Race Report 2015: Michael Botes

Race Report 2015: Michael Botes

While waiting in the queue I scanned each of the nine people in front of me – knowing that less than half of us will reach the finish line and the same applied to the rest of the crowded room of participants.

How do I know this? Thirty two years of history has proven that on average only 41% of participants starting the race will reach the finish line.

I measure the physique of each of my “opponents”. Their bodies are lean with the definition of muscle clearly visible and a hungry look in their eyes. I suppose this is exactly what athletes look like after months of intense training. Bodies and minds are well prepared but, as in my own mind, I am sure they, too, are wondering in which half of the field they will be – finisher or non-finisher.

We are at the Finix Hotel in Glyfada, Athens for the registration of the 33rd Spartathlon, a 246km foot race with a rich history dating back almost 2500 years - following in the footsteps of Pheidippides. Pheidippides, an Athenian messenger, was sent to Sparta in 490 BC by his commanding officers to ask assistance from the Spartans against the Persians at the Battle of Marathon. Greek historian, Herodotus words were: “On the occasion of which we speak when
Pheidippides was sent by the Athenian Generals and according to his own account, saw Pan on his journey. He reached Sparta on the very next day after quitting the City of Athens.”






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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