Estonian long-distance runner Tiidrek Nurme finished in twenty-seventh place in a marathon held in hot and humid conditions at the Tokyo Olympics Sunday. Compatriot Roman Fosti was sixty-eighth. Nurme faced tough challenges and was unable to take on fluids in the last third of the race, but still endured to realize a goal of finishing in the top thirty.
Seventy-six runners out of the 106 who started the 42km race, held in Sapporo on the northern island of Hokkaido, finished the event, including the two Estonians.
Despite being relocated to a cooler location given Tokyo's famed summer humidity – a phenomenon which has blighted more than one endurance event at the games – conditions remained challenging even on Hokkaido.
When the women's marathon, who start was already moved forwards an hour, started at 6 a.m., it was already 25C in Sapporo, reaching 30C, with 65 percent humidity, by the finish two-and-a-half hours later.
Nurme had had a top 30 position in his cross-hairs prior to the games, and realized that ambition with a time of 2: 16.16, which put him 27th.
"I considered a top 30 place a tough achievement, but with the 27th place I have fulfilled that goal," Nurme said after the race, ERR's sports portal reports.
"Of course, deep down I wanted more, but what finally came to fruition on the track was what turned out. It was very much a challenge."
Of race strategy, Nurme, 34, from Saaremaa, said that this had gone well.
"At first I was doing well at a calm pace, which was the right decision to have made. There was a small clump of runners I could go along with. I expected those who were with me to follow along later and pass me. But on the 15th kilometer, I watched the men fall back gradually. The upshot was I was running solo from the 15th kilometer, passing the other men at my own pace. "
While this continued to work, Nurme hit the wall somewhat, past the half-way mark.
"Problems arose on the 27th kilometer, when my system no longer wanted to accept fluids. I vomited them out. Every time I took a sip, it came back up. Fortunately, I was able to stay calm, and endure it all in the midst of all those challenges," Nurme added.
"At the 35th kilometer I had relatively weak legs, but there was enough strength to pass the men. I am glad that in the last few kilometers I passed some runners who are usually three or four minutes faster than me," he added.
"Being 27th at the Olympics is a great achievement for me."
Roman Fosti's personal best in the marathon is 2:10, which he set in April this year. On Sunday, he finished 68th in Japan with a time of 2:25.37, and also faced a grueling race.
Fosti, 38, said he experienced a very high pulse rate right from the start, despite also having plans to pace himself by starting steadily.
"If a car has high revs and you want to change gears, you can't change gears, you're stuck with high revs," he said, ERR Sports portal reports."
"I had exactly that situation today...I ran with a 185-190 [beats per minute] pulse and got across the line. Yes, it's painful everywhere, but I couldn't run myself empty. I couldn't run empty because the form has not been as it could have been."
"The most important thing is that I'm over the finish line. I'm healthy and I'm not sad. I'm still glad I finished the olympic marathon. and I'm honored to have done so on such company," Fosti said. "Sure, there are some mixed feelings that I haven't met my goal of being in the top half, but that's what life is like right now."
Despite starting easily, with the plan of turning on the pace at the 15th kilometer, Fosti reported he already had maximum effort pulse rate after 10 km.
"There was nothing to do, the price had to be paid," he said. Overtraining in the early summer and in his last training sessions in the mountains in Kenya, and a poor sleep routine, were also factors in his race, Fosti said.
A brace of Kenyans, Eliud Kipchoge and Peres Jepchirchir, won Gold in the men's and women's events respectively.
Sunday is the final day of the Tokyo Olympics; decathlete Maicel Uibo is flag-bearer for Estonia at the closing ceremony, also to be attended by President Kersti Kaljulaid, who has been in Japan for several days.
Editor: Andrew Whyte