Spartathlon 2013

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SPARTATHLON is a historic ultra-distance foot race that takes place in September of every year in Greece. Arguably, it is one of the most difficult and satisfying ultra-distance races in the world because of its unique history and background.

The Spartathlon revives the footsteps of Pheidippides, an ancient Athenian long distance runner, who in 490 BC, before the battle of Marathon, was sent to Sparta to seek help in the war between the Greeks and the Persians. According to the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, Pheidippides arrived in Sparta the day after his departure from Athens. Inspired by the report of the Greek historian, in 1982 five officers of the British Royal Air Force (RAF), who were also long-distance runners, traveled to Greece, led by Colonel John Foden. Their purpose was to ascertain whether it was possible to cover the 250 kilometers separating the two towns in one and a half days. The enthusiastic British team showed that the report by Herodotus was entirely plausible.

A man is indeed able to cover 250 km in less than two days and in fact in less than 40 hours. After the success of the project, the architect of the feat, John Foden, began to envision the establishment of a race that would bring long distance runners to Greece from around the world to run on the trail of the ancient runner Pheidippides. The next year a multinational team of British, Greek and other enthusiastic supporters of the idea, led by Michael Callaghan, a philhellene, organized the First International Spartathlon (Open International Spartathlon Race), wherein the name for the race combines the Greek words for Sparta and Feat.

The race was held with the approval and supervision of the Athletics Federation with the participation of 45 runners from 11 countries and included the participation of women. The organizational success of this inaugural race and its broad appeal were decisive to the subsequent establishment of the annual race.

Accordingly, in 1984 the International Association “Spartathlon” was founded. Since then a yearly race has been organized each September. Why September? Because that is the time reported by Herodotus for Pheidippides run to Sparta.

Information taken from http://www.spartathlon.gr ©Spartathlon.gr

The Race

The 2013 edition of the race will start on Friday 27th September with 350 participants and for any last minute dropouts; this entry list will be topped up from a waiting list of 160 runners.

UK entrants:

  • Mark Woolley
  • Robert Pinnington
  • Lindley Chambers
  • Claire Shelley
  • James Adams
  • Drew Sheffield
  • Martin Ilott
  • Philip Smith
  • Mathew Mahoney
  • Mimi Anderson *
  • Paul Ali
  • Mike Blamires
  • Cat Lawson
  • Steve Scott
  • Pat Robbins
  • Martin Bacon
  • Mark Hines
  • Laurence Chownsmith
  • Robbie Britton *
  • Jonathan Hall
  • Peter Johnson
  • James Elson

Countries represented:

Sweden, Poland, Australia, Japan, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Denmark, France, Spain, Netherlands, Finland, Argentina, Portugal, China, Malta, United States, Uruguay, Belgium, Austria, Brazil, Mexico, Czech Republic, Faeroe Islands, Switzerland, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Hong Kong, United Kingdom and of course Greece.

Spartathlon, for many is a bucket list race. It has a magic that cannot be found at other races. The distance, strict cut-off times, the heat and so on all add to the drama. The course is conducted point-to-point and elevation ranges from sea level to 1,200 meters (3,937 ft), over tarmac road, trail and mountain footpath. Aid stations are placed every 3 to 5 km and are provisioned with food, water and other refreshments as well as the runners’ personal supplies. The race is run under police and medical supervision with doctors, physiotherapists, and emergency vehicles being on call throughout the 36-hour race duration. The race is very demanding.

The course is not the most spectacular and 153 miles of roads may not appeal to many, particularly if coming from a trail or mountain running background. However, I’ve yet to meet anyone who has run this race and not loved it. For sure, the Greeks, French, Japanese, German and now a growing UK participation love this race and demand is continuing to grow.

Lizzy Hawker raced in 2012 and not only won the ladies race in 27:02:17 but placed third overall. The outright winner was Stu Thoms from Germany in 26:28:19.

For the 2013 edition of the race, all entrants are of interest. For many, Spartathlon is a journey about completion and not competition. However, two people are of interest and for opposite reasons. Firstly, Robbie Britton from the UK is coming to Spartathlon for the first time but he is potentially an exciting prospect for the overall with a solid 100-mile result at the South Downs Way 100 in a time of 15:43:53 and 239.008km at the World 24-hour championships. Robbie has said in his blog, “I’m right excited about getting to Sparta now and can’t wait for the great challenge of this historic race. We’ve got a solid British team heading out there; including a few Grand Union Canal Race winners, one of whom is attempting a double Spartathlon and it should be a great atmosphere out there. After a strong showing from the Brits at UTMB and The Grand Slam of Ultra Running, I guess we best put a bit of effort into Spartathlon now too…” Bog here

Secondly, Mimi Anderson will be doing Spartathlon her own way in 2013… she raced in 2011 and surprised herself with her performance. So much so, this year she is coming back to do it twice! Yes, twice.

Mimi’s press release:

‘Marvellous’ Mimi Anderson, the 51 year-old grandmother from Smarden in Kent who is a triple long distance running Guinness World Record holder and already the legendary finisher of several ‘doubles’ of extreme long distance races for which the one-way normal run would be beyond most mere mortals, is about to attempt probably her most daring double – a two-way run of the iconic Spartathlon race held in Greece each year.

Traditionally there are about 20 runners from the UK each year and Mimi first ran the race in 2011 when she finished 3rd lady overall and the 1st UK finisher in 32 hours 33 minutes 23 seconds. She has decided to return in 2013 and having completed the normal race on her previous visit, she will be attempting the double this year (a distance of 306 miles), which is believed to have only ever been done once before. It has certainly never been done by anyone from Britain and no female has ever attempted it.

Mimi’s plan is to do the race first then, all being well, start the return leg at midnight on Saturday night.  She will be running the race itself to achieve the best time she can and then attempting the return leg in in the same tough 36 hours maximum time allowed for the race.

Her husband Tim and friend Becky Healey will be crewing for her during the event and the reason for starting the return leg at midnight on the Saturday is to enable the crew to get some sleep – otherwise it becomes too dangerous for them to be driving safely!

Mimi will be running to raise money for her usual cause – the 10 Million Metres Campaign, which was set up by Alex Flynn when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 4 years ago.  People can donate on the Justgiving site at www.justgiving.com/marvellousmimi1

The 2013 event for sure will be exciting for all involved and for those watching. If you would like more information, please go to the race website.

Links:

All entrants can be viewed here

Live Tracking for race day here

Spartathlon Preview

Twenty fours hours ago I sat down to write just a brief preview of two other races that would be taking place this weekend for those who may not be following Cavalls del Vent (not sure why that would happen). Firstly, Spartathlon.

Spartathlon is due to start as I write this, 0700 Friday. I guess ‘the race’ that got us all running! It is iconic in the ultra world for many reasons. The distance at 153 miles needs no explanation… it’s a long way. Taking place pretty much all on uninspiring road they throw in a tough mountain at around the 100 mile mark just to mess you up a little more oh and then they have cut off times throughout the race that you must achieve if you want to keep going.

2012 represents the races 30th birthday of the race that is conducted in the footsteps of Pheidippides, the ancient Athenian runner. Pheidippides was sent to Sparta in 490 BC, before the battle of Marathon, to ask for help in the war led by the Greeks against the Persians. According to Herodotus, Pheidippides arrived in Sparta the day after his departure from Athens.

The race has iconic winners and I guess the most notable are Yiannis Kouros who still has the record of 20:25 and Scott Jurek who won the race three times.

Just over 350 will take part this year and they represent over 30 countries. Greece always has plenty of participants but the race is also iconic within Japan. Many of the contenders such as , Noto Kimi winner in 04/05, Akiko Sakamoto winner in 07 and then 4 years earlier in 03, Sumie Inagaki who won in 09 and finally Hiroko Okiyama who I guess is an outsider as she won the race some 12 years ago in 2000. Last years winner though, Szilvia Lubics from Hungary is returning. Notable 2012 entrant is Lizzy Hawker, I spoke to Lizzy several times in recent weeks and months and she is fired up for this iconic race. Her prep was going to be UTMB and then come to Spartathlon, but with UTMB being shortened (she won again) she decided to squeeze in the gap a 100 mile race (as you do) the Run Rabbit Run (which she won). Anybody else and you would think 100 miler just a few weeks before Spartathlon; crazy! But we are talking about Lizzy! Her main issue is a fall she took early in RRR in which she banged her knee seriously. Just a few days ago she sent me a message and I quote:

“Hi Ian, thanks so so much for your good wishes for Spartathlon!!!! I’m really grateful …. need a little bit of magic out there 🙂 knee improves every day, but will it be good enough? & the head & heart?!! enjoy Cavals, I’ll be thinking of you all there :). best, Lizzy”

Lizzy at 2012 UTMB

If Lizzy has a ‘Lizzy’ day then she will be incredible. No doubt. Her 100k and 24hr times are prove enough of what she can do. Another UK entrant, Claire Shelley may well figure well. She has won the Grand Union Canal race in the UK which is 145 miles running up and down the Canal systems of the Midlands (I still don’t understand why?)

The mens race will be a battle. I just wish Mike Morton was toeing the line… after his Badwater performance and his 24 hour record I would love to see what he could do here.

Ivan Cudin from Italy, returns to defend his title but notably Valmir Nunes from Brazil, winner in 01 returns. Valmir holds the CR at Badwater which Morton missed by 75 seconds in the 2012 edition. Markus Thalmann from Austria won in 03 and had great races in 04 and 05.

My money is on Cudin and Hawker… and you?

You can follow the race live HERE

The 2012 program is available as a PDF HERE