It was the evening of the 3rd of May 2019 when 33 EBSters along with approximately 700 other university students from all over Europe gathered in the Nolenspark in Maastricht to find out which university has the best runners who are able to claim the Royals Cup 2019 relay race winner’s title. It was a sunny day with no chance of rain or thunder but despite that there was still electricity in the air.
With their war paintings on, 28 of the EBS squad took up their positions along the racetrack, ready to cheer on our running team of Elis-Helen Starkopf, Marie Heleen Lisette Kikkas, Kaspar Alumaa and Oliver Nurmik who were finishing their final stretches before the bang from the starter pistol sent the first runners on their way.
A credit must be given to the opposing teams since they gave us a fierce and even race but in the end, thanks to the strong support by the rest of the EBSters, the anchor of EBS managed to beat all the other runners in a photo finish.
With that incredible emotion, everybody was sure that we would be back the next year to defend our title. But nature had other plans and Royals Cup 2020 was not to be because of the outbreak of the coronavirus. Fortunately, that “little” setback did not mean it was the end of the Royals Cup but instead this year thanks to the efforts of the Royals Cup organizing team, the competition was back in a new format, which gave the EBSters a chance to once more prove that the best runners can be found in Estonia.
This time, instead of flying to the Netherlands, every university got to compete from their home country and instead of 4 runners, 20 runners from each university could compete. What is even better, in addition to doing sports, the competition also had a charity side added to it, which helped to raise funds for battling the same COVID19 pandemic, which had cancelled last year’s event.
The rules for the competition were very simple. Over the week from 19 April to 26 April, each team of 20 people had to run as many kilometers as they could in order to bring the Royals Cup Spirit Trophy to their university.
Although the task was simple the execution of it was a bit harder, but despite that, all the EBSters were determined from the get-go to win once again.
The first day of the competition began well for our team, since we managed to seize the top spot right away, but over the day the host university showed why they chose running for their competition and collected a hefty amount of kilometers over the day, which left EBS trailing in 3rd place when the day ended.
Tuesday did not start much better, since we kept dropping in the table and by the end of the day we found ourselves already in the 4th place with the gap between us and the leading Maastricht team over 120 km.
Luckily, the Estonian proverb “at first can’t get going, then can’t stop” proved to be true as on Wednesday our runners pulled themselves together and made a huge push to get us back to the top place.
After that it was a neck to neck race with the ESB Reutlingen from Germany, who had also managed to pass Maastricht. Despite aching joints and muscles the EBS team kept running almost 24/7, as our first runners started before 5 PM and last ones finished at 2 AM, in order for us to stay in the race.
The last push came on Sunday, the last day of the challenge. Our team had mentally prepared for it, since everybody was sure that all our competitors had saved their energy for the last day. Driven by all the good energy and team spirit that had built up over the week, we made a strong start, as our own running machine Vitali already finished a 51 km “stroll” at around 9 AM.
Soon the kilometers started pouring in also from the rest of the team and we built up a solid lead, but that did not stop us worrying about the potential response from our main rival ESB Reutlingen. Luckily, that response never came, as it turned out ESB had spent their last energy reserves on keeping up with us in the previous days and had nothing left for the final. This meant that in the end our team finished the challenge with a convincing lead and was declared the winner of Royals Cup 2021. Woo-hoo!
In one week, our runners managed to run a whopping 2042.26 km, which in retrospect made the initial goals ranging from 1000 km to 1500 km seem quite amusing. It proved how much everybody had pushed their own limits for the team.
The victorious EBS team was made up of:
Elis-Helen Starkopf, Rain Kivimägi, Davor Tamm, Kristofer Kartau, Tõnis Kaasik, Ruth Simpson, Lauri Tõnise, Erki Ani, Vitali Djomin, Urmo Keskel, Friid Pangsepp, Eero Uustalu, Lotta Pärnpuu, Mirjam Moisto, Rannar Remmelgas, Elis Vilde, Marcus Neiland, Herti Juhandi, Ragnar Lelle and Martin Mee.
Team manager: Cathy Viven Vahi
To give you a glimpse into what was going on in the heads of our runners during that week, we have gathered a selection of their feedback.
