1983 - Today
The battle of Marathon in 490 B.C. , one of the most famous battles in world history, constituted a landmark and a starting point in the history of civilization. The triumph of the genius of Miltiades and the self-denial of his soldiers made the hordes of Persians flee and rescued Athens and Hellenism from the utmost danger of subjugation to the barbarian invaders. The effects of the victory at Marathon continue to influence the present. It was the first victory against the planned domination of "Asianization" over Europe and an event with momentous significance. Because of this victory, Athens was able to achieve a great deal and bequeath the benefits of its knowledge, arts and virtue to mankind. Two and a half thousand years after that historical battle, a sports event, inseparably related to it, was born in Greece
It's Name was Spartathlon
It all started from Herodotus' account of the Battle of Marathon. The great historian of antiquity described the details of the battle many years later and mentioned the deeds of Pheidippides, an Athenian messenger, sent by his generals to Sparta in order to secure help for the reinforcement of the scanty Athenian forces against the forthcoming Asiatic incursion. According to Herodotus, Pheidippides arrived in Sparta on the next day of his departure" from Athens.
An Epic Deed
Spartathlon is the event that brings this deed to attention today by drawing a legend out of the depths of history. The idea for its creation is belongs to John Foden, a British RAF Wing Commander. As a lover of Greece and student of ancient Greek history, Foden stopped his reading of Herodotus' narration regarding Pheidippides, puzzled and wondering if a modern man could cover the distance from Athens to Sparta, i.e. 250 kms, within 36 hours. He thought that the only way to find out was to try to run the historical course since he himself was a long-distance runner. Thus, he and four other colleagues from the RAF came to Athens in the autumn of 1982 and planned the run as closely as possible to Herodotus' description. On 8th October they started their adventure to see whether their speculations could be verified. On 9th October, the next day, John Foden arrived in Sparta in front of the statue of Leonidas having run for 36 hours. His colleague, John Scholten, had arrived half an hour earlier and finally, John McCarthy got to the finish line in less than 40 hours.
The British team proved Herodotus was right! A man is really able to cover 250 km in two days.
When John Foden and his colleagues first arrived in Athens, they were warmly welcomed and supported by members of the British community and Greek friends. After the success of the first attempt, the pioneer of this event began to envision the establishment of a foot race that would bring long distance runners from all over the world to Greece for a race following in the tracks of the ancient runner. The results are now widely known. Undoubtedly the historical context of the race, closely connected to the Olympic idea and consequently with compete unselfishness, appealed to the imagination and caused unprecedented excitement amongst a great number of long distance runners throughout the world. Their response was, justifiably, immediate and catalytic. The 1st International Spartathlon was organized in 1983 with the participation of 45 runners from 11 countries as well as Greece.
The success and participation were decisive for the future and the development of the race. Thus, in 1984, the "International Spartathlon Association" (I.S.A.) was created. Since then, the I.S.A. has organized the race every September as, according to Herodotus' account, Pheidippides' mission to Sparta was made at that time of the year. The revival of a page of ancient Greek history is established now as one of the most famous sporting events worldwide. Great runners come to Athens from Australia and Japan, Canada and the USA, including, of course, most European countries. All of them are attracted to the uniqueness and difficulty of the race as well as the modesty and respect of the athletic ideals imposed by a race known as "mythic"
In addition, beyond its athletic aspect, Spartathlon has become a powerful tribute from which real messages of friendship and peace can be sent to the peoples of the earth without political or racial discrimination. A tribute where Greece is also promoted crowned by its unparalleled hospitality and natural beauties. Thus hundreds of runners who have participated in Spartathlon carry home their images and experiences from Greece, and are our best ambassadors abroad.
About the Race
Described as the world's most grueling race, the Spartathlon runs over rough tracks and muddy paths (often it rains during the race), crosses vineyards and olive groves, climbs steep hillsides and, most challenging of all, takes the runners on the 1,200 meter ascent and descent of Mount Parthenio in the dead of night. This is the mountain, covered with rocks and bushes, on which it is said Pheidippides met the god Pan. In 2,500 years man has had no impact at all. There is still no pathway over the mountain that is swept by strong winds with temperatures as low as 4°C. The ascent is marked out by a trail of battery-driven colored flashing lights and its challenge is a trial for human stamina and mental strength. Over the mountain the last sections are no less energy sapping and exhausting for the runners as they follow a road that winds up and down hills before descending into Sparta. Even the finest athletes start hallucinating as they cover these final stages. Having lost all sense of time and reality, they are "on automatic" as they push their weary bodies on towards the finishing line at the statue of Leonidas. At most, only about a third of the runners who leave Athens end the course in Sparta. The goal of all participants is to cover the course within the 36-hour time limit. Setting records is the primary aim. Those who succeed in reaching Sparta have trouble finding words to describe their feelings. Spartathlon has to be lived through. It is a very personal experience in which the athletes dream about participating. Their imagination is stirred by the idea of being a modern Pheidippides, running in the footsteps of the ancient messenger. They train for years to get fit enough both physically and mentally to meet the race's demands.
