Race Report 2017: British Spartathlon Team

Race Report 2017: British Spartathlon Team

The Spartathlon... The ultimate ultra-distance race, the iconic race that makes grown men cry, over a quarter of runners standing on the start line will not finish for various reasons, at least half of runners will cross a point during this journey where they no longer know who they are or what they are doing here, most crew members will shed a tear at some point during the race either through lack of sleep, sheer emotion or the desperate urge to go to the toilet but not being able to find one under the pressure of crewing.

 For those who ever get to experience this race in all its glory will remember it for the rest of their life and even want to return year after year just to be a part of it again and again.
Nearly 400 of the best Ultra Marathon Runners in the world eagerly await at the famous Acropolis in Athens for the start of this incredible journey, an ancient citadel situated proudly above the city of Athens. It is said to have been the same place that Pheidippides ... an Athenian messenger who was sent from Athens to Sparta in 490BC started the same journey to seek help from the Persians in the battle of Marathon.

Pre Race
The morning before the race, as registration opened, Runners gathered at The Fenix Hotel Athens to register their participation in the race for both runners and crew. Collecting crew passes, Crew car stickers, Numbers, T-shirts and information to digest throughout the rest of the day. Runners and Crew were also able to drop off their drop bags they had frantically changed repeatedly in the run up to this point, to be transported to the checkpoints they choose. You can feel the tension in this area of people frantically worrying whether they have made the right choice of checkpoint, worried that their bag will actually make it to the checkpoint and worried that their backup plan if it doesn't make it actually goes to plan. Looking at the boxes marked with numbers you can start to see the level of organisation that has gone into this race.

On the eve of the race The British Team headed to race briefing before meeting and indulging in a pre-race meal and a plethora of British Banter. Now we know us Brits don't like to go under the radar which is why we made ourselves fully noticeable both at Race Briefing and the meal after, kitted out in our superbly designed T-shirts (White for Runners and Bright Red for Crew) courtesy of our incredible Sponsors Tailwind Nutrition, The Ultra Marathon Running Store and Oyster Wealth Management not to mention the people and teams behind the scenes offering services in kind making things come together Mark Burnell at Rock Salt Design who has designed these incredible shirts for the last 3 years, Paul Ali who has completed the race twice and is the web master, Lynchpin Media who prints the kits, James Ellis at All about the story who is the press officer and organises the press reports. James is also a 3 x Spartathlon finisher. Becky
George the accountant who checks that Rob Pinnington has not fiddled anyone (his words not mine) Don Hannon at compression print who donated the head bands and arm bands, Richard Weremiuck at Beyond Marathon who provide the Race Drone trackers and not forgetting Rob Pinnington who in his own words “Co-ordinates the above bunch of reprobates. It is like herding cats ...I have only one finish to my name...coz I am too fat and slow and lacking in faith in my own abilities” – On behalf of the whole team and crew we would like to thank you dearly!


As the Big day approached, runners had done all they could to get to this point… There was nothing any of them could do now but believe in their training, their nutrition, their crew and themselves!  As the great John Foden said  “I shan’t wish you luck because if you have trained properly, you won’t need luck, and if you haven’t trained properly, then luck will be of no use.”
This quote resonated loudly in the minds of so many stood eagerly awaiting at the foot of the  Acropolis, as the start line banner went up, the drone hovered above, The lights from the Acropolis  shone bright as the sun began to rise. Runners scrambled towards the start line as the noise  quietened and supporters lined the sidewalk taking the best position they could find to capture their loved ones, friends or family members as they begin their journey to Sparta!

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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.