My relationship with sport has been quite long – ever since I was a kid I have done different sports – mostly team sports but also individual ones, both safe and more extreme ones. With running it has been a bit different, as I discovered it for myself only quite recently. Around 2015 I started running small distances, around 2-4 km, skip forward to 2017 and I already did my first half marathon (21.1 km) and in 2018 my first full marathon. Since then, I have been focusing on full marathons and have tried to complete at least one marathon a year and since 2019 I have combined my marathon runs with far away vacation destinations 😊 By now, running has become my daily companion, since preparing for a successful marathon run takes over half a year (I start slowly).
When Martin [Mee] posted the information about the run [to the master students’ group], I was one of the first to sign up. That week was part of my preparation for a marathon in October and fitted well to my training plan, as a heavy training load week. During my first 2-3 training weeks of the seasons (March to May) I usually run about 40 km a week, so I set my goal for RC21 to complete 55-60 km, 50% more than my usual distance. But since I am quite competitive and always want to give my maximum, I already saw after the first day of the challenge that the total amount of the week is probably going to be over 60 km. Oh, and you cannot leave unmentioned this fantastic, encouraging and supporting group of the people in the EBS team, who kept pushing for me to also run even more. When drawing up a plan for the challenge week, I already decided that I would run a half marathon on Sunday and to add extra motivators in a form of medals, I also signed myself up for the combined distance of the Tartu Forest Marathon (42.2 km over a week) and the Los Angeles Hollywood Marathon’s virtual race half marathon (21.1 km in one run). So, the week’s goal was one trophy with the team (RC21) and two medals individually. By the end of the week, I had run 90 km, which is over 100% more than my usual distance and I owe it partially to my fighting spirit, but mostly to our supporting and inspiring team. On some days it was so hard to run, both mentally and physically, but for that team I even dragged myself outside when it was pouring rain. Since if others can then so can I.
After the end of the competition I took 2-3 for recovery and returned to my usual training plan. I was so happy to see that this great effort had significantly improved my overall physical form – recovery was faster, pulse a bit lower and overall stamina better.
I don’t know if I can represent EBS in any other sports competitions since I plan to graduate in the June of 2021, but if the opportunity was presented to me I would gladly do it again.
I have been a hobby runner for years. Usually I complete a couple of half marathons and a marathon each year, a total of about 600 km every year. My season starts with the Tartu Forest Marathon in spring and ends with the Tartu City Marathon in the autumn.
My expectations for the challenge week included some anxiety over whether my contribution to the common goal would be big enough. I had not run over 50 km so far and I had not started my 2021 running season yet. The 24 km run on the first day really left an impact on my legs and I started thinking that it is going to be a difficult week. My initial thought was that if I could contribute with 100 km, it would be very good. My main motivator for keeping going turned out to be seeing my teammates exceed themselves – if others can then so can I. From the competitive side the second half of the week turned really thrilling, as we were constantly moving between the first and the second place, but from the team’s messenger chat it was clear that we were not going to give this one away. The prevailing thinking was that however much the opponents can run, we can run more. And from some point running also turned into an automatic process and felt less tiring than in the beginning of the week. My week’s summary: 112 km and an awesome emotion. The sports watch showed 105h for the recovery time. I am definitely willing to participate again the next time.
My personal relationship with running has never been the warmest. As I have done sports quite consistently my whole life, then running has always rather been an annoying part of the warmup or cooldown.
I have been doing sports for as long as I remember. It has always been for me a method of self-fulfilment or relieving stress, since I feel that when doing sports, I can always push my limits and this also gives me confidence in my everyday life. I feel that doing sports constantly gives me a good rhythm for being productive in my other activities and ventures.
My expectations for myself at the Royals Cup were quite modest. The fact is I was a backup option who just had to run a little bit every day, because I was convinced that the maximum I can run in a day is 7-8 km, since I have never considered myself to be a good runner. Therefore my expectations for myself were to run 50 km within the week.
