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võhandu marathon

Võhandu marathon – Rowing 100 KM

    “We are not divers”


    Võhandu marathon, well this is not just a random marathon, it is something unique, that tests your limits and makes you understand what steel you are made of!

    What is that magnificent Võhandu marathon, where we have participated in the previous two years and many people talk about it!? Võhandu marathon is one of the most uncommon marathons in the world, where different people with different backgrounds from all over the world are competing with each other and also with themselves. Yes, it is a rowing marathon, not a running race, so you have to ROW 100 km long river sections by boat and yes, without an engine (what we wanted to have). Võhandu marathon distance itself looks scary, so yeah the first time when we participated we did not know what was going to wait for us ahead.

    First time to start Võhandu marathon

    That excitement we had before our first time… was crazy. We thought about how hard it can be or what the heck can go wrong, we are two tough guys. We should finish like 10-12h easily. No big deal! We even did not have a specific meal plan. The only thing we knew was that we need to keep carbohydrates up. We took some snacks with us to our two-man canoe, but these things were not also professional choices, and most of the foods watered through.

    Professional support team

    To be an even slightly professional rowing team, we had a high-level escort team. We called them the dream team who refilled our food throughout the day and also helped us to carry our boat. In some sections we had to carry our boat because of high rapids, otherwise, our journey would have ended badly. 

    Võhandu marathon start
    Somewhere at the beginning. We are second.

    rowing 100 kM

    Well yes, 100 km, it is a long, very long distance. When you ever have rowed with a canoe, then usually about an hour or two and after that, you are exhausted and your butt hurts (because you have to sit all the time). But still, we did Võhandu marathon the whole day intending to finish before dark, we rowed with the same speed and determination as Vikings in ancient times. But it was not an easy road for us because I remember we were totally out of energy when we reached the 50km mark. Then we had thoughts, that why the heck we came here. So we decided to do a toilet break! 

    giving up is not an option

    After the toilet break we had new energy and we thought “Ah f*** it, let’s go!” 

    Last 50km the cutter was slower and so we had to row harder and luckily they gave us Redbull! Yes, it gave us the wings because as we got closer to the finish line we started to row faster and faster to get to the hot sauna. 

    Our goal was to finish before the dark and we did it.

    Our goal was to be alive after the race and surprise surprise we were.

    How long did it take? Only 14h, not so bad for the first time rowing in mighty Võhandu marathon.

    Võhandu marathon finish year one
    Together with our speedboat

    Next year again?

    We were in such a big euphoria when we finished Võhandu marathon and we forgot our pain and whine what we had on the rowing battlefield! What was in the end? Yes, yes… That is right, SAUNA! 

    Sauna is like a church for us where we always get motivation for new ideas. We hit the sauna and we thought: “Oh yeah, Võhandu marathon. Let’s do it again next year…”

    One year later 2019

    Ou yeah we are back and ready for another Võhandu marathon. We thought the second time was going to be easier because we are prepared better than before, we knew what was coming up and we already had done it once.  We rented a car, picked up our new canoe. Well because we thought last year’s canoe was too slow and we chose a bigger one.

    Ready for Võhandu marathon
    Second year we are stonger and smarter?

    Also this time we took one more friend with us and now there were three guys in the boat. I know I know. Most of you would say that canoeing is not for three persons and It is hard to admit but it is true. Our boat was so unstable and the second year of Võhandu marathon was not easier!

    Expectations vs reality

    First of all, we were slower. Middle buddy could not paddle because we were so close to each other. Second of all, our boat was unstable because of the weight so we managed to capsize three times. Little fun for the public but it was cold as hell. No worries, the crew and boat got no harm. Not to whine but the river was lower so the current was slow. 

    Fun fact: our boat was not faster than the last one (like we thought). We found out that we just were weaker!

    We also had some goals

    12 h – fail

    Finish before the dark – failed again

    This year we managed to finish one hour later than the previous year. On the positive side, we got some swimming lessons and learned how to capsize fast!

    Two years of Võhandu marathon’s is done. Another fun fact: together for two years we have rowed 30 hours now. 

    “Our boat was unstable so we managed to capsize three times. Little fun to the public but it was cold as hell”

    Võhandu marathon finish year two
    Second year finished!

    Why the heck people are doing this crazy ultra-marathon? 

    Firstly, it tests your stamina and of course mental strength. So are you ready to finish it no matter what happens? ARE YOU? If the answer is yes, then you probably are tough enough to participate in the Võhandu marathon. 

    I think it is one of the things everyone should try (at least once). It does not have to be Võhandu and you do not have to be a professional! There are tons of rowing marathons out there. You have a chance to spend all day in nature and get some suntan as well. And of course the feeling you get when you hit the sauna. Oohh damn.

    Although the distance is the same every year and the pain is even stronger, because you remember every rock and tree, we still are going back. We want to experience that feeling over and over again. That is what makes us more alive.

    Happy to finish and happier to go to SAUNA!

    Another year later 2020

    Another year and another Võhandu marathon. This time everything was different. Firstly, Erki was travelling around Europe and the world was in a difficult place and time when covid was going around (for the first time). We all know about covid. Võhandu was planned to take place in april but because of the covid it was postponed to september.

    Erki left for his travels in july. Võhandu took place in September and this time Martin needed to do it alone. 

    Remember that it used to take place in the beginning of April. 

    • This time of the year it was still cold. But now it was warm. 
    • In spring water flow is faster. Because the snow is melting and the water level is high. This time the water level was low and the flow was also small.

    How did it start this year?

    This year Martin rented a one person kayak. It’s a little different then two person one. It seemed a little more unstable. But I didn´t capsize (so it’s a win). 

    Because of the covid, there was no sleeping in the school this time. So he took my tent and just took it with me to the starting area. This was also a place he stayed the night. 

    He had no other team with him so he talked with friends to make little logistics. Martin left his car to finish and they left their car to the start. That way everyone had transport to home.


    September 5th, 07:00 it was the start of another Võhandu marathon. Martin went on faster than ever. He had already done that two times before. That means he is almost a veteran (he thought that). But jokes on him. 30 minutes had passed and he remembered that he forgot clothes. Damn.

    So another hour has passed and Martin´s back started to hurt like hell. Nothing to say here: weak muscles, that is all! Even though he had excuses that the seat was bad and so on… 

    What was the goal?

    võhandu marathon alone
    Third time done and this time alone

    The goal was to beat the first year and finish within 11 hours. The river was slow but it didn’t hesitate Martin to row like Jüri Jaanson (Estonian rower). The time went fast. No capsizing, only moving. 

    Sooner or later he realised that he can’t beat 11 hours so the final time was 13 hours and 50 minutes. 

    What did he learn after rowing alone?

    Rowing alone in Võhandu marathon is much harder than it´s with a friend or a group. No one to talk with. When you hit the wall then you take the hit alone. 

    Still it’s a different way to go out of your comfort zone. New way how to challenge yourself. 

    This time there was no sauna in the end! After such an effort, What the…?

    Next year again? We’ll see!

    rowing 100 km

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