Good luck to the British Spartathlon Team who are running tomorrow. You can track the runners progress as follows:
British Team GPS Tracking
Spartathlon Checkpoint Timings
Is this the toughest Team GB you’ve never heard of?
- 25 British runners to attempt the gruelling 153-mile Spartathlon race in Greece this September
- Team includes Welsh International Nathan Flear who recorded the fourth best British time ever at the 2017 race.
- Race includes a number of obstacles including a 3,900ft mountain pass at 100 miles in the dead of night
London, September 2018: Later this month 25 British runners will head to Greece to take part in what has been dubbed ‘the world’s most gruelling foot race’, Spartathlon.
The British team will join a field of 390 athletes from around the world on Friday September 28 to make the 153-mile journey from the Acropolis in Athens to the statue of legendary King Leonidas in Sparta.
The race follows in the footsteps of Athenian messenger Pheidippides, who ran the distance in advance of the 490BC Battle of Marathon to ask for Spartan help against invading Persian forces. Along the way, it pits runners against a number of hurdles that often sees less than 50 per cent of the starters complete the journey. These include the blazing heat of late-Greek summer and a hand-over-foot ascent to the 3,900ft summit of Mount Parthenion in the dead of night.
According to the Pheidippides legend, he came across the god Pan at the mountain peak – and runners will have to call on their own deities to help them reach Sparta. As if the challenging conditions were not tough enough, there are 75 check points; failing to meet strict time cut-offs at each one sees runners stripped of their numbers and forced to join the “death bus” that sweeps up those whose efforts culminate with the letters DNF (did not finish) after their name.
Runners must also complete the race within a 36-hour maximum time limit – meaning they have to run the distance almost non-stop at an average pace of no less than 4.25 miles an hour.
The British Spartathlon Team plays a unique role in the history of the race: RAF officers John Foden, John Scholtens and John McCarthy were the first three runners to complete the distance in 1982 when they set out on an RAF expedition to determine if the story of Pheidippides could be repeated. Their success led to the first Open International Spartathlon Race a year later, and the formation of the International Spartathlon Association, now the race’s governing body.
In an era when even the smallest participation marathons have been commercialised, Spartathlon remains steadfast to Olympian ideals: runners are not allowed to bear sponsors’ logos, and there is no prize money for the winner: Spartathletes run for the distinction of taking part and to fulfil a dream challenge.
This year sees a strong British team which includes Welsh international Nathan Flear, Ian Thomas who won this year’s Essex 100 Mile race, and Cat Simpson, first female in the 2017 145-mile Grand Union Canal Race.
The team’s 2018 captain Paul Ali said: “We have a very strong team this year that includes 11 runners who gained automatic qualification to the race thanks to their past results. Nathan Flear, who recorded the fourth best British time at Spartathlon 2017 looks like a particularly strong contender for a British win.
Editors’ notes: Spartathlon by numbers
- 153 miles: the length of the Spartathlon race
- 390: the number of runners
- 50%: the average percentage of runners who do not finish the race
- 36 hours: the race cut-off time
- 4.5mph: the minimum average pace to finish
- 75: The number of checkpoints in the race. Fail to make one by the cut-off time and an athlete’s place in the race and number is withdrawn
- 3,900ft: the summit of Mount Parthenion that runners have to scale at the 100-mile mark.
- 3,835 miles: The total number of miles team GB will run if all members finish the race
- 74,000 miles: The total number of miles* the team will have run from January 1 to the race which begins at 7am on Friday September 28, 2018.
- 4C to 30C: The potential temperature change over the course of the 36-hour race.
* based on an average ultra runner diet of 80 miles a week
Lizzy Hawker is a one of Britain’s most successful ultra marathon runners and former Spartathlete having completed the event in 2012 finishing 3rd overall in 27.02. Lizzy’s book “A Short story about a long run” has recently been reissued and David Bone has kindly offered a brief review of the book.
Having read “Runner – A short story about a long run” by Lizzy Hawker (re-issued from original 2015 release) I had this dream sequence in my head of how the original exchange took place between the eventual publisher and Lizzy:
‘Publisher’– “Lizzy you have been one of the most successful ultra-runners in the sports history, you’ve taken part in most of its global stand-out races and you’ve held world records at some of the most challenging distances. It’s amazing and you are an inspiration – you have sensational stories to share and there will probably not be another runner like you in the history of ultra-running…Will you share your story?”