During the first couple of runs in the beginning of the week I felt that the lack of stamina was going to become my first obstacle in covering a lot of kilometres but since the aim of the challenge was noble and the muscles and joints well-rested, I managed to my surprise run 10 km on my first day. What became clear to me already in the first days of the competition was that our virtual EBS running team was really motivating and supportive. I am really grateful for them and they were really the reason why I was capable of pushing my limits so much and found the strength in me I was not even aware of. Of course my competitiveness also played a part, since if you see that someone has run 13 km more than you, then you would do 15 km run instead of the usual 1 2km one and with every day the distances grew bigger so at some point a 5 km extra lap at the end of a running session did not seem very much to run.
In the second half of the week I felt that my stamina had improved considerably but there were other issues that started to trouble me. Although I had always done my stretches before and after the runs my joints and muscles started to ache as a result of intense training. After one of my running sessions, I realised that I had pushed my body to the maximum limit when I discover while removing my running shoes that my socks were partly covered with blood from all the friction, but I had not noticed it while running since other parts of my body hurt even more 😀
I can say that it was a great honour for me to have had the chance to run in the same team with such amazing people and represent our university in the name of charity at the Royals Cup running competition.
I can remember that ever since I was young, my father has always taken me to different running events, so I never say no to such marathon-type events!
I feel that this was one of the coolest events in recent times! I would have never thought that motivating each other would give you such power, that people are willing to do their second or even third run of the day at 10 PM to beat the competitors.
Especially during times like these, when you can’t see your schoolmates and some you haven’t even met at all and have only seen on Canvas that he or she is in the same course with you.
The mutual motivation was really cool! And you also have to admit that when someone from your team runs 25 km 5 o’clock in the morning, you couldn’t just say that “you don’t feel like running today”. You just had to put on your running outfit and head out to collect the kilometres.
Running is my favourite hobby. I have been doing it already for 3 years. Every year I participate in at least one marathon anywhere in the world. I run almost every day and mostly early in the morning. In fact, it is the first thing I do in the morning. My usual running distance is 12 km and twice a week I also do a 35 km run. Many people ask me why I run so much and whether it’s bad for health? I run because it’s my passion. The Greeks have a very good saying about that: “Want to be strong, run. Want to be smart, run. Want to be good looking, run. That’s how it’s not bad for your health, if you take it seriously, follow a regime and listen to your body. The most important thing is consistency and knowing your body. I like to run in nature. There it’s only you and nature. It’s like a form of meditation for me. It’s a good time for organizing your thoughts and enjoying nature. That way you will develop a very powerful connection with nature. Many people can’t even imagine how beautiful nature is when there are no cars or other people around.
My expectations for the competition were quite different from what turned out to be the reality. I didn’t expect the competition to be so strong, I thought everybody would take it easy and run a maximum of 10 km a day. But already on the first day it became clear to me that the top 3 runners would run around 30 km a day, so my plan to run 21 km a day wouldn’t cut it. I had to change my strategy already on the first day and run twice the distance I had initially planned. For me, the hardest days were Tuesday and Wednesday. That’s when my muscles started hurting and I had to ask myself: “why am I doing this?” The answer I came up with was simple: “I want to win and bring the victory trophy to EBS”. After that it was emotionally much easier since I knew 100% what I was competing for. In addition I also wanted to be the #1 and win the first trophy of my life. The most important moment in my life was the last day when I ran 51 km. It was my absolute record and to be honest, I didn’t plan to run so much up until the last moment. So I was lucky that I was in good shape and able to compete up to the last day.
The competition entailed a lot of emotions for me. I really liked the teamwork of our team and the support in the team’s FB chat. Our victory belongs 100% to the whole team! It was clear from the first day that everybody is giving their 200% and that helped a lot. Every morning when I ran, I knew that last night our people gave their best effort. If possible, I would certainly participate again! It was an amazing experience! Thank you, everybody who participated, organized or were with us, even if just in their thoughts!
So here you go. It seems that it really was a special event for the runners if they are willing to write so emotionally and in detail about it 🙂
As a bonus round the author of this article took the liberty to also add the short summary of the team manager Cathy: “I am super hyper very mega proud!”
And if you want to also run for charity with other EBSters then there is a chance for that already on 9. May when the Wings For Life Run takes place. You can join the EBS team here: