Friday, 20 May 2016


Well I thought I would try to resurrect this poor neglected blog with the news that I have a place in this year's edition of Spartathlon.  What on earth is that I hear you say... well I shall try to tell you....

Spartathlon is a footrace in Greece honouring the legendary Greek messenger Pheidepides who was said to have run from Athens to Sparta to beg the Spartans for help as Athens was about to be invaded by the Persians.  Unluckily for Pheidepides the Spartan king refused to help as they were in the midst of a festival and drinking/dancing/sacrificing didn't mix with warfare back in the day.  So after giving him some shelter and no doubt a bit of sustenance they sent the messenger back on his way to Athens.  Luckily for the Athenians, on the return trip Pheidepides encountered the nature god Pan, who said he would fight on the side of the Athenians if only they would pay him more attention.
Emboldened by this news the Athenians managed to fight off the Persians thereby saving all things we now hold dear in our Western world.  Democracy, freedom, that kind of stuff.

For around 2000 years no one was daft enough, brave enough, or needed to, recreate Pheidepides' journey.  No one that is until some British RAF officers, led by John Foden, attempted it in the early 80s.  They figured out an approximation of the route and set off from Athens at sunrise on the first day and arrived at sunset on the second day (the times stated in the legend), thereby proving that the journey described in the legend was indeed possible.  The modern Spartathlon was born and it has become one of the most prestigious events in the crazy world of "ultra" marathon running.

You'll have noticed that so far I haven't mentioned the distance from Athens to Sparta.  That's because it's a terrifying 153 miles (or 246 kilometres for metric people) although that's far from the scariest aspect of the race.  Here are the other scary bits:

- you have to run the whole thing in less than 36 hours.

- you have to run the first 50 miles in less than 9 hours 30 minutes.

- there are 75 checkpoints along the route, every single one of which has a cutoff timing point.
Fail to meet the required time, you get pulled out, no exceptions.

- the route is not flat.  There are many undulations and it goes over a mountain the size of Ben Nevis
at the 100 mile mark.

- it might be very very hot, temperatures can get into the high 30s.  Obviously, being a bald Scot
not known for a great tolerance to the sun, i'll be hoping for more benign temperatures!

- the drop out rate is typically 50 to 60% of the ~400 people who start.

- there are many many tales of people who i'd consider to be stronger runners than
me training like demons and not managing to complete the race.  Some of them multiple
times before finally managing a finish.

So aside from trying to stop myself being terrified, I guess I should really do a bit of training this summer.  I have place number 23 of 24 in the "Britsh Spartathlon Team" which is not officially related to Team GB but go all out for representing the UK in the best manner possible.  So I want to give myself every chance and make sure I represent the team as well as I can too.

More to follow on various Spartathlon topics over the next few months.

1 comment:

  1. Just hearing about your crazy adventure!!!!! Sounds amazing. Good luck and run like Pheidipedes! Shout Nike when you cross the finish line!