‘Lizzy’– “No thanks”
Thankfully Lizzy is persuaded to write her running story but she still (with true British reserve and our own unique brand of dark humour) produces a book that keeps a decent chunk of the ultra-running story to herself.
You, probably like me, are in awe of the facts:
- World record 24 hours – 247.04 km
- Gold Medallist in 2011 Commonwealth Games
- Gold Medallist 2006 IAU 100km World Champs
- 5-time winner of UTMB (Ultra Trail Mont Blanc)
As such you probably harbour a desire to complete the same iconic races (that Lizzy mastered) such as UTMB and BGR (Bob Graham Round) and things you’d love to know is some of the intricacies that allowed Lizzy not just to take part in these but to truly trail-blaze. How did she prepare for them? How did she truly train to be that strong and dominant? How did she cope with the highs and lows during these races? If I told you that Lizzy sometimes shares these in a few sentences or even a few words you would think that was kind of strange – like reading a book on Lionel Messi and him never mentioning he played for Barcelona, that he cared little for winning any World Player of the Year award and describing his God-given talents as ‘I’m ok I suppose’.
After a while I got into this unique story-shielding style. Classics such as Page 66 “I made a visit to friends in South Wales. They happened to be running a race, there seemed to be no reason to join them”. I wept at this point – Lizzy you are my hero.
The Wales race was of course the beloved Barry 40 ultra. Lizzy reluctantly won. She hated the experience – Got scouted that day to represent her country in the Anglo Celtic Plate. Here she beautifully captures what it’s like to Run 100km on a concrete circuit: “The race began, and it ended. It was a long day in between (over 8 hours).
There are many epic and inspiring paragraphs penned for her UTMB victories and within them you really do find yourself in awe of what she achieved at a time when the sport was in its infancy. No-one had done this before Lizzy and there were no manuals and internet to be as prepared as runners are today. However, the best moment for me is another dead-pan piece of English understatement. After winning one UTMB and after crossing the line Lizzy asks, ‘Does anyone know where my campsite is?’ – more weeping from me.
Deep down there is something eerily familiar about the flow of this book and then I get it. It’s written in the same way you reflect upon long distance runs yourself to those who don’t quite understand why you would want to do it. You unapologetically remove all the drama and you make it sound like having a cup of tea. You protect yourself and those around, so they don’t over-inflate the ‘why?’ and try and convince you not to do them because of the dangers.
As a Spartathlete I remember buying and devouring every book/magazine or article I could on this ultra-event. There have been so many words written about runners failing to complete it and in the case of one of the worlds most well-known ultra-runner (Dean Karnazes) he’s written an entire book that has created a Hollywood style mythology around it. Lizzy herself completed one of the greatest Spartathlon runs of all-time when she became the first lady to finish on the podium. To whet your appetite Lizzy sells one of her Sparta memories: “The route is just a long, monotonous road run”. I’m sure Dean only mentioned olive fields and ancient ruins.
One of the key parts of the book focuses on Lizzy’s recent life and times living and running in and around the mountainous nirvana of Nepal. It’s clear in the style of writing that this is where Lizzy is most comfortable and where she has found her connection. As someone who has been tortured by multiple injuries and suffered a series of setbacks during recovery phases, Lizzy writes with a raw beauty about the infidelity of not running and yet knowing, that as a friend, running will wait for us until such a time that we are ready. When I read the following prose, I could just see Lizzy on stage at some event like the Lovetrails festival with everyone just sat in a blissful state that Lizzy would love:
“We may procrastinate, we may give ourselves a thousand reasons why we cannot run, we may try to ignore its pull. But there will come the morning when we finally decide that this is the morning; the injury is healed, the commitments have eased, the heat has passed, the snow has melted, or our motivation has simply returned, and we will bend down to lace up our trainers and take some gentle steps”.
Lizzy remains a true ultra-run community legend. I guess you may need to track her down on a trail near Kathmandu to find a little bit more of what it was like to compete and win so many of those legendary ultra-events.
2018 British Spartathlon Team
The draw has been made and those lucky enough to secure a place at this years event have now been announced. Congratulations to the following athletes who have achieved a place at this years event:
We will be updating the website with details of this years runners in the coming weeks. With 22 UK entrants and another 25 on the waiting list, this event continues to grow in popularity.
For those people who were unlucky not to be drawn then the current waiting list can be seen here.
