Race Report 2016: Aykut Celikbas

Race Report 2016: Aykut Celikbas

According to dictionary.com, "the moment of truth" is described as the moment at which one's character, courage, skill, etc., is put to an extreme test. In the civilized world, it's all about being more and more comfortable and we rarely face these moments in our regular lives. When it comes to ultrarunning, they are more common. There are critical moments in every race when you have to make a tough decision such as stopping or going on. I would argue that one of the reasons most of us do this crazy sport is to face those moments as we try to conquer our doubts and insecurities.

I can certainly say that it's true in my case.

When it comes to Spartathlon, an iconic race that requires you to run 246 kilometers from Athens to Sparta in less than 36 hours and often under challenging weather conditions, you certainly face these moments more than a few times. You may not feel the exact same pressures like the Athenian messenger Pheidippides who was sent to Sparta in 490 BC to seek help against the Persian army but nonetheless it's a very demanding and stressful task. I'd even say that the race as a whole may be called as the moment of truth in any given year for an ultrarunner.

Why Spartathlon? For starters, it's the big stage. You don't necessarily have had to run it yourself to know this. If you've ever talked to someone who ran the race or read someone's report, you'll just know that this is an epic race which is very special for almost everyone who has participated in it. For me, it's the race that puts me to the ultimate test. Yes, the Spartathlon is tough and it's brutal but it's fair. It treats everyone equally, it doesn't care who you are, where you come from or how many times you ran it before. And it certainly doesn't care about your excuses because everyone has some and most of them are valid. It turns the spotlight on you for 36 hours straight and there's nowhere to hide. Then, it relentlessly asks you a series of tough questions. You need to be prepared for every aspect of the race beforehand but the final outcome is decided by how you respond to those questions in each of the specific moments of truth.

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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.


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