Danik in the Riga Marathon 2014-2018

posted in: Latvia, Marathon Running | 45

Riga Marathon 2014 – First time in front of my ‘home’ fans

Friday 16th May
After flying into Riga airport, the taxi dropped myself and Ollie (best friend and a runner with local club North Herts Running Club based in Letchworth, UK) outside the Riga Marathon Exhibition at the Olympic Sport centre, just west of the old town. We spent about an hour here collecting our numbers, checking out the stalls and chilling out on bean bags whilst watching the race route on a large television screen in preparation for Sunday’s race. Spent a lot of time here talking to the locals before heading back to our accommodations and our pasta meals later on in the day.

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2014 - Riga, Latvia

Saturday 17th May

The morning started with a training session with some of the elite runners at Mezaparks, which is located on the outskirts of the city. This beautiful huge park is the ideal setting for a light training session in glorious bright sunshine. It was a great pleasure to train and run with the Japanese elite team made of Yu Chiba (who eventually won the marathon the next day in a time of 02:13:43, beating Kenyan Geoffrey Gikuni Ndungu by a second), Koji Matsuoka (5th place) and Sento Tasunori (6th place), and also Kenyan Duncan Koech (who finished 3rd). Also in the training were local runners and it was a great pleasure to train with the elites and got to know quite a few new people. Local girls Sandra and Agnese from ‘Sports Laboratory’ took up the warm up session which we all loosened our muscles before going on a 1.5km run through the park before heading back to the entrance of the park situated next to the zoo for some stretches.

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2014 - Riga, Latvia
With the Japanese elite runners

When we arrived at Mezapark, Ollie & I were greeted by one of the race organisers who knew who I was straight away as I doing a lot of promoting and social media networking in the run up to the weekend and received a warm welcome. Via a megaphone a few moments later, he introduced the elite runners and also myself and Ollie (guests from Great Britain, an honour and immense pride when he announced that!) After the training he took us to a news reporter and cameraman from the national television station ‘LNT’ (Latvia), and we did an interview about our chances for the race the next day, why race in Riga and any advice we could give to viewers who were running in the next day. I thought the interview was well conducted and done professionally.

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2014 - Riga, Latvia
Training in Mezaparks

Later on that afternoon it was time to chill out so we watched the Ice Hockey Championships on the television in a huge in a huge tent in the centre of the city. Took a walk afterwards in the sunshine before meeting friends from Latvia and Belarus before having another carb meal in an traditional Latvian restaurant. No sign of nerves, kit prepared and a decent night’s sleep followed.

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2014 - Riga, Latvia
Group photo at the end of training

Sunday 18th May

It was a bit of a weird start to the day. With the usual preparations and breakfast eaten, I took the tram into the centre from the northern suburbs of Riga. Not many people were seen on the streets, the sun was out, and when I boarded the tram in my kit (no jumpers or tracksuits needed as it was warm and also my wife would bring my kit bag later on in the day as I left her asleep in bed), there were a few runners inside but was mostly empty. Did the residents of Riga know there was a marathon in town today? I rang Ollie who was having breakfast so I said to him I meet him after the race as I wanted to get down there early as part of my pre-marathon preparations.

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2014 - Riga, Latvia
Standing behind Latvia’s Jeļena Prokopčuka, one of the world’s top female marathon runners

On the river embankment I managed to do my warm ups before the officials let the runners go inside the starting areas. I was right at the front with the elite runners and it was great to see some of the runners I made friends with from the previous day. With television cameras swooping down on us and receiving a mention via the loudspeakers, nerves were setting in. I was speaking to a few other elite runners who gave me some tips and before I knew it, we were off, running westwards along Eksporta Iela before turning back towards Old Town. The crowds were big and loved the ones looking from the Vansu Bridge above the runners as we would run underneath them, waving their flags.

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2014 - Riga, Latvia
At the start, who can spot me near the front?

The heat was getting unbearable but I did not want a repeat performance like the one in Milton Keynes marathon two weeks earlier. There were plenty of water stations on route to keep me cool so at every station I drank a cup of water and a cup of orange squash. The crowds were amazing and kept me going all the way. The route eventually took the runners across the Vansu bridge then onto Kipsala island located in the middle of the Daugava river, before heading back onto the Vansu bridge, turning around at the southern end before heading back across the bridge into the heart of the Old Town and pass the sights of the Freedom Monument and the Laima Clock. The crowds here were huge but there were also music stands and locals in traditional dresses giving the runners high-five’s as they run pass.

