Another Ultramarathon Running Blog

2013 Spartathlon

Wednesday 25th September

I arrived at London Heathrow a couple of hours before my scheduled lunchtime flight to be greeted by a cosmopolitan crowd of world travellers all with the single thing in common.. queuing! Unfortunately, the airport baggage system wasn’t working which resulted in queues, frustration, stress, panic and anger when flights were missed, not the best start to my trip!

My flight was “thankfully” delayed and I made it in plenty of time but towards the end of the flight to Athens the flight crew kindly informed the passengers that some of the bags had not made the flight which created more stress and turmoil amongst the passengers.

I made my way to baggage control to enjoy a nervous wait to see if I had been affected. I breathed a sigh of relief as suitcase number 1 appeared then waited forlornly for suitcase number 2 but after a terminal wait it failed to appear. If both bags were checked in together how come 1 made it and 1 didn’t? My wife had also assisted with the packing (I laid out my kit and she packed it neatly for me) which meant I wasn’t sure what kit I did and did not have which just created more stress. This resulted in a long queue with lost baggage, a form and a tentative promise that it would be delivered to my hotel by lunchtime the next day.

My plans to catch up with some other British runners and supporters was impacted by the delays and I grabbed an expensive taxi back to my hotel as I just wanted to my room and eat.

The cost of the race does include accommodation and meals and the runners are grouped by nationality with the British runners nominated hotel being the London Hotel where registration also takes place. However, this accommodation is 4 to a room barracks style and honestly I wanted a room to myself and some personal space to try and have a good nights sleep and organise my kit and so I had booked my own separate accommodation at an additional cost. I had talked this over the wife and we had sort of agreed as this was my only shot at this event (budget/family and holiday reasons) I was going to organise things properly.

I arrived at the hotel (Four Seasons in Athens) checked in and had a meal. The hotel staff we very friendly and but I found the hotel to be very dated and room upkeep poor to be honest. I unpacked my one bag to find that most of my drop bags were in this case except for my night gear and head torches. Some messages to other runners and responses resulted in some offers of kit (I passed on the pink crop top and skirt options – thanks ladies) although I was hopeful my bag would be received in time for me to drop my kit off by the 16.00 cut off point on the Thursday.

Overall , it hadn’t been a great start to my trip with unnecessary queues and stress but at least I was in the right country for the race.

Thursday 26th September

I joined up with a few other British runners the next day who had been staying at the much nicer Oasis Hotel and we headed down to registration which was due to start at 10.00am but was closer to 11.00am when the officials finally decided they wanted to get  started.

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Race Registration at the London Hotel

I registered and handed over my entry form and medical certificate and was allocated my race number, identification badge which you are asked to carry and I was given my supporters pack as my brother Peter was flying in the day before the race to come and watch and this meant he could assist at specific checkpoints if required although the plan had been for him to just watch the start and finish and enjoy a few days off.

We were given a goody bag which included a Spartathlon polo shirt which actually doubled the number of tops I had with me due to the lost bag and I immediately changed into this to find I had been given a large size and I usually wear small to medium. It was clean though so it would do.

There were a number of race briefings depending upon your nationality and language and we were given instructions to attend the Fenix Hotel a short wall up the road at 17.00 that evening.

Drop bags were due from by 16.00 at the London Hotel. Essentially a series of large cardboard boxes were placed and numbered representing each checkpoint and you would place your drop bag in the corresponding box for it to be made available the next day. I had planned to wait to see if my bag would arrive before making a decision to swap over and/or borrow some extra kit.

After registering, I spent the morning on the beach with Mimi, Tim and Becky and had some lunch with a few others with the missing bag still at the back of my mind. I went back to the hotel and received my drop bag at 14.30 so had 90 mins to check and finalise this. I’m thankful I packed my drop bags in advance as this saved me a lot of time. I went to a local seller and bought loads of bottles of water and made up my electrolyte drinks before dashing up the road to deliver the drop bags with 30 mins to spare, pressure off!

