications for it had just opened up and one of my friends, Kristo, had already applied, making him the first one to do it. It made me think, “Okay if he’s gonna do it, I have to do it as well!” I always liked challenges, so I filled out the application, paid for it, and we both started to figure out how we are going to pull this off.
How did I prepare for it?
Since there were only 2 months left until the race I had to make the days count. The situation was almost the same as for Haanja 100, the difference being that I had only one month to prepare and one month before that event I hadn’t even run a marathon ever in my life. I wanted to hit the wall!
Experienced runners will know that usually after 3 hours of running you are experiencing a phenomenon called “Hitting the wall”. In practical terms, it’s the stage of running when you have a sudden energy loss and because of that it’s hard to keep on going, and the only thing that keeps you going after that is your willpower and your strength of character.
To prepare for my 24-hour race I did way more than I had done for my previous 100 km´s prep. Within those 2 months, I ran 4 marathons, the last one being 2 weeks before the race, where I got to the point when I wasn’t experiencing “hitting the wall” anymore (I felt stronger than ever). I spent a lot of time in the gym training my core muscles and upper body and squatting until I felt ready. But can you even make yourself ready for this? Last week I spent resting, it was the perfect time to revise our running plan and gather the supplies.
About the competition and our plan
Organizers give you a tracking chip and you can run to wherever you want, even to Russia. I and Kristo decided to run from Põltsamaa (Estonia), all the way to Valmiera, the city where I was living (Latvia). In total it would be 150 kilometers. That was our main goal, but later on we had another idea to try and get even further to Cēsis, which would be an additional 30 kilometers reaching a total distance of 180 kilometers.
Pretty simple plan, right? “We can do it!” We were ready to take up the challenge!
In the morning we both had a really big breakfast, to have enough fuel for the challenge that was coming up. I checked my bag one more time to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. Kristo was already waiting for me, ready to go!
The Race began, but we forgot to look at the map. How do we get out of Põltsamaa? For both of us, it was the first time in this city. Kristo grabbed his phone in a hurry, searched the city of Valmiera and we were good to go. We knew that it was going to be a tough challenge. We had a strategy to save our energy during the 24 hours, we decided to switch between running and walking, we planned to run 30 minutes and after that 10 minutes of walking, continuing that for 24 hours.
As we started, soon we had a bad feeling that we had been running the wrong way, we couldn’t see any other runners anymore, Kristo took the map out and it was true, we had been running almost one kilometer in the wrong direction, how stupid was that? Still in the first hour and we already needed to turn around. We knew that we were behind schedule, we slightly increased our tempo. It was almost 1 PM and running further down the new road that google gave us we saw that it was overflown. Time was pressuring us, we had no choice, we took our running shoes off and started to walk through the ice-cold water.
My feet felt cold while I was on my way to Põltsamaa, but now after crossing the overflown lake and putting on my running shoes again my feet were burning up. We both didn’t expect to have such an obstacle today ahead of us, but I have to say, overcoming made our day. We continued with the race as planned.
At 6 PM we reached our first milestone, getting to Viljandi. After running for 6 hours, the gels and protein bars that we ate started to give us a bad feeling.
As we ran further, I got to know that Kristo’s right knee didn’t feel so good and he couldn’t run anymore (at least not fast). It came to me as a surprise, “what do people do at such moments?” I asked myself, “I can run, but he can’t, I can’t leave him alone, what do I do? How can I help him?” One was for sure I wasn’t ready to leave him alone. Yes, I wanted to win this competition, I thought that we had a really big chance of doing it, but I wouldn’t forgive myself if I would run off alone. I just knew that we needed to do this together! No matter how far we get. Next hours we were just walking as fast as we could and having fun with each other until we got to our next checkpoint.
Getting dark (12 hours of running)
Without being able to run anymore, our body temperature dropped as did the temperature around us. Everything went dark, the only light source being our headlamps. Still, we kept going:”slow-mo is better than no mo.” We had been walking for more than 6 hours now, it was past noon. We needed warm clothes. Our teeth were starting to tremble. I called my dad asking to help us out. Time hit 1 AM he finally found us.