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2014 - Riga, Latvia

After a tour of the old town the route took the runners of the marathon and half marathon down 11.Novembra Krastmala and south out of the city to the Lido restaurant with the crazy windmill. The road was long and not many views to look at on the way apart from the tall and thin television tower on the other side of the river. Turning around at Lido, the runners turned back towards the Old Town, pass the start/finish area before heading into another suburb where Arena Riga is located (home of my favourite ice hockey team, Dinamo Riga). A tour around there was nice but by now my legs was tired. Three marathons in thirteen days have taken its toll and now I was doing a mile just under ten minutes instead of eight. Back around parts of the Old Town, then over the Vansu Bridge where Ollie overtook me at such a pace (and he had a knee injury, how he does it I don’t know!). I couldn’t keep pace with him but he was now after a personal best and I knew I was still on course for a time of less than four hours.

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2014 - Riga, Latvia

A tour of Kipsala Island wasn’t the nicest part of the course, a little bit run down, not many people watching the event and the Russian music stage located here was way too loud. Back into the Old Town and I kept running. The drag up Brivibas Iela was long and horrid despite the excellent crowds but I kept pushing and pushing, slogging it out in the heat. Pass the Blackheads house, the final 195 meters I sprinted. I ripped off my tea towel off my head, did a crazy celebration whilst punching the air as I crossed the finish line. Job completed, crowds were going mental and the guy speaking into the loudspeaker said something about me but wasn’t too sure what he was saying.

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2014 - Riga, Latvia

I was supposed to do a 5km race afterwards (about thirty minutes after I finished), but my body was tired so I gave it a miss. Walking back through the old town and the crowds with my free non alcohol beer which I got given at the finish, I thought to myself I could do the 5km and I wished I did. The day finished with a rest and a 50cm pizza and lots and lots of beer.

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2014 - Riga, Latvia

Riga marathon is a well organised event, a very flat course which runners could get personal best times on and the crowds are excellent. Its value for money, the quality of the t-shirt is impressive and the finisher’s medal is one of the best I have got. I will be back next year.

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2014 - Riga, Latvia

STATS:

Time: 03-58-27

Position: 577th out of 1,226

16th fastest person out of 24 runners from the United Kingdom.

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2014 - Riga, Latvia

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2014 - Riga, Latvia

Riga Marathon 2015 – Personal Best!

I did what I set out to do today and beat my marathon time. Ok I was aiming for 3h15 but it wasn’t to be and had to settle with 03-16-21 beating my previous time by 4 minutes and 15 seconds. Also a course best smashing last years Riga time of 03-58-27. I said if it rains hard and I can get the crowd behind me then I would produce a performance and a positive result.

Then I took up the 5km challenge afterwards. Not sure on position but there were thousands of runners. I clocked a time of 28-41 which is my slowest time ever but who gives a dam? To me it was a lap of honour.

Feeling top of the world right now. Like to say a huge PALDIES for all those who came out and saw me, Riga – you are amazing and I can’t wait to return next year. To all my friends and family back home your supportive messages are inspiring. Thank you for pushing me! Ejam! Alus!! Ja! Ja! Ja!

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2015 - Riga, Latvia

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2015 - Riga, Latvia

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2015 - Riga, Latvia
Riga 5km race after the marathon – so tired
Danik running the Riga Marathon 2015 - Riga, Latvia
Outside the Blackheads with the medals

 

Riga Marathon 2016

For the third year in the row I took part in the Riga marathon in Latvia. I call this my ‘home’ marathon after all my connections with the Baltic country. I knew what to expect from the race, the course, the atmosphere, the build up and I was hoping after recovering from my back injury in the London Marathon three weeks earlier that I might be able to put on a good performance and stay injury free.

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2016 - Riga, Latvia
Collecting my favourite number, I am always number 201 in this event!

But first the usual build up, collecting the race numbers and doing a few bits and pieces with the media near the Arena Riga.

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2016 - Riga, Latvia
Training in the rain

The day before the marathon (despite the heavy rain) I was doing an elite training session in Mezaparks, a huge park in the north of the city with some of Latvia’s finest runners and eventually the Africans came to play but decided not to run in the rain and stay warm. However meeting them and doing the interviews with Latvian television was a great experience (and I was totally soaked afterwards…not a good state to be in before a marathon).

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2016 - Riga, Latvia

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2016 - Riga, Latvia

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2016 - Riga, Latvia
Interview with LNT (Latvian Television)
Danik running the Riga Marathon 2016 - Riga, Latvia
Group photo at the end of training

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2016 - Riga, Latvia

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2016 - Riga, Latvia

In the afternoon it was time for the ‘Parade of Nations’ where a parade of all the nations who are taking part in the marathon get to walk from the Freedom Monument down to the riverside whilst someone holds up the flag and a sign saying the name of that country. Then there was a little presentation at the end and also got to meet my great friend and race director for the second time that day, Aigars Nords. He knows how to organise an event.