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Drop bogs were to be deposited in the marked boxes

I went to the race briefing with the other British runners and we listened to a slightly confusing briefing for those people with support crews. Essentially support crews can only assist at specific checkpoints and a runner could risk disqualification if they received aid outside of these areas. There was some nonsense about whether you could cheer and clap the runners elsewhere (obviously yes). There were a few navigational points to consider for support crews but nothing that affected the runners.

It was good to catch UK with the other British runners and put some faces to names at last. We also posed for a few photos all decked out in our smart looking British Spartathlon Team t-shirts provided courtesy of the ULTRAmarathonRunningStore and original British Spartathlon Buffs courtesy of Buff (with thanks to Mark Howlett for the design). Seeing everyone together “in uniform” created a good impression and we received some favourable comments from other runners of different nationalities.

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2013 Spartathlon British Spartathlon Team 01

2013 British Spartathlon Team (Photos Becky Healy)

After the race briefing it was time for a meal and then early retirement to organise my kit for the next day and a good nights sleep.

After laying out all my kit for the next day, filling up my water bottles and getting some breakfast snacks I finally retired at 22.00pm with the plan to wake at 04.30am. Mimi Anderson was staying at the same hotel and we had agreed to meet and leave at 5.15am for the short journey of a mile to the planned coach departure at 06.00am from the London Hotel to the start at the Acropolis at 07.00am.

Friday 27th September – Saturday 28th September Race Day(s)!

I didn’t sleep well as usual before a big race with an early start. I think this is due to a combination of staying in unfamiliar surroundings, a fear of oversleeping and probably some subconscious nerves. I had three hours sleep, woke for an hour before getting another hour and then lay awake until I eventually got up, dressed and readied myself.

We left our hotel in the dark and I hitched a lift with Mimi’s crew to the start and then after meeting some of the other British runners jumped on the first coach and headed to the start. I sat next to Phil Smith who looked across the coach full of runners and offered the sobering comment “You know at least 50% of these people won’t make the finish”.

The Acropolis is an iconic location and great choice of start. However, the toilets were not open which resulted in runners having to find bushes in the dark and that uncomfortable feeling that you are despoiling an ancient and historic location.

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Sue, Lindley, Laurence and myself (Photo Peter Ali)

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Pictured with my brother Peter

The rest of the coaches arrived and the numbers of runners swelled at the start of the race. There was some banter, some photographs and probably some nervous chat before the start as darkness turned to light in half an hour. Standing on the start line I felt confident I could finish the event, everything looked doable, I was fit and had a plan. There was a bit of a buzz at the start of the event with hundreds of runners eager to get going. James Adams was buzzing at the start line as he was readying himself to participate in the “Greatest race in the world” © James Adams.

A 7am, the race was started and runners made their way down the cobbled steps of the Acropolis and out into the busy streets  of Athens to the sounds of blaring horns and beeps and shouts (couldn’t tell whether this was encouragement or annoyance at the hold up).

I ran with a few of the British runners at the start of the race including Lindley Chambers, Cat Lawson (who I hadn’t met before), Mark Hines, Claire Shelley and Pat Robbins. I didn’t really see a lot of the other British runners at the start and assumed the rest were ahead.

We made our away up the gradual incline out of Athens as it got lighter and a little warmer and I quite enjoyed this part of the run heading out of the city towards the Athens to Corinth highway. We soon started reaching the numerous checkpoints (about 75) which were spaced anything between 1.5 to 3 miles apart. I had planned to spend no more than 30 seconds at the majority of checkpoints and as I arrived at the first one I settled into a routine of dunking my cap and buff into a bucket of water putting them both back on to keep myself cool, grabbed a couple of cups of drink, had a quick glance at the food to see if there anything I fancied and then headed on.