The Spartathlon course is conducted point-to-point, the 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, not only because of the distance, but also for the cut-off requirements and weather conditions.
It should be noted that each of the 75 race control points has its own time limitations and should a runner arrive later than the official closing time he or she will be eliminated from the race. For a runner to be able to plan effectively it is useful to look at the race in series of sections as shown in the following table:
||Check Point No
||Distance From Athens
||Final Point Closes
||Distance for Sector
|ATHENS TO CORINTH
||0 - 22
Leaving the starting line at the base of the celebrated Acropolis of Athens the runners set out down the pedestrian precinct that is Apostolou Pavlou Street, passing the Thiseo metro station and entering the Platea Ag.Asomaton where they will turn left onto Ermou Street. Almost immediately the Sacred Way (Iera Odos) beckons and the runners will stay on this historic route until Daphni Monastery where they cross the Athens-Corinth highway and continue through Aspropirgos to Elefsis (24.2 km). Returning to the old road for Corinth the runners pass in succession Loutropirgos, Megara (Marathon distance 42.5 km), Kineta and Agioi Theodoroi to arrive at Isthmia and the bridge over the Corinth Canal (78.5 kilometres).
The route has thus far has been a series of gradual climbs and descents close to the sea but now we veer south into the country and the Peloponnese. Shortly after the bridge (2.5 km) the Runners turn left to checkpoint 22 at the Hellas Can factory (81 km).
The narrow road continues on to Examilia and ancient Corinth. Descending through the center of Ancient Corinth, the runners turns right at the Temple of Apollo and continue through citrus orchards to Assos (100.5 km). Here begins the ascent of the hills dividing Ancient Nemea from the sea. Along this narrow winding climb (351 meters in 24 kilometres) the road passes through the villages of Zevgolatio and Halkion to checkpoint 35, entering Nemea (124 km) alongside the ruins of Greece's ancient civilization and its recently excavated stadium.
Continuing on a country road where conditions have changed little in the past two decades, care must be taken, as it is easy to trip on the stones and potholes that are perpetually scattered along the road. It is now into evening darkness for many of the runners and a damp chill will be descending from the lush mountainside. A haven in the darkness is the village of Malandreni (140.2 Km) before another stony descent and brief climb close to the north-south E65 Trans-Peloponnese highway and checkpoint 43 at Lyrkia village (148.5 Km)
Mountain & Nestani Section
Lyrkia is a lively spot on this special night and is often overflowing with visitors and supporters alike who have come to dine and watch the race as it progresses through this important checkpoint. Leaving the aroma of coffee and souvlaki behind, the runner follows the road, which winds steeply upwards, quickly leaving civilisation behind. In the next 13 km the runner will climb some 960 meters (3,150 ft) to reach the head of the Sangas Pass on the flank of the Artemission range. The goals are Kaperelli village (154.1 km) then checkpoint 47 at Mountain Base (159.3 Km).
Reaching the top of Sangas is no mean feat and great care must be taken on the treacherous twisting path. From the summit (1,100 m - 3,608 ft) there is a plunge down a zigzag track to the village of Sangas (164.3 km) in Arcadia when the route again joins the paved road for the often-necessary fast sprint to checkpoint 52 at Nestani (172 km).
From Nestani the runner gradually eases on to the plains of Tripolis and passes through a succession of small hamlets and the village of Zevgolatio of Arcadia. Now the way is through flat farmland that is often cloaked in morning mist until the sun rises over checkpoint 60 at Tegea (195 km). The runner needs to take stock of his physical resources here, although only 50 kilometres from Sparta it is still a heartbreaking slog often in the unrelenting heat of the new day.
From Tegea the road takes on the final climb of the race rising from 640 m (2,100 ft) to 975 meters (3,200 ft) in a distance of 22 km. The runners will pass through the villages of Kamari (196.8 km) and Manthirea (202.1 km) where the paved road twists and turns through an evergreen landscape that is visible almost as far as the eye can see. The final 28 kilometres to Sparta are almost all downhill descending into the Evrotas Valley. At the village of Voutiani (236.2 kilometres), the runners can clearly see their goal and after crossing over the Evrotas river bridge (243.5 km) the runners are met by local school children who will accompany them to checkpoint 75 and the finish line in Sparta the capital of Laconia (245.3 km).
The city turns out in force to welcome the athletes as heroes in front of the statue of King Leonidas. All finishers are presented with an olive wreath and offered a goblet of water from the Evrotas River, much as Olympian winners would have been honoured in ancient times.
