It was 54 years ago today when the 1st Tartu Maraton was held. 214 ski fanatics started the 55 km journey from Tartu to Kääriku thus initiating a great tradition without perhaps even realizing it at a time.
Start for the first Tartu Maraton was in City of Tartu, from the icy river Emajõgi. There was no route map at that time so course planner published some tips the day before the marathon in a national newspaper:
„After the start, skiers go along the river until Ropka park where they turn to Võru highway. Up until Kambja valley the landscape is quite flat. Then rolling hills start to dominate. First feeding station will be at Pangodi (24km), at Tüki (35km) skiers can rest and have some warm tea. From Otepää the course takes you to Pühajärve sanatorium and from there over the lake to Kääriku. Dangerous parts are marked on the course“.
The course ran along fields and through forests but also along highways and streets. Winner of the first Tartu Maraton was Rein Tikk (EST) with a time of 3.27.10. Second was Harri Arumeel (EST – 3.28.20) and third Tõnu Luik (EST – 3.28.30).
Finish at the edge of lake Kääriku was open til late at night. At quarter past seven, almost 10 hours after the start, when it was already dark outside, there was some faint light and cheers of joy on the opposite side of the lake. Last group of skiers arrived and they were smart enough to bring along miner’s lamp. They also found seven skiers on the course who were very tired and were saved from freezing only because of the help from fellow marathon skiers.
Of the 214 skiers who started from Tartu, 210 arrived to finish in Kääriku. Two finished at Otepää.
Although next year organizers had to cancel Tartu Maraton because of lack of snow, during the next 53 years Tartu Maraton was held 42 times. This year, 43. Tartu Maraton will be held exactly a month from now, on the 16th of February.