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Soak buff, soak hat, grab drink, check out food, go! (Picture Peter Ali)

I was carrying my phone and had intended to try and take a few pictures, videos, tweet and check on other British runners progress but quite early on I decided to just get my head down and focus on the run and tried to avoid checking my phone at all. I did manage to get a few pictures and Peter got some pictures and video which you can see here http://youtu.be/FnoQSFwu-xw

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The long road (Picture by Peter Ali)

I had drop bags placed at every fifth checkpoint and had planned a slightly longer stop at each one to grab some food or supplies as I had intended to be as self sufficient as possible. The miles were ticking by and the pace was good as I passed the marathon point in just under 4 hours and had already created a 45 minute buffer against the cut offs. I continued along the coastal road and a series of ascents and descents, the temperature may have been getting a little warmer but I was cooling myself, drinking adequately and felt fine. The only memory of note was following a group of polish runners up a hill to the sounds of one continuously passing wind for several minutes as I got a mouthful of his odour a few seconds later as I passed through his airspace, nice.

I was passed by my brother Peter and Sue (Lindley’s partner) who were tracking the runners by car and whilst they were not permitted to offer any assistance they did wave some encouragement as I trotted past. Around the 40 mile mark Pat Robbins caught up with me and we ran together for a few miles through an oil refinery area getting a mouthful of the brown dust and fumes before I had to make my excuses and find a nearby bush. That was the last I saw of Pat who went on to out in a really impressive performance finishing joint 7th overall in a time of 27.09.

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Early in the race as I was still running

I had a little moment a few miles later where I felt the urge to be sick and immediately backed off for a walk and sipped some more water until this feeling passed. I kept telling myself that I was fine and wouldn’t be sick as I tried to lock down any negative thoughts. Sometimes, when you feel sick you almost convince yourself to actually be sick and a downward spiral occurs and I was keen to avoid this scenario happening.

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The coastal roads (Pictures by Peter Ali)

We passed some villages and it was fantastic to see some kids had been allowed out of school to support the runners and were lined up with banners held high, high-fiving and cheering all the runners as they ran past.

My right quad and hamstring started to feel a bit tight but after 45 miles of running it was no surprise and I threw in a few short walk breaks up the bigger climbs. I arrived at the stunning Corinth Canal location close to the first major aid station at 50 miles. The cut off was 9.30 and I arrived in 8.15, so had plenty of time in the bank already. The food supplies at the major aid station were much more plentiful than the smaller checkpoints and I took the unplanned opportunity to eat some pasta. My eating and drinking at this point had been good and I had been taking 1 SCap! Every hour and so felt on top of my eating and hydration.

Aside from a niggle in the right leg, I was feeling the heat on the back of my neck which my buff wasn’t quite covering but thankfully I saw Gemma Greenwood (or Gemma Crecznwoop as her misspelled nametag had suggested) here who gave me a bit of suntan lotion to put on.

I was feeling positive at this point and slightly ahead of my “fast” planned time although hadn’t felt as if I was pushing it at all and still had plenty left in the tank. I set out from Corinth towards the second major control point at Nemea and trotted along for a few miles again briefly stopping at the checkpoints to drink, soak my hat and buff and perhaps grab a snack before pushing on.  My left quad was starting to give me some discomfort aswell and I think the constant pounding on the road coupled with the undulating nature of the route was taking its toll on me as I thought more long road running would have probably been better preparation for the impact on your legs.

Mark Woolley caught up with me and we spent the next few hours running together as we passed through some small villages signing autographs for some of the children who were out and about. I hadn’t met Mark before this weekend, but he is a really decent guy and tough runner to boot with a Badwater finish (and later a Spartathlon finish) in the same year.

We continued on the heat of the day passed and the temperatures gradually started to cool very slightly as we approached the evening phase. My quads had been worsening and I was forced to settle into a march as the impact of running on my legs of was too painful on the quads.

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Early evening (Picture by Peter Ali) 

Mark and I leapfrogged each other for quite some time as his running took him ahead of me but when he eased off for a short walk my relentless march caught up with him. The light started to fade as the temperatures cooled further and I collected a long sleeve top and a Lenser SE05 headtorch from my drop bag and carried on. Mark had drifted on ahead and I carried on by myself with the odd runner in front insight. I had a close shave a while later when an oncoming truck failed to spot me on the hard shoulder forcing me to leap onto the verge whilst cursing at the driver. You have to keep your wits about you as some of the driving is a little erratic to say the least.