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2016 - Riga, Latvia

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2016 - Riga, Latvia

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2016 - Riga, Latvia

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2016 - Riga, Latvia

The next day, it was race day. Near the front again and was mingling with the elites. Got on television again by doing an interview on the roadside. Then I was off. A great start, fast pacing. Could I get a fast time here, I know what to do, so I went for it. The crowds were fantastic once again and love the local support. They really did spur me on.

 

Race action from the Marathon

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2016 - Riga, Latvia

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2016 - Riga, Latvia

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2016 - Riga, Latvia

However my pacing went down big time after mile twenty, I just didn’t have the race pace in me and had to go a lot slower than expected. No injuries or anything, just didn’t have the pace. I was gutted. Still I crossed the line in 03-50-22 in 641st place.

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2016 - Riga, Latvia

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2016 - Riga, Latvia

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2016 - Riga, Latvia

That was not the end of the event for me. An hour later after crossing the line I was in the 6km event and used that as a cool down. There was no way I was abler to race in that after finishing a marathon, the rain chucking it down, roads were getting flooded and lots of runners on the course, half of which probably never done an event in their life. I did finish the course in 38 minutes and 18 seconds, didn’t really care about the time but I got a second medal of the day and I cooled down well.

I can’t wait for 2017 Riga Marathon….bring it on!

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2016 - Riga, Latvia
Not feeling great after the race
Danik running the Riga Marathon 2016 - Riga, Latvia
The traditional bath tub with medals pose

 

Riga Marathon 2017

The build up to my fourth time I will compete in the Riga Marathon consisted of the Parade of Nations, training with the elite athletics, press conference and of the course, picking up the numbers. Here is a few of the highlights before race day.

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2017 - Riga, Latvia
Elite training at Riga Marathon
Danik running the Riga Marathon 2017 - Riga, Latvia
With race director of Riga Marathon mr Nords.
Danik running the Riga Marathon 2017 - Riga, Latvia
With a Japanese elite runner
Danik running the Riga Marathon 2017 - Riga, Latvia
With the elite runners from Kenya

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2017 - Riga, Latvia

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2017 - Riga, Latvia

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2017 - Riga, Latvia

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2017 - Riga, Latvia

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2017 - Riga, Latvia

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2017 - Riga, Latvia

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2017 - Riga, Latvia

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2017 - Riga, Latvia
Group photo after training
Danik running the Riga Marathon 2017 - Riga, Latvia
Fun after training

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2017 - Riga, Latvia

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2017 - Riga, Latvia

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2017 - Riga, Latvia
Press conference after the elite training

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2017 - Riga, Latvia

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2017 - Riga, Latvia

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2017 - Riga, Latvia

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2017 - Riga, Latvia

It hurts but will not be defeated. After feeling comfortable at running at a steady pace for the first 14 miles (23km), I collapse just before the start of the second lap of the Riga Marathon in Latvia this morning. My left hamstring gave way. I knew I couldn’t run after that. But I didn’t come all the way here for my ‘home’ marathon to get a DNF (Did Not Finish). I just brushed myself off and managed to power walk the rest of the course (12 miles!)

I was fine doing this until the last 2km where the hamstring was getting tighter and tighter and was finding it tough. It was the mentality which did not leave me. The locals spurred me on and thanks to Claire for walking certain parts of the 2nd lap with me.

Was very emotional at the end, all the guys on the sideline trying to make me run to the finish line but I couldn’t. At the end of the day, I done what I came out to do…complete my fourth Riga Marathon. Now time to get that bloody leg fixed! Oh… final time. 05:33:33 and finished 1601 out of 1640 runners.

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2017 - Riga, Latvia
Lap 1 – at the start of the race

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2017 - Riga, Latvia

Danik running the Riga Marathon 2017 - Riga, Latvia
Lap 1 – crossing the Daugava river
Danik running the Riga Marathon 2017 - Riga, Latvia
Lap one – passing the Blackheads House
Danik running the Riga Marathon 2017 - Riga, Latvia
Thanking the locals for their amazing support as I walk through the streets of the Old Town
Danik running the Riga Marathon 2017 - Riga, Latvia
After the race outside Dome Cathedral
Danik running the Riga Marathon 2017 - Riga, Latvia
Defeated but proud!
Danik running the Riga Marathon 2017 - Riga, Latvia
Happy to get medal number 4 from this amazing race

And in 2018, a year after ‘that’ failure…..