Athens is the capital of the Greek state and was the most important city of ancient Greece. It reached the zenith of its glory during the 5th century B.C., often referred to as the “Golden Age”, by displaying an immense and astounding role as the founder of a great civilization, mainly due to the highly gifted political personality of Pericles.
He was the first to establish the Athenian Democracy that became a symbol and has been admired throughout the centuries. Pericles endowed mankind with a magnificent system of government based on freedom and human dignity in which “the demos (people) was the most powerful,” according to Aristotle.
At the same time, Pericles adorned Athens with brilliant architectural monuments erected on the sacred rock of the Acropolis.
The Parthenon (447-438 B.C.), the most illustrious architectural creation of all time and the most perfect expression of the classical art prevailing in Pericles’ era. It was a Doric temple dedicated to the goddess Athina and built by the architects Iktinos and Kallikrates of white marble from Pendeli. The Parthenon housed a gold and ivory statue of Athina, a work by the famous sculptor Pheidias who also created the sculptures on the friezes of the temple.
The Propylea (437-432 B.C.), the glorious entrance to the Acropolis and its monuments, were constructed by the Athenian architect Mnisikles. They are some of the most magnificent masterpieces of Greek classical architecture.
The Temple of Athena Nike (Apteros Nike = Wingless Victory) built in about 420 B.C. is a masterpiece of Ionian architectural style erected after the plans of Kallikrates to commemorate the victories of the Greeks over the Persians.
The Erechtheion (420-406 B.C.) is an elegant and gracious temple of Ionian style, dedicated to Athina Polias and King Erechtheus. It was ornamented with six Caryatids, statues of most beautiful and elegant maidens, supporting the roof of the south porch.
The Acropolis of Athens constitutes the symbol, the glory and the pride of its city throughout the millennia. In spite of the countless incursions and attacks it has suffered, it raises the majesty of its marbles on top of the sacred rock to link its sublime ancient civilization to its modern one.
Priceless finds from excavations on the Acropolis, with sculptures from the Parthenon and other temples are housed in the Acropolis Museum that was erected in 1878. It is a unique museum where one can become acquainted with the origins of Attic art.
A city-state of ancient Greece, this town was named after the “eleusis” (which means “arrival” in ancient Greek) of the goddess Demeter’s who came here looking for her lost daughter Persephone.
To honor Demeter and Persephone, secret “Eleusinian Mystery” ceremonies were held.
Eleusina is the hometown of the most illustrious tragic poet of ancient Greece and of all time, Aeschylus (525 B.C.)
The city occupied a very important place in history, as for many centuries, it has been, along with Delphi and Delos one of the greatest cultural centers of the ancient world. Important ruins of Demeter’s sanctuary, known under the name of great Telestirion where the ceremonies of initiation in the Eleusinian Mysteries were held, can be seen today. A museum houses the numerous archeological finds from the area.
Today, Eleusina is a constantly developing industrialized town.
As far back as the 8th Century B.C., glorious Megara was a powerful and autonomous city in Ancient Greece. Her seafaring people founded very important colonies in Sicily, by the Marmara and Black Seas and the famous Byzance (today, Constantinople) on the coast of the Bosporus during the 6th and 7th centuries B.C.
The welfare and prosperity of Megara were mainly due to the trade between the metropolis and its rich colonies. Its great wealth exerted a cultural influence on its inhabitants and inspired very important personalities in the field of arts and letters: the philosopher Euclid (450 - 374 B.C.), founder of the Megara philosophy, his disciple, Stilpon, the great architect Eupalinos, the famous elegaic poet, Theognis, as well as large number of sculptors and other poets. Megara is considered the hometown of comedy because its inhabitants were famous for their high-spirited nature and the satirical improvisations.
The ancient city, along with its multitude of magnificent monuments, is amply described in Pausanias’ works about travelling. The most remarkable landmarks were Theaghnis’ Fountain and the aqueduct which supplied the water, the majestic Temple of Zeus with a statue of the god of gods, the Temple of Artemis containing a statue of the goddess along with statues of the twelve gods of Olympus made by Ptaxiteles, the Temple of Athina on the city’s Acropolis with a gold plated statue of the goddess, the Temples of Dionyssos, Isis and Apollo and a vast number of other temples and sanctuaries dedicated to various deities.
There is a celebrated dance in Megara called “Trata” which is performed by young girls wearing beautiful, gold-worked traditional costumes and reminiscent of the ancient dance of veiled virgins. It takes place every year on the Tuesday following Easter Sunday and attracts large numbers of visitors. It is worth mentioning that the young girls of Megara are famous for their beauty, their stature and their Dorian profile.