As we approached the next major aid station, I had decided to stop and see if I could get a massage as my quads were really sore. I arrived at this lively and crowded checkpoint in the dark to unexpectedly see my brother with Gemma. Unfortunately Lindley had stopped earlier and Gemma had offered to give Peter a lift around as she was supporting James.  I lay down on the massage table and some guy who spoke English massaged my quads. He then said something about straightening my spine asked me to turn onto my side and then started hitting me my side. My scream of pain started to attract the attention of various photographers who took great delight in picturing or videoing my discomfort just waiting for my next cry of anguish. I was half crying and half laughing at the situation before being helped up and sat down on a chair for a few minutes whilst I consumed some rice pudding.

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The “massage/assault” is over, I can now smile (Picture by Peter Ali)

This was probably my longest stop but the massage was enough to get me moving at a slight trot. I left the aid station and headed up the road just behind a Japanese runner who as I was just behind him let off an enormous fart right in my face. I made some comment and he looked suitably embarrassed at what he had unleashed as I overtook him. Unfortunately, that was at the precise moment that I found myself wanting to pass wind and I returned the favour with an equally impressive pump before picking up the pace as I didn’t want him to see the massive childish grin on my face.

I made my way up and down various windy roads and made sure I kept crossing the road to avoid to meeting oncoming vehicles head on around a narrow corner. The Lenser SE05 head torch was performing well giving me enough light on its low power setting. I slowly trotted or fast marched through the next several checkpoints with the occasional runner in sight as I headed towards the next major milestone the mountain. As I approached this you go up a series of winding roads which probably covers half the reported ascent towards the base of the mountain. As I arrived here I spotted Drew Sheffield who had unfortunately dropped earlier but hitched a lift with some support crews to cheer on other runners. The checkpoint is run by British people as I was asked to pose for a photograph which I was happy to oblige and stripped down to the team T-shirt for their benefit and Drew and I posed for a photo. I then grabbed a quick coffee, put my long sleeve top and jacket back on as Drew had warned me it could be cold and exposed and set off up the mountain. Speaking to Drew the next day, he described me as being pretty with it as I didn’t hang around at the checkpoint.  This was the 100 mile point and I had arrived here in about 20 hours which despite the earlier quads issue was a 2.5 hour personal best for the distance so things weren’t going badly at all.

I set off up the mountain and looked up to see some twinkling stars which actually turned out to be head torches or flash lights. The mountain climb is a series of switch-backs which aren’t that steep but the loose rocks and lack of decent footing meant I probably made harder work of it then I should have. The path was well marked with flash lights with coloured tape marking the edge. I did find myself slipping a few times on the loose rock and road shoes weren’t ideal here but I hadn’t planned to change them just for this section and had to make do. As I got to the top of the mountain, I stopped for a comfort break and noticed my water was looking a little brown, I was also feeling a little light headed and suspected I may have been slightly dehydrated. I was also feeling really warm and had to remove my jacket to cool myself. As I got to the top of the mountain and the small checkpoint, I sat down and drank a load of water to ensure I was properly hydrated and then after a few minutes started the descent.

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A reverse view of the mountain descent 

The descent goes down along a zig-zag path of loose rock and stones and was frankly painful on the quads and took a lot longer than the ascent, this was the moment when I knew I didn’t have much running left it was just too uncomfortable even after taking some ibuprofen. I made the long slow descent down the trail and headed into the village of Sangas. The amount of water I had consumed must have flooded the system as I had to keep stopping for a pee very regularly for the next couple of hours.

I had a few more hours of darkness but it was only when dawn approached that I actually started to feel the cold. The next few hours of the morning saw me travel along a grim section of road with savaged dog carcasses, litter and other road kill laying across the side of the road which wasn’t particularly pleasant. I marched on but started to lose a bit of discipline here as I was not taking my SCaps! or eating as regularly as I had been the previous day although I was still drinking plenty (and still peeing well). As the morning hours passed I went through Tegea onto the final section still marching in a relentless fashion.

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A long march (Picture by Peter Ali) 

The last 50k sees the road rise for about 25k and then a final descent into Sparta for the last 25k although practically there are a series of undulations. The main road here is quite exposed to the sun, with the heating bearing down on the runner and being reflected back from the road, this section felt as hot as anything I had experienced over the past couple of days and I was thankful I stashed a small pouch of suncream on which I reapplied all over. This section felt like a kick in the teeth after the previous ascents but I marched on every step getting me closer to the final destination I had been dreaming about for months previously.

