The Plan to Run Estonia
‘The more I’m confronted by the fragility of life, the more I’m convinced I must live it heartily.’ – Cadi
Christmas seems to be a good time for me to choose an adventure. Perhaps it’s the downtime I finally get. The chance to sit and think up plans. The thought of escaping the cold, dark winter. This Christmas I decided it was time; I needed to choose another country to run.
I’d been wanting to visit Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia since pre-Covid times. I’d even bought the map and guide book. At that point I thought I would be going alone. That I’d probably take a bike and do some running and cycling in all the countries. But now I had a new friend, an adventure buddy called Jolene, who might just be up for doing something really big! And it just so happened that friends family were from Estonia. One text message later and Run Estonia was born!
The route for Run Estonia
We’re blessed with some wonderful long distance paths here in the UK but I had no idea whether Estonia would have anything similar. So I was incredibly happy to discover their state forest management company (RMK) have created some fantastic routes, including one which takes in the length of the country! The Oandu-Ikla Trail is 375km (230miles) long. Starting by the sea in the North it travels through forests and bog landscapes before finally reaching the sea again on the country’s border with Latvia.
It is well waymarked and there are an abundance of free camping sites along the way, where you can just pitch up with out booking. Added to this the RMK have done some great work with clear information about the route online. This was it, our adventure was chosen.
How we’re going to do it
On July 7th 2023 Jolene and I will fly out to Tallinn, Estonia. The following day we will travel by bus or taxi to the start point – the Oandu Nature Centre in the Lahemaa National Park. There are buses which run there but for the life of us we can’t quite work them out! Hopefully it will be a lot easier once we’re in the country but if not it will be a taxi!
We have seven to eight days to complete our run. That means an average distance of 53km (32miles) per day – for seven days. A whole week of ultra-runs. Gulp!
When we reach the end we will get a bus into Lativa and to a rather lovely hotel we have booked in Riga. There we will have a couple of days to soothe our aching bodies before flying home. Simple…right?!
There is one more thing…
Added to that, we will be carrying all our own kit! There aren’t many places to get food on the route, so we’ll be carrying seven days worth of dehydrated meals, protein shakes and snacks. There is an abundance of water sources, so we’ll just need a water purifier for that.
We will be camping all the way. And we’re constantly trying to discover lighter kit. I’ll do a separate post on the kit we’re taking. We have a super lightweight tent, which doesn’t require poles, as you use your running poles for structure. Very light sleeping bags and liners – you get the picture.
We spend much of our waking time thinking of where we can shave a little weight off our kit – it turns out a child’s bamboo toothbrush is the best tooth cleaning option!
Clothing has to be considered. It’s going to be warm out there but there will also be mosquitos and chaffing! Which brings me to…
The wildlife on Run Estonia
Bears. Bears have been on my mind a lot lately. And wolves, wild boar, moose and lynx. Mainly it’s the bears which are on my mind.
We must make a lot of noise to make sure they hear us coming. But on a two day training run in Norfolk we found the effort of talking whilst trying to run with 12kg packs on our backs just a bit much. Hopefully our heavy feet and laboured breathing will give the game away.
It’s also important we don’t wear the clothes we are wearing when we cook when we sleep at night. They must go in a bag in a tree, along with our food.
I can’t pretend I’m not nervous about the bears. But, I’m assured that European Brown Bears are not particularly nasty and are also quite shy. It’s all part of the adventure.
Comparison is the thief of joy
How many times do I have to learn this in life?! For months now Jolene have been working on getting stronger. But she always seemed to be working so much harder than me. She had plans, a training regime. I was getting so scared. I felt I couldn’t do more than I was doing but what if I let her down once we were out there.
A few weeks ago we went on a training weekend to Norfolk. Running the 62 mile Weaver’s Way over two days, with fully loaded packs. And, phew, I discovered we are still a bloody good team! We run so well together, taking it in turns to be strong and supportive or quiet and digging deep. I now appreciate that I have a great details person on the team to compliment my more stop/start attitude to planning. You can read about our Norfolk adventure over on Jolene’s blog here.
The packs are heavy. They pull down on our shoulders and make muscles ache which I never normally feel. But I’m super happy with my choice, the 42l Deuter Women’s Alpine Backpack. Designed for mountaineers, it sits snug and close against my back. I’m aware from my Run Iceland 2018 attempt however that I need my back and arms to be strong for this adventure. So, for the first time in my life, I’ve started doing weights. And yes, I do pose in front of the mirror at times, to see if I’m looking stronger. I never thought I’d be that person!
Watch this space!
I will be posting plenty about our Run Estonia adventure in the coming weeks and hopefully keeping you updated as we go along too. You can subscribe below to be notified when I post on the blog. But also follow my adventures on Instagram and Facebook.