Riga Marathon/Half-Marathon 2018

So, 2017 wasn’t great. I was unfit, overweight and on a downhill spiral in my life. I was at an all-time low on and off the tarmac. In December 2017 I was given the opportunity to get my running career back on track with Craig from KineoRun who deal with training runners in all type of distances. Craig took on the challenge and managed to get me to shed a few stones over the winter months and somehow got my fitness back on track. OK, I wasn’t back to my former glory but I was on the right track. I gave up beer, trained in San Francisco, Svalbard and France and even managed to get a place in the World Championships at half-marathon distance wearing Latvian colours (check out my blog post here. In that time I also got a personal best at 20 mile (32km) distance. Training was go well until nine days before where I was doing a tempo run and managed to do damage on my muscle on my calf muscle. At first I thought it would put me off my marathon comeback in Riga the following week. I couldn’t walk on my right leg, struggled to get up staircases. Craig and Tracey (from ProRehab Therapy) did their best to get me fit enough and recover quickly before race day. Nine days is not a lot of time to recover from this type of injury but I was recovering quickly and the day before the race I had a late fitness test which I passed.

Riga Marathon/Half-Marathon 2018
Elite training the day before the race (and last minute fitness test) – photos credited to Riga Marathon (LV)
Riga Marathon/Half-Marathon 2018
Elite training the day before the race (and last minute fitness test) – photos credited to Riga Marathon (LV)
Riga Marathon/Half-Marathon 2018
Elite training the day before the race (and last minute fitness test) – photos credited to Riga Marathon (LV)
Riga Marathon/Half-Marathon 2018
Elite training the day before the race (and last minute fitness test) – photos credited to Riga Marathon (LV)

Going into the race I knew in the back of my mind my muscle may not hold. The race started and managed to hold the pace what Craig wanted me to do but a few miles in I could feel my muscle not hurting but feeling heavy, still, I kept the pace. The crowds were out on the streets of the Latvian capital which spurred me on but I wasn’t enjoying the heat of the spring sunshine. I made a decision on mile 11 that I would finish the race at the end of the first lap of the two lap course (as the half marathon finishes there). I didn’t want to do anymore damage on my muscle and I had an another event at the end of June to which I knew I could fully recover for. I got to the finish line of the half-marathon distance and to be honest, the feelings afterwards, I wasn’t disappointed. I knew I did the right thing and it was time to focus on plan ‘B’ ahead of my next marathon. The only shame was that I didn’t finish this marathon as it was a special medal rewarded to all finishers at the end of the race as it was Latvia’s 100th birthday this year. Oh well, my health and fitness comes first. Still, I enjoy the experience in the best marathon in Europe and will I be back in 2019…should be. Craig is behind me and I am sure he will get me fully race fit and back to my best by then.

Riga Marathon/Half-Marathon 2018
Riga Marathon/Half-Marathon 2018
Riga Marathon/Half-Marathon 2018
Riga Marathon/Half-Marathon 2018
Riga Marathon/Half-Marathon 2018
Riga Marathon/Half-Marathon 2018
Riga Marathon/Half-Marathon 2018
Riga Marathon/Half-Marathon 2018

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Danik running the Riga Marathons - Riga, Latvia

45 Responses

  1. Oh my goodness what a run of achievements, as someone who has to use a wheelchair I wish I had run more when I could.

  2. That face you were making in the “training in the rain” pic. Yeah, that was the face I made when I came across your random bathtub pics hahaha just messing with you.
    Seriously though I would have opted for pizza and beer after that run myself! Another 5K wow you have to be superman! I imagine the energy at an event like this is crazy cool!

  3. I have such massive respect for anyone who runs a marathon. I couldn’t do it. At least not yet. Great job!

    • I totally do as well, it must take such endurance to get through the whole race, but a wonderful looking atmosphere to be in.

  4. Wow, great job! What an awesome experience! I am so glad someone was able to capture it all in these amazing photos that you can look back on in the future.

  5. Claudia Krusch

    I have always wanted to challenge myself to run a marathon. It takes so much hard work and dedication to train for it. Congrats on achieving your personal best.

  6. I wish I liked to run enough to run an entire marathon! You rock!!

  7. Rebecca Swenor

    You have to be quite proud of yourself for your achievements. Kudos for you just for finishing and receiving your metals even though the weather was not that great this last time. Thanks for sharing your awesome finishes and wins. Well done.

  8. My son and DIL run in marathons but I’ve never run in one. You are in great shape, I’ll give you that. And the photos are absolutely amazing. You are so accomplished in this sport.