By this time I could feel some blisters on my feet but having checked my drop bags, I realised I had omitted to pack some compeeds and cream at various points with all the last minute rush over organising drop bags the day before. I debated pausing at checkpoints and trying to sort them out but I was just wasting time and decided to man up, ignore the pain as best I could and march on.

I managed to catch up with Mark Woolley on the uphill section and overtook him briefly before he passed me and headed off on the last downhill section. I found this section very uncomfortable as the unforgiving pounding and marching on the road was taking its toll and the heat was finally starting to drain my stamina and reserves. I passed Mimi Anderson around this point who was having a bad day at the office and we spoke briefly before I marched on.

Some good news was that I started to see some support out here with Gemma kindly chauffeuring Peter around this last section or so to give me some much needed morale support. Finishing this race by now was never in doubt, I still had 1.40 over the cut offs and was marching at a solid 4mph pace which was just about on the cut off time. However, my mind was thinking well only 20 miles or so to go not too far before I realised that was going to take me another 5 hours! I should have continued to eat and take more SCaps! but knew I was close enough to finish and decided to just grind out the rest of the race.

The downhill section was starting to cause me some discomfort and even my marching place slowed due to the state of my quads. About 30 runners must have come past me in the last few hours but I didn’t particularly care at the time, I just wanted to secure the finish.  As the pace slowed I started leaking time from my cut off perhaps 5 mins per checkpoint but I had plenty of time to play with and whilst I kept an eye on the time at each checkpoint I never once felt this was at risk. Peter and Gemma kept popping up at each checkpoint and kept giving me that little lift as I was ticking off each checkpoint and getting closer and closer to the end.

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A nice lift a few miles before the end (Picture by Peter Ali)

I was now entering the outskirts of the town of Sparti as the dual carriageway turned into streets and plodded my way along the main rain past the last few checkpoints. The checkpoints were generally only a couple of miles apart but there were one or two which were three miles apart near the end which seemed to take an eternity to get there and I was cursing the extra distance which is completely ridiculous having completed the Thames Ring a few months back when these were 25 miles apart! Peter and Gemma drove ahead to the end around this point to wait for me.

I arrived at the final checkpoint with just over an hour to spare and grabbed my flag out of my last drop bag so I could celebrate the finish. I may have broken British Team orders by carrying the Welsh Dragon but wanted to do this for my family (my Mum would love it). I confirmed directions with the checkpoint staff and he called over a small boy on a bike to escort me towards the finish. I headed through the streets at my best walking pace which was pretty slow as the boy on the bike kept having to weave infront of me to slow down. A constant stream of other runners were coming past me with a last burst of energy from the line and the boy asked me “Can you go faster?”. In all honesty no I couldn’t, if I had been able to run I would have been doing it miles ago and we plodded on with boy looking a little frustrated that he had picked up the slow one. Walking through the streets there were people hanging out of their windows or sitting at bars cheering and applauding you with shouts of “Bravo!”, I started to get a little lift and despite the pain and discomfort the grin appeared. I really was going to finish this and I was getting pretty close now.

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Entering the final straight (Picture by Peter Ali)

We turned the corner into the high street and I was greeted by Peter, Gemma, Lindley, Jon, James and Rob and they congratulated me on the finish. Peter commented that “You are going to love the finish”. I walked towards the crowds of people and picked up a police escort as the crowds, the noise, the shouts and applause got louder and louder. I unfurled the flag and let it drape over my shoulders as I high fived and thanked the supporters. Ahead I could see a mass of people but couldn’t quite see the Statue of Leonidas which marked the finish. A variety of school children had joined the procession as I marched up the street. I was greeted by a few other British runners and their supporters, there was a moment of regret at realising many of these had not achieved the result they wanted but their support was brilliant and they encouraged me to just enjoy the moment. The camaraderie amongst the British runners was great and a real highlight of the weekend for me.

