People tend to look at you strangely when you mention that you’ve signed up for a 100km orienteering marathon, and that yes, it means you will be walking the full 100km distance. No, you won’t be sleeping. Yes – really – on foot, the whole distance at one time. At that point you start to ask yourself – why do it? The easiest answer is why not! The less obvious answers are that it’s a great experience, a physical and mental challenge and you get to be a part of something that is hard to replicate elsewhere. In short, immensely fulfilling on many levels.

It was my third time at the KIERAT Extreme Foot Marathon (Międzynarodowy Ekstremalny Maraton Pieszy KIERAT ). The first time, I’d reached the finish line for what at best could be considered a draw – a time of 28:30, just one and a half hours within the 30hr time limit, totally depleted and barely able to walk. Attempt two just whetted my appetite more, after having set a good pace for 89km and some 20hrs, I was forced to quit short of the 13th check point, physically unable to go on. So it was time for a third attempt and a simple goal – to finish in a time under 24hrs. After each marathon I’d told myself  “never again”, but every time as the days pass you think about having another go, why not, it wasn’t that bad, it didn’t hurt that much. Then, a year later, you are back at the starting line, 6pm on a Friday, ready for the next 100km of joy.

On Friday, May 25th at 6pm around 550 people of all ages started the 9th Kierat Marathon in Limanowa. They would reach the finish line at all times of day, some would see a second night out on the course others would be brought back defeated. I crossed the finish line at 3:30pm the next day, 21 hours and 29minutes after the starter’s gun went off. However, the first place is still a little out of reach – 11hrs 50minutes ;) As I write this a few days later, the lactic acid in my body is gone, my feet are still swollen, blistered and sore, and I still look a little funny walking around, but I’m already thinking about going back next year.

Limanowa is in the Małopolskie Voivoidship in the south of Poland. The Kierat Marathon is held every year, consisting of a 100km loop around Limanowa with some 3500m of climbs in the Beskid Wyspowy region… assuming you don’t get lost or “optimize” differently. Prior to the start, racers receive a map with 14 checkpoints, which need to be reached in order. There is no fixed course, the orienteering part means that you need to choose your own as you see fit. The race starts at 6pm and the time limit is through to midnight on Saturday – which includes walking through one or two nights. You need to carry all equipment and all foods, although water is provided at three checkpoints. So, is anyone up for a short stroll?

Marek Król