Estonia Ultra Trail Run 2019: Nature Run In Narva

Estonia Ultra Trail Race 2019
Trail run along wildflower bush - Estonia Ultra Trail 2019. Picture credit:Juri Vsivtsev

NOTE: This is the original edited version of the article published in Run SG magazine October & November 2019 issue and being renamed “A Little West of Russia – Estonia Ultra Trail”.

Narva: The Russian city of Estonia

During the long weekend of National Day and Eid Al-Adha holiday, I flew to a location I’ve never been before. Seeking a difference scenery and pleasant weather for trail racing adventure in Europe that turned out to be a memorable experience.

I travelled to Narva, a small easternmost city of Estonia located near the Russian border that is separated by Narva River. Narva was intriguing. Couldn’t help to notice how different it was to the capital of Tallinn. It has melancholy air to it, the majority of the local speaks Russian, and buildings from the past Soviet Union era remain. The city has a unique cultural background and historical landmarks that survived after WWII. The 13th century Herman Castle, as an example has been restored – is very popular among tourist.

Estonia Ultra Trail Race 2019
City of Narva where Estonia Ultra Trail being held offers historical landmark and sights such as Herman Castle by Narva River that separates border with Russia (bottom right), and Soviet era buildings (left).

Race Expo/Briefing, 9th August

Only a second year in operation, the Estonia Ultra Trail Race (EUTR) is aimed to develop and gain the interest of trail running in Estonia. The race is certificated by International Trail Running Association (ITRA).

A short stroll off the main road to Äkkekula Park, a welcome hug received from the race organiser, Alexander Tikhonov. His eyes showed warmth and friendliness despite speaking little English. I picked up the bib number for my 60km race (always big fan of small local event with no long queue!) and then checked out the route on the signboard.

Estonia Ultra Trail 2019
At race expo where hospitable welcome received from with the organiser Alexander Tikhonov and assistant, Anna Mesha. Picture credit: EUTR Photographer/Autori Foto 

I chatted to Anna Mesha who did the race briefing in English. A little worried that I didn’t get the vaccination as recommended, I asked Mesha about the tick activity mentioned in the email sent to the runners. According to her, the relatively mild summer temperature was not conducive for tick activity yet still precautions step required. “And those wild animals will run away when they see you!” she explained upon my question on the other concerned animals (e.g. wolf, wild boar, deer, or moose).

Party & Picnic

The race briefing vibe was relaxed and low key. Most runners were Estonian and a number from neighbouring countries of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Russia. We had a nice pasta party in a picnic setting. Runners were served by a local army from the defence forces unit. We feasted over pasta, rice porridge, tomato soup, and bread.

Estonia Ultra Trail Race 2019
Pasta party picnic style at Äkkekula Park served by the defense forces unit. Happy with vegetarian option.

Duct Tape Saviour

Returning to the hotel room with a full stomach, I started preparing for race bag. To my disappointment, I discovered a pair of old Saucony trail shoe being wrongly packed. Yes, the one with sole needing some repair! I fixed the left side with heavy-duty duct tape bought at the nearby store hoping it will survive the race.

Nature Run: Race Experience, 10th August

The race began at 5 am just 10 minutes before sunrise. Running along a single track of the tall wildflower bushes and sharp grasses may look easy, but not with an uneven surface. The rough trail continued into a short forest section. The enjoyable part was running along the undulating trail in the serene pine forest.

Estonia Ultra Trail Race 2019
Before the race start, writer (check out left side silver duct-taped shoe that hoped to solve sole issue) posed with new acquaintances – Junko Nakahara (left) and Aigars Bergs (right). Picture credit: Junko Nakahara
Estonia Ultra Trail Race 2019
Sunrise moment at Narva River. Picture credit: Juri Vsivtsev
Estonia Ultra Trail Race 2019
Refreshing nature and energising early morning run in the pine forest. Pictures credit: Juri Vsivtsev

Sprained & Sand

At around 8km (after we passed by Narva River), I twisted my left ankle when accidentally landed in a small hole. Screamed loudly when it happened, I then sat on the side and let few runners passed by the single track. Quickly put on Salonpas (pain relief patch) and slowly get up – limping at first, followed by shuffling but surely moving.

Around 7 am I reached a cafe by the shore and then took the stairs down to the Narva-Jõesuu beach. “Oh yes, flat soft surface at last”, I was pleased as it’s comfortable for the painful ankle to land on. The left shoe with sole issue also loving the sand though it’s duct tape about to come off.

Estonia Ultra Trail Race 2019
Reached the cafe by Narva-Jõesuu beach and it’s beach run from there. Pictures credit: EUTR Photographer/Autori Foto

I witnessed a very foggy morning that slowly cleared off. The sun rose brightly over Narva Bay of Gulf Of Finland (Baltic Sea). There’s nothing like feeling of openness, humility, and inspired all at once. I put one step after another along the 16km of tranquil sandy beach and pebble bay.

I fuelled myself with a Nakd energy bar, carried my painful ankle over dead seaweeds and pebbles. What a long curvy stretched of shoreline, I muttered to myself. At some point, I thought I was off the course as there weren’t any markers or any runner to follow. Thankfully, I met few photographers on the course who really made the day.