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Approaching the Statue of Leonidas (Picture by Spartathlon Ultra Race)

Those final few yards towards the finish, with my flag raised aloft, a big grin on my face to the applause and cheers of the crowd felt immense, a true “Hero’s welcome”. This was a moment I am going to treasure forever and I am very grateful that Peter (and Martin Illot) captured it on video for me.

I made my way towards the steps at the end of the road and could finally see the Statue of Leonidas. After months of planning, training and obsessing over this race.. my moment had arrived, I was finally going to kiss the foot. I was steered towards the Statue by the race officials stepped up towards it, paused momentarily before touching my parched lips upon the foot of the statue,. I turned and gave a celebratory pose before completing the ceremonial finish as I was handed a jar of water by a hand maiden and sipped the water from the River Evrotas.

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Kissing the Foot (Picture by Spartathlon Ultra Race)

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Victory pose (Picture by Spartathlon Ultra Race)

Numerous emotions were running through my head at the moment, elation, excitement,  a touch of disappointment from having to march so much of it and pain and discomfort in my quads and feet. I also felt a sense of relief and release after the months of planning and training had finally paid off.

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Being congratulated by Peter.

Unfortunately the pain and discomfort were the dominant feelings and I was led away to the medical tent where I lay on a table and my feet were attended to. I had a variety of blisters including some lovely blood blisters and these were drained and my feet were washed as Lindley, Sue and Peter stood around taking pictures and commenting upon my misfortune. My feet looked like a bloody mess to be honest but I had a lack of options to attend to them during the race apart from a couple of changes of socks. I might look again at foot care as I’m getting a little fed up of compeeds sticking to and ruining my socks and that painful moment when you rip a compeed plaster off your feet when it’s still attached to the blister. I was given a lovely pair of medical shoes to wear and given a taxi ride to my hotel which was thankfully only a few hundred yards away. At the hotel, I ordered some room service but was unable to eat much food and crashed out for a few hours.

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Ouch! (Picture by Peter Ali)

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Double ouch! (Picture by Peter Ali)

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The price of victory (Picture by Peter Ali)

Out of the British Runners, Pat had stormed the event finishing joint 7th in 27.09 (although they have reported him as 1 second behind 7th). Robbie Britton had a few issues along the way but still finished as 2nd Brit in 32.09. Steve Scott and Jonny Hall ran together and both finished in 33.30 followed by James Elson in 33.45. Mark Woolley and myself were the final British runners home in 34.29 and 35.07 which resulted in 7 finishes out of 21 British starters. The other guys were disappointed but determined to comeback and get a result.

Sunday 29th September

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Mayors lunch in Sparta

The next day saw me hobble around to collect my drop bags and a coach ride to the Mayor of Sparta’s residence for free lunch and basically as much drink as you wanted. Despite not being much of a drinker, I did have a celebratory beer. It was great to catch up with the guys and see the other runners and catch up socially. This was where I learned the fates of the other runners. We grabbed a lift back with James Adams and Gemma to Athens which saved some time on the coach, the only standout memory from this trip was when James and I had a comedy shuffle up some steps at a Service Station, we looked like to 100 year old men racing, it was ridiculous quite frankly.

Monday 30th September

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At the awards ceremony (Picture by James Elson)

Back in Athens, I spent most of the day in bed recovering. I got up and met Sue, Lindley, Phil Smith and Rob Pinnington for lunch and then headed back to the room to pack and rest before the awards evening that night. The Awards evening were held outside Athens and involved an open air banquet where the finishers received a medal and certificate. With nearly 150 finishers this took a little while and they had elected not to serve food until this had been completed. Once the ceremony was completed there were chaotic scenes for food but the drink was plentiful until they ran out of beer.

Summary 

Overall, I was delighted to have completed the event. There is a touch of disappointment that I couldn’t have run more but I would have absolutely taken a finish before the start of the race. Completing the challenge didn’t really sink in for a few days until I started reading the tweets and messages from people back home and talking to other runners who were very complimentary and supportive.

