Kõik postitused
21. May 2024

20 marathons in 10 days all under 3 hours

From the 21st to the 30th of May, I will be running two marathons (i.e. a total of 84.4 km) each day on 400-meter stadiums, for 10 days in a row. The primary goal is to run all marathons under the magical 3-hour. To achieve sub-3-hour marathons, I need to run at a pace of 14.1 km/h, which translates to a speed of 4 minutes and 16 seconds per kilometer. Since I need to allow some extra time in case of unplanned stops (such as restroom breaks, changing clothes, etc.), the plan is to run an average of 100 seconds per stadium lap. This makes the average kilometer pace 4 minutes and 10 seconds, resulting in a marathon finishing time of 2 hours and 55 minutes.

This is my second attempt - namely, I undertook this challenge for the first time in 2021 (see more here).  
Foto: Jakob Meier

What are the three biggest changes in this current challenge?

  • Unlike the previous time when I ran on open roads and streets, this time I'm moving the entire endeavor to 400-meter stadiums.
  • While previously I started the first marathon around 10 a.m. and the second marathon around 6 p.m., with only 5 hours between the two marathons during the day and 13 hours at night, this time I will leave about more-less equal time between the marathons both day and night. I plan to start the first marathon around 8 a.m. in the morning and the second one around 7 p.m. in the evening.
  • While last time I ran all marathons near my home on an 8.44 km loop, this time the plan is to change locations, running in five cites (Tartu, Viljandi, Pärnu, Tallinn, and Vinni). I plan to change cities with a camping car to avoid disrupting the recovery process. Since the body is still adapting in the first few days and they are expected to be the most challenging, I will run the first 7 marathons, or 3.5 days, in Tartu, then I will start changing cities (see below). I will finish the last marathons again in my hometown, Tartu. 

Main rules

  • I have to complete 2 marathons within 24 hours (the timing starts with the exact start time of the first marathon);
  • I must run exactly 42.2 km each time; 
  • time is uninterrupted - i.e. any short-term forced stops (e.g. using the restroom) do not stop time;
  • I won't use other runners to maintain pace or get a draft.

Why the stadium and what makes this challenge difficult besides the distance and the time goal?

The idea of running on the stadium came to me after participating for the first time in a 24-hour run on a 308-meter stadium in Ida-Virumaa in 2022. Despite very changeable and challenging weather conditions, I managed to set an Estonian record (245,17 km) for the 24-hour run there.

Running on a stadium has its pros and cons, but for me, the pros outweigh the cons. Mentally, it's very challenging to run 2110 stadium laps in 10 days. Hopefully, changing stadiums will alleviate this somewhat. In addition, running around the stadium for such a long time puts extra pressure on the muscles - to alleviate this, I plan to run half the time clockwise and the other half counterclockwise whenever possible. Another advantage is that it's much easier to maintain a steady pace. Last time, I completed the first marathon in 2 hours, 45 minutes, and 58 seconds.

Another advantage is that when running in the stadium it is easier to organize timing, nutrition and changing equipment if needed.
In case of windy and rainy weather, the advantage is that the water does not remain as a puddle on the running track, and I have to fight the wind for 200 meters, after which the 200 m can be taken more easily. It's also good that all the worries of running in open traffic, such as cars and pedestrians, and crossing roads, are eliminated.

Another important challenge is dealing with little sleep. Although it may seem that there is enough time between marathons to sleep, in reality, there will be very little time for sleep. Most of the time outside of running will be spent on recovery processes (such as nutrition, warming up and relaxing, including stretching, massage) - I need to consume about 10,000 kcal per day, primarily when I'm not running. A lot of time is also taken up by logistics (moving to stadiums, changing cities, preparing food and stuff for the next marathon, etc.).

Comparing this endeavor to a 60-fold ultra-triathlon, although it lasts only 10 days and is seemingly easier in terms of the mental aspect, the complexity lies in the physical aspect. During an ultra-triathlon, the muscles largely recover from the previous day's marathon with swimming and cycling, and then running with warmed-up muscles is much easier. Now, however, I have to run twice as much, do it at a faster pace, and have only a few hours for recovery between marathons.

Although I probably can't foresee all the difficulties and unexpected obstacles today, some of the toughest moments are likely to be related to lack of sleep and starting a run with legs still stiff from a previous marathon. But time will tell what difficulties and unexpected things await me and how I will manage to overcome them.

I will start documenting each day in the blog, noting how much time each marathon takes, how much energy I expend, what my heart rate is while running, how much I sleep, etc. Live results will be available during the challenge HERE.

You are welcome to cheer me on and, if you wish, try to run the last kilometers of the marathon with me!

Locations and schedule:

May 21 (Tartu)
Start at 8 at Tamme Stadium
Start at 19 at Ülenurme Stadium

May 22 (Tartu)

Start at 8 at Tamme Stadium
Start at 19 at Tamme Stadium

May 23 (Tartu)
Start at 8 at Ülenurme Stadium
Start at 19 at Tamme Stadium

May 24 (Tartu / Viljandi)
Start at 8 at Tamme Stadium
Start at 19 at Viljandi Stadium

May 25 (Pärnu)
Start at 8 at Pärnu Stadium
Start at 19 at Pärnu Stadium

May 26 (Pärnu / Tallinna)
Start at 8 at Pärnu Stadium
Start at 19 at Kadrioru Stadium in Tallinn

May 27 (Tallinna / Vinni)
Start at 8 at Kadrioru Stadium in Tallinn
Start at 19 at Vinni Stadium

May 28 (Vinni / Tartu)
Start at 8 at Vinni Stadium
Start at 19 at Tamme Stadium

May 29 (Tartu)
Start at 8 at Ülenurme Stadium
Start at 19 at Tamme Stadium

May 30 (Tartu)
Start at 8 at Tamme Stadium
Start at 14:45 at Ülenurme Stadium.