The car came to a stop at the side of the road and I jumped out, saying goodbye to the father of my girlfriend, and he drove away. I sat myself down at the side of the road, looking over the food-supply that I was carrying with me in my rucksack.
I had hitched a ride to Kuressaare, a town on the south coast of the island Saaremaa. Strapping the rucksack to my back, I began trotting in the direction where we had driven from. I was feeling a bit stiff and did a quick warm-up followed by some light stretching. I continued running about a kilometre, to get in the right mode, until I stopped again and ate my first package of yoghurt outside a roadside B&B.
Running on the shoulder of the big asphalt road leading North from Kuressaare, I felt fresh, although my destination was far away. I was passing golden fields, little patches of thick forest, and occasional remnants of the Soviet Union’s grasp of Estonia.
I had stopped, reaching for a bottle of milk inside my rucksack, only finding that something wasn’t right. I pulled it out, it was covered in mango yoghurt. I guess I can’t blame the producers for not making the tin-foil lid resistant to bouncing around my backpack for hours. I drank the remainders and moved on. Soon after, my stomach started to complain about the stupendous yoghurt intake.
Running wasn’t as easy as I remembered it. Maybe my pace was to high. The warm weather had left the back of my tank top soaked through and my forehead was dripping with salty sweat. I was hurting in many places, my feet especially. Still, I needed to get home.
I had gone out hard, leaving me with fewer resources in the second half of my run. This was when things got really hard. The road signs showing me how long I had to go seemed to be playing tricks on me. The distance between the signs saying thirteen and ten kilometres felt more like seven. While relieving myself in a ditch alongside the road, I did find some motivation in the form of blackberries.
Suddenly I saw that there was something blocking the road ahead. Cows. Some farmers were moving cows from one pasture to another. I heard a car coming from far behind us and I realized the speed limit was probably ninety kilometres-per-hour here.
As there were cows standing motionless in the middle of the road, I turned around, making the sign for slowing down with my arms. It took a while, but eventually the approaching Chrysler showed signs of slowing down – to a complete halt. The farmers rushed their cows to cross and the car could eventually pass.
I walked up to the guy standing closest to me and asked him in English if they had moved all of the cows now. Silence. I tried with some hand gestures. He just shook his head at me. Too tired to keep trying, I decided to run along. Either he didn’t speak English, or he just didn’t care for mingling with strangers like me.
“Now it’s starting to feel quite tough,” I spoke towards the camera that was bobbing in my hand. “Blisters on the insides of my feet, a slight pain in the left footpad, stiff calves and knees, nothing in the hips, some tension in my torso and back. I’m tired, very tired. But I don’t think I have very far to go, hopefully about three kilometres, but it’s going slow.”
My posture was bad, my body was hurting and often my stride would turn into a walk. I would set my sight on the patch of road turning out of my view in the far distance, hoping that the gas station right outside of the village would be just behind it. For many curves, it never was. There was just another one in the far distance.
Until finally, it was. And when I saw the gas station, I knew that I was very close, and some of the pain in my tight muscles disappeared. Now that the end was close, the fatigue I felt was joined by another feeling. Drunkenness. I had reached Leisi, a village on the North coast of Saaremaa that I rode away from in the morning. My destination was the village store, and when it suddenly and finally appeared behind a bush – well, I’ll tell you it was a good feeling and a sight for sore legs. I did some shopping, and jogged the last bit home.
It was not until the day after, that I realized I actually had run across the whole island in a South-to-North direction. I measured the distance to 39,5 kilometres. Standing outside the little village shop, the clock on my cell phone had displayed 17:05. Taking the starting time of 12:06 in perspective, it took me 4 hours and 59 minutes.
Sense of achievement!