I read one tweet from Peter Foxall (multiple Spartathlon finisher) which said “You don’t know how hard this race is until you drop from it” which summed things up pretty well as the enormity of the event hadn’t quite sunk in. In all honesty, it hadn’t quite felt as hard as I had anticipated or expected but perhaps that was down to good preparation, training and planning and a good mental attitude.

It was fair to say that my quads were destroyed and the other British runners will attest to me struggling around for a couple of days and looking pretty drained, so the race was definitely physically demanding.

So the question people will want to know is “Can I complete the Spartathlon?”. I don’t claim to be the authority on this race but my key observations are this.

  • Don’t let the hype of the event overwhelm you. Some really good runners didn’t make it whilst others finished. If I can complete it (speaking on behalf of all mid-pack runners) then it really is achievable and everything looks do-able. There will be lots of people who finish ahead of me on the Ultra’s who are all physically capable of completing the event but you will have to train well and focus on the event.
  • You have to be mentally tough to get through the event. When I couldn’t run, I marched, when I felt sick, I eased off, I tried to be positive, smile, enjoy the event, savour the odd high’s and work through the odd low’s. Despite struggling a little physically there was no thought of stopping at any time.  I guess I was pretty determined to finish this.

I will write the final part of my “Road to Sparta” article and sum of my observations and experiences in a bit more detail for those who are interested in my preparation and tactics.

A few people asked if I will go back? I will never say never but it feels as if I have ticked this event off the list. It was a tough slog but an incredibly emotional finish and I’m not sure a second race would feel the same as part of the excitement and enjoyment of a race is the unknown feelings and uncertainties.

Once you’ve done something, you know what to expect. The other danger is that you could easily fail a second time and this may tarnish my memory of the event or hook you into a competition to have more finishes than failures.

It is a brilliant but brutal race, run by enthusiastic volunteers, exciting but unforgiving due to the relentless nature of the roads, grim in some locations and long but finishes in spectacular fashion with a heroic march down the high street of Sparti to the cheers, support and adulation of the crowds. It is an experience to be savoured and the finish is a memory I will never forget and I should thank James Adams for opening my eyes to the event and hope that others may be influenced and inspired by my efforts to give this race a go.

The real satisfaction comes from knowing this was a hard challenge, if it was easy it wouldn’t be as meaningful.

Final thanks to my wife Sally-anne and daughter Annabelle for all their support in the build up to the race and to everyone else who made the trip to Greece or followed from home or gave me some tips ad advice on the way, your support and encouragement was very much appreciated.

8 Responses to “2013 Spartathlon”

  1. Colin Griffiths

    Brilliant effort AVON ,from Griffo the reaper fellow Welsh ultra runner

    Reply
  2. Kostis Papadimitriou

    Dear Mr Ali. my name is Kostis Papadimitriou and I am amember of the oganising commitee of Spartathlon. First of all I would like to thank you for participating in the race. I assume from your text that you really enjoyed your taking part in the race and I am very happy about it.There is only one point that has to be clarified. The arrangements we have made with the hotel was not a ΄΄barracks style΄΄ arrangement but two persons to a room except if participants ask THEMSELVES for a three-bed room which is not very rare. But never 4 persons to a room, Consequently I am very surprised reading your comment, It would be very usefull to us to learn how you received this information. Additionally, there is always the possibility to have a single bed room paying a small extra amount.We try hard(without being paid a penny) to make Spartathlon a top race from all aspects and we feel really unhappy to learn about barracks style accomodation and you paying extra hotel arrangements. Please I would be very grateful to you if you give me more details about it. Anyway I hope we will have you among us next year and we receive you as a member of the Spartathlon family as it happens with many other runners. Take care

    Reply
  3. Sam Robson

    Great report Paul (I’m a bit slow at reading…)! Congratulations on a fantastic finish, and one more amazing performance to your incredible year! Hopefully I’ll actually make a race soon and see you to congratulate you in person! 😉

    Reply
  4. The Pirate Bay Facebook

    Ask around forums and let people know that you’re already over a private tracker.
    Make your holiday complete which has a taste of Khopa
    Dhau, Bhaktapur. Therefore the app sits anywhere between a really useful app
    and more of a novelty.

    Reply

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