Race Report 2019: Sergei Ovchinnikov
I guess you don’t know me. Let’s talk straight. I’m an ordinary person “incapable of running 100 kilometers in 10 hours” (this was what one good coach once called me).
I first read about Spartathlon in a book by the great Scott Jurek a couple of years ago. At that time, this event seemed so grandiose and strenuous that I didn’t even consider taking part in it. It wasn’t for me. It was only for tough people. That distance was too long. I couldn’t believe I could manage a distance of 246 kilometers in one attempt. I decided to qualify for Spartathlon a few minutes before the Ultimate 100 Miles around Elton Lake in May 2018. There was no time to read Spartathlon rules; I heard my friends saying at the start that you had to run 164 kilometers faster than in 16 hours. And so I set off to qualify. An adventure at its finest. A year before, it had taken me about 24 hours to hit the same distance in similar weather. Would I manage to win as many as 8 hours from myself? Luckily, instead of this question, there was an answer to it spinning in my mind — “Impossible is nothing,” as advanced triathletes say. Alas, closer to the finish my hopes were dashed: I was 30 minutes behind, and I was unable to win them back. As soon as I crossed the finish line, I was amazed to learn that I had had it wrong. To qualify for Spartathlon, I had to complete it in under 16 hours and 40 minutes, and my timing was 16:28! Tirelessly, I leapt for joy with my sons, who had met me at the tape.
In two days Anton, I and some other cool guys from Russia would be standing on the start at Acropolis accompanied by the best runners from across the globe. Would I manage it? Was I ready? Unlike Anton, I’d never run such a distance, especially over the rugged terrain and in hot weather like that. My brain was desperately summoning reasons which could prevent me from breaking the tape. I was sitting in my airplane chair, when a sudden fear of crushing flushed through me, although I wasn’t afraid of traveling by air. “If the pilot fails to land the plane, I will never make it up to the start and will never finish the race,” thoughts tumbled around in my mind. However, if I was worried not about my chances but about such an unlikely outcome, I must have been ready for the marathon. And yet, I had a few grounds to make me feel confident. My drills were unsystematic. Occasionally, I ran from work back home, and a month before Spartathlon Anton and I had walked 180 kilometers from Vyborg to St. Petersburg — so much for the workout. I guess confidence must be a result of stupidity. When you don’t understand how dangerous something is, you feel like a young snotty-nosed racer.
A month ago, during a race in Vyborg, I had some serious digestion issues that had caused me some trouble before, too. At long distances, a strong stomach is much more important than strong legs, and it kept failing me. However, for some reason I wasn’t pondering on that matter, and I was even ready that they would lose my luggage packed with energy supplements. One of the valuable things in my bags was a book by the famous Dean Karnazes, whose autograph I intended to get before or after the finish. I wanted to give that book to Boris as a present, as we were going to run on his birthday. Although Boris didn’t run with us, I dedicated this race to my dearest friend in acknowledgement of him introducing me to the delightful world of sport.