He showed up and let out his bad joke: “What are you guys doing here in the middle of the night, aren’t you cold?” he was smiling.
-“Haha, very funny dad!”
We changed our clothes; Kristo popped his blisters and with extra warm gloves, we were ready to continue!
Getting closer to the border
We still needed to cross the border, but now we had my dad who offered to stay with us all night long. He was keeping our supplies and following us with the car. Our speed doubled and we felt like we got a second breath. Kristo´s knee felt much better, I don’t know how, but he managed to fix it (probably did some engineering magic). Also, I no longer had any trembling teeth, I was wearing two pairs of pants, three long-sleeved shirts, two jackets, one hat, and two pairs of really warm gloves. That’s how much it took for me to get warm. Walking in the dark with only our headlamps on, we started to joke about the wild animals that might be watching us from the forest and thinking about their next meal, the perfect thing to talk about when being alone, at night, in the middle of the forest.
Crossing the border
We kept moving forward through the forest until we got to the Valga-Uulu highway. From there on out, our route was pretty easy, no more going through forests until we got to the border.
It was around 7 AM when we crossed the Latvian border. It was a beautiful morning. The sun started to warm up the air and finally, I was able to start losing some layers of clothing that I had put on. In total 41 people were doing this, but at this point, less than a half were still going. Us being at a respectable 14th and 15th place, the results were pretty close, first place being 40 kilometers ahead of us.
We took a little break in a car
‘I was looking at the Kristo and I saw he was sleeping:
“Kristo! Wake up! It’s time to go! Already 20 minutes have passed! We have to go!” I said while tapping on his shoulder.
“Aha..” he replied.
We started to move forward: “You know, we were in the car only for 5 minutes.”
He was shocked: “You lied? Aaah…!”
We both laughed.
The mindset in the end
We had come a long way with only one hour to spare. We took a small break, during which time I and Kristo had a small conversation. We agreed that since it was our last hour, we would give it everything we had. Now, only with 50 minutes left, after being on my feet for 23 hours, starting to run again was not easy. Every muscle, every joint in both of my legs hurt like never before. It was almost like it was my first time running, if somebody would look at me from the side they wouldn’t even be able to call it running, every step that I took was different from the other. The pain was agonizing, but I couldn’t let it hold me back. As I started to run faster and faster, the pain I got, ran smaller and smaller. I used it to my advantage and kept on running, now I was afraid to stop. Time flew fast, as well as the energy that was left in me. I just kept on looking at my watch.
30 minutes left.. 20 minutes … 10 … 5 …
“Let’s go! Faster! I still have energy!” I kept telling myself with an angry voice.
I looked at the watch: 1 minute left… 30 seconds… 10 seconds… 3…2…1…
…clock hit 12PM…
I was exhausted and stopped. My feet were shaking like never before. I could barely stand. I sat down at a nearby fallen tree to wait for my dad and Kristo to come. Not long after my dad was calling me and asking:
“Where are you? How far did you get?”
To be honest I had no idea… “Far, I guess?”
After 5 minutes, he finally appeared.
24 hours Later it’s time for victory picture
Kristo climbed out of the car saying: “Arturs, we have to take a picture!”
“Okay, let’s do it!”, saying that sentence, I understood that I could barely talk, my body was shutting down.
We quickly took a picture and with my last strengths, I climbed into the car.
“You ran a pretty far distance in those 50 minutes,” my dad told me.
“How far was it?” I was wondering.
He looked at the car’s odometer: “I would say… more than 11 kilometers.”
“11 kilometers?” I had no idea where I got the strength to run that far after 24 hours.
Our journey ended
Those were some of the best 24 hours I ever had. I managed to run 120 km and Kristo around 110 km! It was a hell of a strong finish. Thank you, Kristo for doing this along my side, and a big thanks to my dad as well who was huge support for us!
What did I learn?
This challenge taught me that I am capable of doing more than I think I can. It may seem impossible at first, but only with great courage and a desire to become a better version of myself was it possible to overcome those limits. I encourage you to do the same. Always take one step further and expand the barrier of your beliefs. 🙂