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How to prepare for the ErgoMarathon?

Extreme Endurance Event coming up: 21.4.2018, Finland

· indoor rowing

Is it your cup of tea?

Decide if you really want to do the ErgoMarathon. If the answer is yes, and if you haven't done it before, the first and most important thing to increase your success rate, is to set your goal. Once you know you want to do it, it helps to commit to do it in a race together with other likeminded rowers, it makes the goal more concrete and gives you a date to target for. Also, why not to gather a team of friends all preparing for the same goal? The ErgoMarathon is first and foremost a race against yourself but you can get encouragement and energy from others by competing together.

This Spring the World's Largest ErgoMarathon takes place by Tuusula lake, in Finland, on April 21st. The organizers, Keravan Urheilijat, are targeting to gather together 100 competitors to celebrate the 100th birthday of their club. Women are invited to do the half marathon (of course full marathon is available too on request), and men are offered the full distance, or alternatively100km. Also 24hr will be available if there is interest.

Once you've set your mind firmly on joining the ErgoMarathon, read below for how to register and how to prepare!


Do it for real. On the erg. The marathon is a mental and physical challenge which requires good aerobic fitness as well as solid mental determination. You need to do lots of long ergs, so your body gets used to the grind. However, there is no need to prepare by pulling full marathons. And in fact you shouldn't, the marathon is very demanding and it takes many weeks to recover from it.

Make sure your technique is good before you embark on your marathon training. Doing thousands of strokes with bad technique is not good for you. Instead, get advice from a coach or use the RowP Virtual Coach to check your technique and rowing rhythm.

Targeting your first half?

If you're aiming to do your first half marathon then doing continuous one hour ergs is very good practice. You should do at least one full continuous hour at your limit pace, in order to be able to set a pace for your race day (that would be 1-2seconds slower than your 1 hour split). For women a half marathon takes about 90 minutes or more which means that drinks and energy are needed during the race. We recommend taking an energy gel every 30 minutes and drinking from a large jug that's easy and fast to access.

Drinks and gels can be placed on a small table next to the indoor rowing machine

Targeting your first full marathon?

To prepare for a full marathon you need several good 90 minute sessions. Also you should do at least one 2 hour session and additionally half a marathon as fast as you can go. Different types of muscle pains can occur after 90 minutes and also people can experience numbness. Try if using a seat pad can help get rid of numbness (e.g. the ProW pad by Citius Remex, they come in two different heights and have adjustable hardness, worth trying out). We recommend taking energy gels every 30 minutes and drinking regularly. Dehydration can easily make your marathon come to a premature stop. Drinking via tubes attached to your shirt (see below pic) saves time but test this thoroughly in a race simulation, to make sure there are no nasty surprises on race day.

It would be optimal to complete a half marathon race 2-3 weeks before the full marathon. This would give enough time for recovery while giving valuable insight into correctly estimating the Marathon target time.

Tubes around the neck help save time and allow drinking at any time


The 100km distance takes serious preparation. You need to have completed at least one full marathon on the erg and additionally you need to row at least 300km per month for at least 3 months before the race. That's really the minimum preparation.

The target split for the 100km is the marathon split + 10 seconds. It is important to get enough energy during the race, and to stay hydrated.

We do recommend doing the 100km at an event like the ErgoMarathon. Being surrounded by likeminded passionate indoor rowers helps overcome pains and aches and allows as many as possible to get to experience the rush of finishing the ultra distance. The event is organized outdoors in a large tent, and there will be plenty of very fresh Finnish spring air. It will help. As a bit of inspiration below a video of the 100km world record achievement by Antti Varis still valid from 9 years back (and next to him Jari Heikkilä is starting his 24h erg...also a world record holder from a past ErgoMarathon event):

We recommend that competitors bring a personal support person with them. The role of the support person is to give any support needed, be it to help with drinking or with giving encouragement when needed or to make sure the display stays on during any unexpected toilet break (no racing SW is used at the marathon).

