What It Takes To Break A World Record: Jussi’s Story

Photo by: Heidi Ikäheimo

If you’ve been keeping up with our blog lately, then you’ve probably already met Jussi. On October 8th, 2016, your fellow Endomondo member broke the Guinness World Record for “fastest marathon wearing a 60-lb backpack”

Even before the dust settled behind his record-setting 04:34:32 run and his feat makes it into the official books, we caught up with this inspirational athlete and all-around great guy to hear about his experience first-hand.

A few days after his run, this is what he had to say about his incredible race.

At what point did you realize you were going to break the record?

On the day of the marathon, I knew that since I could keep good running form going for a few hours, I wanted to get as far as possible before I started feeling the wear on my muscles. That meant adopting a slightly unorthodox marathon strategy: going almost at maximum speed from the start and then, simply trying to survive to the end.

Together with my crew, we ran at about 5:45/km for the first 10K, then at around 6:05/km for the the second…and gradually slowed down.

About two hours in, I got pretty bad cramps in my calves. That was a surprise, as I had none of those during the previous half marathons. It was scary, since they can kill a good run instantly. The cramps settled down with salt and lots of water, and thanks to the fast start, I had saved enough time to start feeling I had a decent shot at the record.

Still, it wasn’t clear at all. My blood pressure fluctuated quite a lot after the 3-hour mark. I was pretty sure that if I had to slow down to walk and my heart rate went down, I would black out and game over. That was good motivation to keep running!

My crew was astonishing. Even though it wasn’t easy, it was crazy fun all the way through. One of the guys even recited some poems loud and clear during the run 🙂

Jussi mid-marathon
Photo by: Heidi Ikäheimo

What was the toughest part of the marathon?

The amount of effort and struggle I needed to put in increased km by km for the last two hours, and during the last hour, I just was not able to produce enough power to climb even small ascents in any way that would resemble running.

Still, the only moment when I was really in doubt was at around the 20K-mark, when I got cramps. If those hit hard and get out of control, it is game over, abandon all hope, you lose!

As you were training for this event, did you check your stats regularly to know how you were progressing?

Yes, I am the stats guy. I don’t really look at my heart rate during my runs or wear a sports watch nowadays, even though I have those. Usually I put on my headphones, let good music flow, and listen to the Audio Coach on Endomondo read out my average HR per km or tell me when a tempo/easy/hard interval starts. Then, I just go with the flow.

What I care about most is playing with the stats after my run. Looking back and planning ahead. Actually, I believe if I worried too much about a single bad half marathon or one bad workout session, I  would not be able to reach anything.  What matters to me is how things go over weeks and months of training.

How did training with us help you prepare for this race?

For me, the training plan is all the evidence needed to prove that the target can be reached.

I did adjust details to fit my days and preferences, as well as the backpack craziness – but I knew that if I followed the plan, not just my body, but also my mind believes I can do 

Did the pep talks you got from everyone help keep you motivated?

Yes! We had the running strollers equipped with iPads live streaming the Endomondo route and one camera shooting Facebook live video and so on. Endomondo reading the pep talks out loud…it was like we had a huge stadium full of people running with us. It made the whole run a very social and cheerful party. I didn’t really have the time to think about being tired.

Was there any one pep talk that stood out?

Actually, the first one. My friend who really helped me through the start during the early years and who pushed me through the Hoka Highland Fling 85K Ultra in 2013. It wasn’t an artistic verse. Just the words: “GO GO. Run for your life” 🙂

Jussi and the crowd cheering
Photo by: Heidi Ikäheimo

How did it feel to finally cross that finish line?

Some 100m before the finish, I felt a surge of energy and started running like crazy. Everyone was cheering, kids giving high fives. Amazing. I truly felt like I had accomplished a mission. And not just for my marathon, or the record. I felt like I got to tell a story to the end, about weight and achievement, and that is empowering.

How did you celebrate afterwards?

After the run, we went to the sauna with the team and other runners. Chatted about everyone’s experiences, followed up by a pizza with double cheese.  At home, we played board games with my kids and continued celebrating in this jet set style 🙂

Did this experience change you? 

To me, this was kind of the final end to one story, and I am so happy I was able to share it.

I feel I won this one battle against my binge eating disorder, made it my advantage, and came out stronger again. The war is not over, but I pushed down one barrier in my mind.  

If you are a Matrix fan, this is where Neo would say: “I know Kung Fu”.

Lessons learned? 

Your weakness is your greatest strength. I know it is lame, awkward, overwhelming and Sun Tzu-ish. But after all, it is true. 

What are you planning next?

Not quite sure yet.  I am thinking it should be something I am really bad at due to my weight, height and poor coordination.  Maybe something related to climbing and going vertical. In any case, I will keep running. I love it. While waiting for my next running challenge, I’m planning to participate in the Finnish indoor rowing league during the winter.”

To keep up with Jussi’s training, be sure to check his profile on Endomondo, and hear more about his journey, visit his blog (in Finnish).

Thanks Jussi, for being awesome, and congratulations once again on this amazing feat!

The Endomondo Team

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