Ancient Corinth was one of the most illustrious cities of ancient times and one of the first cradles of art.The city, built at the foot of Akrokorinth, had become extremely rich and was ornamented with magnificent monuments and buildings, among which dominated the temple of Apollo and the Agora. The greatly prized Corinthian vases and idols were created in the city and painting and poetry flourished. A new style in the architecture of columns was elaborated, the Corinthian style.
The city was looted and burned down by the Romans in 146 B.C. and for one hundred years the “lumen totius Graeciae” (the light of all Greece, according to Cicero) was put out. It was reconstructed in 46 A.D. by Julius Caesar and rapidly developed. In 52 A.D. the Apostle Paul founded a church. He addressed two Epistles to the church and its members.
The modern city of Corinth, built 8 km from Ancient Corinth, is one of the major urban centers of the Peloponnese.
Ancient Nemea was a renowned city of ancient times because of the great Panhellenic Games, called “ NEMEA ”, held there every two years, and also because of the famous Temple of Zeus of the 4th B.C., one of the most venerated sanctuaries in Ancient Greece. Ruins of the temple can still be seen today. Ancient Nemea was also involved in one of Hercules’ labors that killed the Nemea Lion.
Ancient Nemea is today a picturesque village and the small town of modern Nemea is a short distance from there and well known for its wines produced from the vineyards of the region.
A very important ancient city in the Peloponnese, where the goddesses Alea and Athina were worshipped. In their honor, the temple of Alea Athina, one of the most famous temples of ancient times was erected. It was decorated with a statue of the goddess made by the great sculptor Skopas. There were also magnificent buildings in the city, a stadium, a gymnasium and an all-marble theater. Tegea had its own currency and was the hometown of many writers, historians and lyric poets.
A remarkable archaeological museum displays various sculptures by Skopas along with many important finds from the surrounding area.
The history of Sparta goes back to very ancient times, as excavations have revealed that the area was inhabited since the end of the Neolithic period.
The ruins of ancient Sparta lie 500 m from the modern town. The Acropolis of the town, the “Tomb of Leonidas”, the ruins of the temple of Halkioikos Athina and the temple of Orthia Artemis, those of a theater of the 2nd century B.C. and a 10th century Christian church can be seen.
Sparta dominated the entire Peloponnese as an aristocratic, oligarchic and military state.
Legislator Lykourgos was considered the person who established the military and Doric regime of Sparta by separating its citizens into three classes: the “Spartans” who were descendants of the Dorian conquerors and were rich landowners with full civil rights, the “Perioiki” who were local people allowed to live only in the surrounding area and permitted to join Sparta’s army, and the “ilotes” who were the Spartans’ slaves with no civil rights.
Sparta’ s history during ancient times Sparta was troubled and marked by conquests, great victories and defeats and very powerful alliances. Generally, Sparta has played a primordial role in Greek history.
Modern Sparta, the capital of Lakonia, is an administrative center and also the industrial, agricultural and trades center of the fertile Evrotas valley with its extremely rich crops of citrus fruit and olive oil of superior quality. The city has a remarkable urban layout with attractive architecture and an important archaeological museum containing a great number of sculptures, idols, amphorae, statuettes, etc.
Sparta is surrounded by a luxurious, evergreen panorama of astonishing beauty protected by two majestic mountains, the Parnonas to the east and the Taygetus to the west.
MEDICAL COVERAGE OF ATHLETES DURING THE RACE
Coverage of the Regional Hospitals throughout the length of the route
Regional Hospitals CORINTH, ARGOS, TRIPOLEOS, SPARTA, is standby during the race to accept athletes with emergencies from the nearest point on the route.
HOSPITAL OF TRIPOLI
HOSPITAL OF CORINTH
Ambulance Stations for the immediate evacuation of heavy events
Throughout the course of the race Ambulance located at Stations 1) Greece Kahn 2) Arch.Korinthos 3) Arch.Nemea 4) Malandeni 5) Lykeia, 6) Base Mountain 7) Nestani, 8) Tegea Alley 9) Monument. Also ambulances are on the move, between the main stations, direct response and evacuation to the nearest district hospital.
Medical Support Groups-Care on 36 hours
At Stations 1) Greece Kahn 2) Arch.Nemea, 3) Lyrkia, 4) Base Mountain, 4) Nestani, 5) Tegea Alley, 6) Monument. (223.4. Km) and End are medical teams of leading doctors, ready to offer medical support and care for athletes, medical cars also run over the route between Central Channels for direct intervention and assistance.
HOSPITAL OF SPARTA
Support groups of Physiotherapists at Stations
Groups of physiotherapists are Distributed in Stations and offer their support to athletes for 36 hours continuously, also cars with physical therapists move at all the route, of the race for help to the athletes.