During the race: Get into a bubble

During the Marathon race itself all distractions should be removed or at least minimized. You need to get into a bubble together with your erg, where the universe consists of just yourself and the erg, and the motion back and forth.

To get into bubble mentality all practicalities must become automated. You need to know what and when to drink and you need to know what drinks don't upset your stomach. You need to know that your clothes or socks or shoes wont cause chafing.

It really doesn't matter what your shoes look like as long as you know they will feel good for the duration. Above is a shoe example from the ErgoMarathon in Helsinki last year...

If you use a seat pad make sure you've tested it out for looong ergs before. Btw, we recommend the ProW seats by Citius Remex, they work particularly well on the Concept2 seats.

The two different models of the ProW seat pads

Practice getting into a bubble with your erg, and also practice having a positive state of mind. Think I've almost done half rather than I've got more than half to go. Break the marathon into manageable chunks, e.g. 4*10km, and count downwards to achieve each of the milestones. Stay as positive as you can throughout the session and make yourself mentally stronger by visualizing yourself strong and firm. Remind yourself of posture, rhythm and good technique every once in a while. Force strength into your legs by giving them a bit of mental bandwidth. Legs, legs, legs. Long strokes. Relaxed recovery. Have a few words that you can get strength from and which can help you get back to form if your split starts lagging.

What's your weight?

The weighing in at the ErgoMarathon is done in the same way as during any indoor rowing competition. The weighing in is possible in the time window starting at two hours before and ending one hour before the race. However, there is one difference, and that is that you should definitely not lose weight before attempting a Marathon on the erg. On the contrary you should eat enough and also be fully hydrated before the race. A Marathon race is almost always a race against yourself, so no point in any case to try to get into the lightweight category if it isn't your natural weight.

What 's your pace?

You need to know your limits before the race, so that you can set a realistic target for your pace.

You should not attempt a marathon unless you've done half a marathon before, nor should you attempt half a marathon unless you've rowed continuously for an hour before. As for the 100km distance, that should not be attempted by anyone not having covered the marathon in the past.

A typical Marathon 500m split target could be 2-3 seconds slower than a previous half marathon split. Similarly a half marathon split would be 1-2 seconds slower than the split of a one hour continuous session.

Regular training before the race

The ErgoMarathon should not be entered on a whim. It requires solid fitness and regular training. We recommend regular 3 times a week indoor rowing during at least 3 months before the race. For inspiration on good indoor rowing workouts we recommend trying the Concept2 WOD .

ErgoMarathon in Finland

Finally why not make the most of your goal of completing a marathon, a half, or 100km on the erg by doing it at the world's biggest ErgoMarathon in Finland? The ErgoMarathon takes place on April 21st already for the 16th time. Many records have been broken at the Finnish ErgoMarathon (some 100km and 24hr world records are still valid) perhaps because of the good atmosphere where everybody is cheered to the finish line . The event is organized by Keravan Urheilijat sportsclub volunteers, who also get to choose the music being played to cheer the rowers along (if you're sensitive regarding your taste of music we recommend taking your own music or ear plugs with you).

You can bring your own music to the ErgoMarathon

This year the dynamic category will be included as an alternative to the static Concept2. Due to the limited number of machines we recommend you register early if you're interested in racing on slides, or on the RP3.

Below the event in a nutshell, for more info visit

  • Date:  21st April 2018
  • Place: Gustavelund, Tuusula, Finland (about 20km from the Helsinki-Vantaa airport)
  • Distances:
    • 100km, Open
    • 42.195m, Men
    • 21.097m, Women
    • 60minutes, Junior (below 16y boys and girls)
  • Rowing machines
    • Static: Concept2
    • Dynamic: RP3 or Concept2 on slides

Registration is now open, register early if you're doing dynamic!

Set your target, practice, and hope see you at the ErgoMarathon :-)

Happy rowing,

Quiske team

The Ergomarathon site 2017 was a tent looking straight to the Baltic Sea. This year the tent is by Tuusula lake.
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