Charming coastline of Narva Bay of the Baltic Sea from dead seaweeds to pebbles and rocks. Forest trail is parallel to some part giving option to run on trail or sand. Pictures credit: Juri Vsivtsev

At the 32km checkpoint (the turning point) I filled up the water bottles. Then had a banana provided, took caffeine fluid gel from PURE Sports Nutrition and turned on my iPod Shuffle. Legs were tired and part of me wanted to stop here. But I knew deeply I could plod along to the finish line.

The remaining half was on the same route but opposite way. For about 5km, I ran in the pine forest that lined the beach. But I much prefer the open bay with its dunes, so I swapped back.

Beach Day & Wildflower Field

Estonia Ultra Trail Race 2019
The sun rose and day got warmer. Picture credit: Juri Vsivtsev

The beautiful shore was busy this time with sun-seekers and sunbathers. Plenty of activities – from family picnic to beach volleyball. Mind you this was such a lovely sunny Saturday morning on the longest beach in Estonia! While I wasn’t sure how warm the water was, Junko Nakahara (Japanese/UK based runner) told me after the race that she saw someone naked along the nude beach area.

Closer to 48km checkpoint, I ate a Clif Bar in caramel toffee with sea salt flavour. I wasn’t sure where the turning at the beach. There wasn’t any marker plus I couldn’t remember that cafe we passed by in the morning. Thankfully, the volunteers made me spoke with Mesha over the phone. Next few miles till the right turning, I simply fast-walked along the beach, and smelled the ocean one last time!

Music was played loudly at Narva-Jõesuu town. Though not dedicated for runners passing by but enough to soothe the tired soul. Along the home run, I met photographer Alesja Jully twice. It boosted me up, especially when the pace was relatively slow. I also bumped into the 120km runners (as they were on their second loop) who inspired me to not only finish my loop but to return for 120km one day.

Reaching the white and purple wildflower field – the scene that’s not uncommon in Estonia, I could smell the finishing line. I’ve forgotten the pain on my ankle (at least temporarily) when smiles and claps filled the air. The last stretch ended near Walnut Hill at the park.

Estonia Ultra Trail Race 2019
Do not let these ruin your race. Received medic support on the sprained ankle (left). Aftermath, the shoe with sole issue brought me to the finish line (right). Pictures credit: EUTR Photographer/Autori Foto)

Rye & Bye

Grateful for a bouquet of flower and some sand souvenir in the shoes. I only wished to have run more smoothly! After having some delicious rye bread, boiled egg, nice tea, and good final chats, we then said goodbye to the friendly organisers.

Estonia Ultra Trail 2019
Writer finished 2nd – with Japanese runner Junko Nakahara 1st female (right). Picture credit: EUTR Photographer/Autori Foto

Thank you to everyone involved (from the chatty men at the halfway checkpoint to the lovely photographers) for making this event an unforgettable one. Special mention to runner Aigars Bergs and partner, Helen for much needed post-race refreshment before heading off to Tallinn.

Estonia Ultra Trail Race 2019
All freshen up after the race with new Latvian acquaintance, Hellen (left). Picture credit: Aigars Bergs

Overall

Highly recommend this race of medium difficulty level. The lack of elevation gain was made up with variety of trail (some uneven) from forest to sandy beach. In the end, I was spoilt with running in beautiful nature – that highlighted what Estonia is best known for. Good organisation from Tikhonov and his team. I leave you to ponder on the wordings of Race Hero Award engraved on the back of the belt buckle I received:

“When someone tells you it can’t be done it’s more a reflection of their limitations, not yours”

Toomas Unt, winner 120km 2018 & 2019 EUTR 120km

Tips

Wear gaiters to prevent sands from getting into the shoes. Don outfit that cover the body to protect from prickly wild bush. The race is autonomous (full self-sufficiency) and runners are prohibited from getting assistance. The only checkpoint with water is at 30km turning (though natural spring at 6.5km/57.5km may be useful to fill up). We were fortunate for a pleasant sunny weather of around 20 degrees Celsius. Had it rain it was recommended for thermal underwear to eliminate hypothermia due to coastal wind.

Sign Up

Visit the EUTR website for more details and information on race category: 30km, 60km, and 120km.

Accommodation

I stayed at Narva Hotel which is nearby historical landmarks and the border – good for sightseeing. You may also check out Inger Hotel (the race accommodation partner) – a bit closer to the start line and race expo.

In case you’ve checked out from the hotel room, you may use the shower facility at the Sports Center. If interested in spa activities for some rejuvenating post-race, I recommend booking it early at one of the spa resort in Narva-Jõesuu.

Getting There & Around

Fly to Tallinn with Finnair from Singapore via Helsinki. Self-drive (under 2.5 hours), train or bus to get to Narva.
In Narva, the fare for a taxi to any point in the city is a fixed fare – not exceeding EU 2.50 for one trip. (Taxi number +372 50 44 44 4 or +372 55 90 90 90)

More details on Estonia here.

Have you raced in Estonia? Or been to Narva? Have I tempted you to travel in the Baltic State – one day when we’re able to?

Keep well, stay healthy & connected.

SOTG,x

One thought on “Estonia Ultra Trail Run 2019: Nature Run In Narva

  1. Good afternoon Dear Aida.
    Thank you for the extensive, interesting and honest feedback for the race, thank you for your kind words.
    It was nice to see you at the start of the race.
    I hope we will see you again on some trail))
    I have good and dark memories.
    Best regards and Cordially,
    Alexander TIKHONOV

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