Race Report 2018: Darren Strachan

Race Report 2018: Darren Strachan

First and most importantly I want to say thank you. Without the love and support of family and close buddies this kind of thing would not be possible. For me anyway - some people seem to be able to turn up and go by themselves, which is just incredible.

This is not your regular Spartathlon race report. There’s no history of the race or a chronological run through of what happened this time. Instead it’s a bit of a jumble, and jumps around all over the place time wise. Also quite a lot of things about my mental state, which despite the weather was probably the thing that gave me most trouble this year. So apologies for this - it could be the worst running blog entry you’ve ever read. It’s also likely to be very long. It’s just such a big experience, there’s a lot to offload. You’ve been double warned! TL;DR - it ends with a very wet foot kissing scene.

Thank You for the Days

First and most importantly I want to say thank you. Without the love and support of family and close buddies this kind of thing would not be possible. For me anyway - some people seem to be able to turn up and go by themselves, which is just incredible.

To Rosie and the kids - thank you so much for putting up with the training, the worry that I put you through, the time away and the great support from afar. I know it’s a lot. Maybe just shorter races for a while?!

To Jeff and Jane - thank you for the love and support you’ve given on this Sparta journey. It’s been such a pleasure and honour to share it with you. We’ve gone from wide-eyed novices in 2016 to a battle hardened team that is pretty much ready for anything. I’ve been so pleased that the race has encouraged you both with your own running and gym journeys!

To David - well I sure could have done with you alongside me this year buddy! Having you there as crew was magical and I drew inspiration from your 3rd place at Tooting to keep going when the tough times arrived. Thank you so much. Who got more rain?!?

To James, Laura, Nicky, Auds, Eric, Maria, all the Ellis clan - great to see you all again Team Ellis, thank you for the wonderful hospitality as ever.

To Jamie, Chevs, all of Team Holmes and everyone watching from afar and sending us support - missed you this year Mr and Mrs Holmes but thank you for all the support and i’m sure this Sparta story is not done for you all quite yet :)

To Doctor Dora and Team - thank you for looking after the Spartathletes and for your amazing care and concern at the end of the race. So glad not to cause so much alarm this time round!

To the ISA, Kostis, all the organisers, the mayor and people of Sparta, all the volunteers, Adrian at MB checkpoint, the mountain rescue team, all the supporters - thank you so much for all your efforts to put on this great race. We runners are the selfish ones, and you are all so selfless, thank you.

To the mystery lady (can anyone help me find out who she is?!) who seemed to take pity on me towards the end and seemed to be at each checkpoint from about 68 onwards, who looked me in the eye each time and said “i’ll see you in Sparta”. Thank you for renewing my belief with those words when it was ebbing away, and sorry that I was too scrambled to really take it in at the time, but it really did help. Sure enough she was there on the statue platform at the end. Whoever you are, thank you so much!

Well Do You, Do You Do You Wanna?

Truth be told, I didn’t really want to run this year. But this thing is like some ultra magnet, and it finds ways of drawing you back. I put in an entry hoping i’d be way down the waitlist with no chance of getting in. Then we’d all get a year off and a double ticket for 2019. When the draw came in March i was 50-something on the list. Perfect, right on the cusp of getting in or just missing out. Tenterhooks for 3 months. As the summer progressed the race wasn’t filling up as quickly as might be expected. Folks were either pulling out injured or not paying the entry fees. Gradually moving up the list to around 20th spot, then ISA took the waitlist off the site quite early on, but the race still wasn’t full. Huh? It filled up more, but it took weeks and weeks. Eventually around mid July it went over the magic 390 number, theoretically race full. But then, out of the blue, the classic Spartathlon email arrived. No fanfare, just “now you may enter”. Well ok, you’ve kind of sprung this one on me Sparta, usually i’d have about 6 months to prepare, this time less than 3. But fortunately i’d kept things going and had a good season. Working with Nathan Flear since November i’d set solid PBs for 10k, Half and Marathon. There was definitely a bit more speed in the legs. Kept the ultras going with a decent run at Nath’s St. Illtyds 100k in May and then a comedy smash a 50 grovel a 50 showing at the SDW100 in June, with Jamie Holmes banter and David and Bruce laughing at us for our ridiculous pacing. I had KACR coming up to get some mega miles in the legs. With interest levels in Spartathlon getting higher by the year and more and more places being taken up by elite “auto qualifiers”, who knew when i’d get another chance. The time seemed right for one more pop at the beast.

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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.

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.