246km Spartathlon from Athen to Sparta, Greece
2500 years ago a runner ran from Marathon to Athens to report the victory of the Greece against the Persians. If this number is really correct – who knows. What is important, is that it is listed all over and the people are fascinated and banned from it. That people are fascinated was shown by the number of participants. 400 people signed in and another 160 had to be refused. In the end there were 350 runners at the start.
All of them met at the London hotel to register starting Wednesday. Then they were told at which hotel they would stay. Already before the race we were told, that all Germans would stay at Palace hotel. It was just a few hundred meters away from the London. Wednesday when I arrived in Greece, the registration for the race already had closed. Because of that I managed to get into the hotel I was assigned to. So I was able to get into the room without having to wait outside. Everything worked out well and I could get to bed not long after midnight. I met all my buddies at breakfast. Most of them were members of the supported DUV group. For them it was one of the international missions at this race. Until 4pm everybody could bring his drop bags for the aid stations. All drop bags were collected in numbered boxes at the London hotel. With 75 possibilities there were a lot of bags. After I had a good breakfast at the buffet, I went to the London hotel. I registered and brought my drop bag. Because I had put in my jacket and my lamp, I had some light and something against the cold temperatures. The rest of the day was reserved for preparations for the race, to visit the city or do some shopping. Well, one more thing was to do. When I arrived I was happy about the big room we had. But the happiness was gone, when we heard that we had to move into a smaller room. While we were hanging around at the hotel we heard a bad story from some runners. After they arrived at Greece, they went from the bus stop to the hotel. During that walk they had some unlucky encounter with some police man. As it came out it was not police. In fact they were gangsters taking money a very bad way. They stopped beside the runners with their car and screamed some words like drugs, money and passport. Then they wanted to see the passport and the money, sniffed on the money and took unnoticed some of it. At the hotel some of the runners reorganised the missing money. At 5pm there was a last briefing. Actually there were three briefings, depending on the language (Greece, English and Japanese). The leaving time of the busses and the schedule of the race day were told. Also the most important race rules and the marking of the course were explained again. There was one important change in the race rules. The supporters had first to hand all the things for his runner to the official aid station. The people of the aid station would take it and give it to the runners as soon as they arrived. Also they mentioned the waiting times for the supporters. They have to wait 15 min. after the runner left before they could leave the aid station. Also they have to drive directly to the next aid station without stopping. In the evening there was dinner at the hotel. It was not a buffet. Because we had to get up early, we had to get to bed early.
At the next day the busses waited at 6am at the hotel. Before we left we had breakfast. But most of us were not very hungry. There was too much stress. Just before 7am all the runners met at the bottom of Acropolise. People took the last photos before the race. At 7am there was the start of the 38th Spartathlon. We ran the first kilometres through the city of Athens. It was amazing how many police and volunteers were there to keep the way free. They stopped the cars until we had passed the roads. In the end of Athens we went on the highway. Therefore signal caps where placed at the shoulder. In Germany something like this would not be possible. After about 30km we had left Athens and the highway. Now we went on the old road to Corinth. It was beside the coast. From time to time we passed some small cities. Also here volunteers and polices took care for the traffic. So we had a free way. The first big aid station was at kilometre 40. Some runners already had to stop the race here. Just before Corinth we passed the channel of Corinth. This channel connects the gulf of Corinth and the saronian gulf. It splits the peninsula Peloponnes from the main land. At Corinth there was the second big aid station. Also this point was the last check point on the way to Sparta for a lot of runners. A lot of runners had problems with their stomach and cramps. Was it because of the weather? The temperatures were not as high as the last years. On the other hand the humidity was very high. I had the first signs of cramps just before Corinth. From Corinth the way was through the Peleponnese towards Sanga pass. We passed old Corinth and Nemea. At Nemea the first ancient games (nowadays called Olympic Games) placed. I had to stop the race before Nemea. Even though I took salt I did not get rid of the calf cramps. Also my stomach bothered me since Corinth. The little uphill at kilometre 110 I was creeping instead of walking. The time limit came closer and closer. I knew the course from my previous participations. Until I reached the Sanga pass there were more uphill and the time limit was tough. At the 33rd aid station I decided to stop this torture. It was the second time I had to stop a race because of my body conditions. There was another runner dropped out at this aid station. We were brought by car to the aid station in Nemea. There was waiting a bus to Sparta. Just after 1am we arrived at the hotel. We signed in, had a shower and went to bed. I was sharing my room with another runner who dropped out as well. We both knew each other from the Trans-Europe-Footrace 2009. The next morning we had breakfast. After breakfast we went to the statue of Leonidas. At the foot of Leonidas there was the finish of the 246km long race from Athen to Sparta. Not even 130 of 450 runners finished. Most of them arrived during the last two or three hours before the time limit. Next to the statue was a small café. All the finishers (which were able) and the dropped out runners met there to cheer the finishing runners.
In the evening there was an award ceremony at the market place of Sparta. After some speeches and shows the first three men and women were honored. In the end there was a huge fire work. The following day at noon time we took the bus back to Athen. On our way, just at the city border of Sparta we had lunch sponsored by the city of Sparta. It was a tradition that the mayor of Sparta invited the participants of the Spartathlon into a restaurant. In the evening we arrived back at our hotel in Athen.
The time until 3pm the next day (Monday) was free to use. Some people went to the Mediterranean Sea placed 150m away. Others took the time to go to the city of Athen, doing some sightseeing. And others could not live without running. After breakfast I preferred to chill a bit. Before lunch I went to the beach for some swimming. At 3pm we took the bus to Marathon. There we visited the ancient area of the battle of Marathon. But without a fence, some signs, some statues and a dirt hump there was nothing to see. The hump was the grave of the 192 Greece warriors who died in the battle. Most of us were happy to get back into the bus. Next stop was at the Marathon museum. It was much more interesting for us. We were welcomed by the female Greece Marathon record holder. She was heading the museum. After the museum we had a short walk to the Olympic stadium. The award ceremony for all finishers was placed there. Tables were built up at the basketball field under free sky. Actually it was a very good idea, but it failed at the realization. As it came out the party would start at 9pm. Depending when the official people arrived. We, the runners and supporters arrived already at 8pm. So we had to wait with water and nothing. When we asked, if we can have something else to drink, we where told that we had to wait and be patient. Not a satisfying answer for hungry runner. When all finishers had their medal the buffet was opened. Think about the storm of about 450 people. The plan was that every table would be called when he was allowed to go for the buffet. It worked well for the first tables, but then we could wait until hell to get a call. Positive was the drink supply, which was almost stable. Just finished with dinner we had to go back to the bus to get into our hotel. It was a grown end. Up until that the event, it was really nice. At the hotel some Germans met at the pool. Because my plane left at 6:30am and I had to be at the airport in time, it did not make sense to go to bed. But it was not only me. We decided to join the other people at the pool. So it made the end a bit more beautiful.
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