  9. I have thought about doing this a million times but have not done one like that. It looks like a great accomplishment.

  10. Great job! I love running but have never done something like this before. Keep up the good work!

  11. I think this is always a great idea for anyone to try marathons. It’s such a great way for some great exercise too. Great job by the way!

  12. Natalie z

    I find stories like this so inspiring! I run casually and do 5ks with my family. Some day I would at least like to complete a half marathon.

  13. Michelle Waller

    It is such an awesome accomplishment to complete any race!! This looks like it was an awesome event.

  14. Wow! I am in awe of anyone who can run a marathon. It looks like you did really well!

  15. I’ve always secretly wanted to be a runner, yet I still need to master walking more than a block. This marathon is a great encouragement for me to get started.

  16. Victoria Heckstall

    If you have never been to Riga then running a marathon or half-marathon could be a good reason to visit one of the most beautiful cities on the Baltic Sea coast.

  17. You are so awesome. I wish I had the endurance to run marathons like this!

  18. That is amazing! I once had a passion for running when I was a child, but that died down once I got older. I just no longer have the endurance!

  19. oh my god. how amazing. I ran, jogged and skipped the color run, but it was nothing like this. this is amazing.

  20. I applaud anyone who can finish a marathon. Congrats on your personal best in this marathon. I cannot believe that your were talking about running a 5K after the marathon.

  21. Wow! What you’ve done were amazing. I don’t have the stamina at all to run a marathon and that’s why it always amazes me to see people finish a marathon.

  22. I had no idea that tub shots with medals were a thing? LOL 🙂

    Way to go!

  23. Gabriel

    That’s an extremely impressive feat. Have you heard about the push to get a sub two hour marathon run? A few days ago a group got a runner to within 25 seconds of the goal. I don’t think I could maintain 100 yards at that pace anymore, to do 26 miles blows my mind.

  24. Ha! I didn’t know there was a traditional bathtub photo with the medals, how great to keep the tradition alive : )
    Love your photos and how you shared your story, I can only imagine the experience of meeting others form different countries and running along side them.

  25. Robin Rue

    Wow! That must have been SUCH an amazing experience. Congrats on the race and thanks for sharing your experience with us 🙂

  26. I have never personally done a marathon! It looks like you love them! I should set a goal up to run in one just so I can say I have! Great job!

  27. I have never done a marathon before, but I would love to do it one day! I love these pictures. What a fantastic job you did!!

  28. I am not a runner at all but after looking at your photos there seem to be several thousand people who enjoy this kind of activity. More power to you keep on running.

  29. It’s an amazing experience. Congratulations for finishing the race. I too would feel proud of myself if it were me.

  30. It was a challenging marathon but you gave it your all. I admire you for not giving up and continuing the race. Good job!

  31. It’s great you finished! I’ve never participated in a marathon. I know it seems to be gaining in popularity here, I see people mentioning training for them more and more.

  32. My Teen Guide

    What an awesome feat. Congratulations! I could never do that. My parents used to run when they were young, my mom even won a mini marathon (5K) for finishing 1st in the Womens 40-50 age group. Two of my female cousins are into running too. I am just amazed at how fit runners can be!

  33. Pam Wattenbarger

    Wow, looks like a really cool marathon! I have always thought it would be so cool to finish a marathon.

  34. My friend does a lot of running in marathons. I would love to train to be able to run in one.

  35. I love running. It feels so naturally to my body but I haven’t really tried to join marathons. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  36. I have just never been a runner, but my cousin is really into it! She does Iron Man and absolutely adores it. I like it for her – and anyone who enjoys it. Everyone’s got their thing.

  37. How incredible, I can not believe you power walked for 12 miles in your last marathon. Well done on you for not getting a DNF.

  38. I’m always in awe when I see someone finish a marathon! Congrats to you and I love all the colorful photos. Well done!

  39. Thank you for running all of these marathons so I don’t have to! LOL! I have zero desire to ever run a marathon but I give those who are motivated to do so SOOOO much credit!!

  40. Rebecca Swenor

    I have to hand it to all of you for running a marathon. In my world today I know I couldn’t do it. I love the photo when you finish the marathons. Thanks for sharing your achievements.

  41. This is SO amazing!! I loved looking at all of these pictures. I’ve always admired people so much for running marathons. It’s so, so incredible. Kudos to you!

  42. This looks like so much fun! The marathons are always challenging and so rewarding at the end. Great job and keep up the good work.

  43. This is such an awesome accomplishment.. I love marathons. I once ran the half!

  44. Congrats Danik! Most I ever did was 13 miles. About halfway there 😉

    Ryan

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