Reports 2007


Spartathlon from Athen to Sparta 246km, Greece

25 years ago the British RAF Wing Commander John Foden read about the historical run of a messenger between Athen and Sparta. He and his soldiers ran the course the first time. At that time nobody thought about the cult they were starting. From 45 starters in 1983, it has risen to more than 330 starters this year.

The arrival of the athletes started on Wednesday morning. I arrived two days earlier, because I did some sight seeing and a permanent trail at Ägina. So I was one of the first athletes at the London Hotel. The express bus from the airport stopped on the other side of the road in front of hotel. So it was easy to reach. The hotel was next to the main road and the beach. One hotel was not enough, because there were so many runners. The rest of the runners were split into four surrounding hotels. At the London hotel four people had to share one room. The LG Würzburg with Udo Wegmann, Florian Reus and myself were at the London hotel. With us a runner from Slovenia. It made sense that the London tried to put runners from one nation together. Thursday afternoon was the first briefing. Especially cut-off-times and general rules were discussed. Until the beginning of the briefing there was time to place the drop bags for the check points into boxes. After a expanded dinner people went to bed. It was a short night.

The time of breakfast was depended on the hotel. All the rooms had to been emptied. Even then there was the possibility to leave baggage at the hotel. So, not everything had to been transported to Sparta. At the end all runners met a few minutes before 7am at the entry of the Acropolis. A few photo shootings and then there was the start. By tradition at 7am the runners started direction Sparta. Only a few of them will finish the 246km course by feet. A high rate of DNF`s and hot weather are standard. Definitely reasons for counting the course as one of the most difficult and famous. Because of the hard cut-off-times the runners had to run quick from the beginning on. From the Acropolis the first 30km were next to the highway to get out of Athens. After we left Athens the course was on the old highway to Corinth. It was the most idyllic part of the race. A short look to the left and runners can enjoy the beautiful cost of Greece and the Mediterranean Sea. At the high temperatures people craved to have a short bath. Sadly there was no time for it. After 9:30 hours the 81km to Corinth had to be absolved. Here was the first big aid station. Up until Corinth there was less choice in food and drinks. Passion fruit- or orange juice, coke, water and some small snacks were served. Starting at Corinth the choices were bigger. Especially during the night there was soup, rise, yoghurt, coffee, tee… Two to five kilometres were between the aid stations. But it was not possible to trust the road book. The next major point was Sangas pass. After Corinth we ran into the country. We passed the historical Nemea. Then we had to cross a mountain chain. The pass included different problems for many. On one hand it was a rocky way. A slight moment of not paying attention could cause falling or caving. On the other hand the temperatures dropped because of the altitudes. Even the downhill only was possible with attention. At the boulder it was easy to glide off. At km 174 we arrived at the next big aid station. Starting here we ran until km 200 on small roads. The last 40km to Sparta we ran on the Turnpike. At km 200 we ran ca. 4km uphill. The next 15 kilometres were wavy. Before we ran the last 18 kilometres downhill to Sparta, we had to do another hill. The most runners ran the last 40 to 50 kilometres during the day. That means merciless heat. The day before at about 11am the temperature was 36°C. Shown on a column of a gas station. The second day was much hotter. René Stroßny and I splitted after 120km. But at Sangas pass we up again. Starting there we continued together. About 20km before Sparta we met Oliver Leu at one of the aid stations. We paced him untill the finish. Time did not matter anymore. Only arriving was important. 2km before the finish Maraika Heinlein and Franz Urbanich an Austrian closed up. Also they companied us. At the finishing line supporters, finishers and people who did not finish the race waited for us.

At the statue of Leonidas we execute the traditional ritual. After clapping or kissing the feet of the statue we got a refreshing draft from the bowl of water. Now we put on the laurel wreath. After that the runners received a glass picture and a t-shirt. An additional gift, because of the 25th anniversaries. During the whole ceremony the photos flashed all over.

Next station was the medical tent. Every finisher was checked there, if he was not able to cleverly avoid it. The feet were washed and incurred injuries vetted. After the doctors ok runners could take the taxi to the hotel. For 150m distance definitely not necessary for all runners. At the hotel runners had to check in and pick up their luggage. Depending on the running time runners could recover. Things, which were left at the aid stations, could be picked up at a gymnasium.

Starting at 7pm dinner was served. At 8pm the award ceremony for the first three males and females was held at the market place of Sparta. For all finishers a place was reserved at the tribune. First all attendees were welcomed and the history of the Spartathlon was read. Now a young runner with a torch came to enflame the “Olympic” fire. After that all finisher names were read. Now the first three male and female got their prizes. The flags of their country were flown and the national hymn played. The ceremony ended with a gorgeous firework at about 10pm.

The next morning after the breakfast we were shuttled to the cinema. The new movie “300” about the fight at Thermopylen was shown. At this place 300 Spartis held the Persians at bay. Most of the runners preferred to have a coffee and relax. After the movie we went to lunch with the head of the city. It was out of Sparta city at a restaurant. After Lunch the busses drove back to Athens. There runners had to check in at the hotels again. It was necessary, because the rooms were used by the hotel during the time of the race. Here some problems came up. For some reason some of the luggage was transferred to another hotel. Fortunately the hotels were not far away.

The cultural programme for Monday was cancelled. Instead we got time to go to the city alone, go to the beach or just relax at the hotel room. In the evening we were shuttled to the Titanic hotel. The award ceremony for all finishers was held there. Every finisher received a certificate and a medal. Afterwards the buffet was opened. Already at Sparta we were told, that the ceremony will be in small circle. It was because of the big fires all over Greece a few weeks ago. When I was at the Spartathlon seven years ago, the ceremony also was held in a small circle. At that time there had been a big ferry accident at Greece. Hundreds of peopled died. The ceremony at that time was held at the hotel, where we stayed. After the buffet there was dancing. Everyone had the chance to party as long he wanted. I think it was a better organised goodbye evening. The schedule for the next day was “Leaving of the Athletes”. So the Spartathlon was finished.

In total it was a nice experience and a wonderful event. The entry fee was minimal against the offers for the runners. If it is enough to participate every year? I think, everyone will have to make his own decision.

Men:   Women:
Place Name Surename Time Place Name Surename Time
1 Scott Jurek 23:12:14 1 Akiko Sakamoto 31:09:24
2 Piotr Kurylo 24:29:41 2 Vrigitte Bec 31:56:03
3 Valmir Nunes 25:37:40 3 Kimie Noto 32:11:05
64 Koch Rainer 34:30:57  

Gallerie of pictures <1>   <2>  <3>  <4>  <5>  <6>  <7>  <8>  <9>  <10>  <11>  <12>  <13>  <14>  <15>  <16>  <17>  <18>

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