For those prospective runners looking to participate in this event in the future then details of the current qualifying process can be found at the article here
Current entrants should have now received an email to log in to their account on the Spartathlon website and complete their entry form including details of nominated crew. This must be completed by the 15/5/18.
We also recommend you make a copy of your entry form details in case of any queries or changes (i.e. to crew) in the future.
Sponsorship & Kit
The British Spartathlon team are currently seeking sponsors to support the team with kit costs. Raising some funds via sponsorship has been an essential step in providing kit to the British Spartathlon runners and one of the key reasons why the British Team are well represented and well regarded.
If you know of any companies or organisations who may be interested in sponsoring the team then details of sponsorship opportunities can be found here
In the meantime, we have already commenced work on updating our kit designs for 2018 through the efforts of our talented designer Mark and further details will be shared over the coming months.
Finally, if you have any questions regarding the race then please visit the British Spartathlon Facebook Group here where past, present and future Spartathletes congregate (virtually) and can help answer any queries.
It is with deep regret that we have been made aware of the sad news that John Foden has recently passed away.
The Spartathlon race aims to trace the footsteps of Pheidippides, an Athenian messenger sent to Sparta in 490 BC to seek help against the Persians in the Battle of Marathon. Pheidippides, according to an account by Greek historian Herodotus in The Persian Wars, arrived in Sparta the day after he departed. Herodotus wrote: “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.”.
Based on this account, British RAF Wing Commander John Foden and four other RAF officers travelled to Greece in 1982 on an official expedition to test whether it was possible to cover the nearly 250 kilometres in a day and a half.
Three runners were successful in completing the distance including John Foden and this journey gave birth to the Spartathlon event.
Our thoughts are with John’s family at this time. His legacy will never be forgotten.
You may read the press release on the Spartathlon website here
Update courtesy of James Ellis.
And we have ourselves a winner!
Not of Spartathlon of course… it’s been 21 years since James Zarei was first to kiss the foot of Leonidas (although Dan Lawson came mighty close last year with a second place finish).
But Ian Thomas absolutely smashed the Leeds-Liverpool Canal Race at the end of August with a time just over 24 hours.
Ian’s one of the nicest guys on an ultra circuit that is already chock full of the good folk, and displays all the best of our sport: encouragement of others and never-ending grit, while he always (almost) runs with a smile on his face.
He says he’s disappointed he didn’t duck under the less-than-a-day mark, but another thing you should know about Ian is he’s taken great confidence from a storming run at Spartathlon last year, so if you want to follow in his podium footsteps, smash it…
Two weeks to go: Last minute-prep for runners and crew
Blimey, are there only two weeks to go? Right now, you should all be tapering well… there’s little point in putting big miles in now, you’ll only end up tiring yourself out before the race.
Here are some things you should be doing:
- Downloading the rules and making sure you and your crew are aware of them. Getting to the end of 153 miles in less than 36 hours and then finding you have been disqualified on a technicality is not a good idea.
- Downloading the Road Book checkpoint documents and make sure you and your crew have an idea where they are. You can also use them to plan your dropbag strategy (what do you mean, you don’t have one).
- Make a list of all the things you want to take to Greece with you: sports nutrition, kit etc. Also make sure you have a smaller bag for the overnight in Sparta – you won’t be allowed to take a big case on the bus, those stay in Athens till you come back from the race.
- Medical certificates. If you’ve not already done so, get these emailed to email@example.com
What some of the rest of the team have been up to (aka ‘as far back as we can be arsed to check on Facebook’)
Tremayne Dill Cowdry and Rusty Rusk have been running and organising the We Run They Run I Run race.
Stu Wilkie has been keeping an eye on the temperatures. There was some hope with the race being a few days later that temps might drop this year, but Athens seems to holding steady in the early 30s. And whatever the temperature, those Greek roads have been baking all summer, so look forward to lots of residual heating pinging back at you! Hats, sunblock, good hydration strategy are all essential to a good Spartathlon finish.
Darren Strachan and James Ellis have been testing nutrition strategies, each running 50 milers over 2.5 mile loops with Sparta-like tables of various drinks, potions, biscuits and crisps. Dazzler set his up in Finsbury Park and came back on one loop to find his cool box had been taken to the tip by a council official. The pair also did a 43-mile night run through London as their last big run.
Super Paul Rowlinson has also been testing his feeding strategy with a 40-miler fuelled purely on Tailwind, one of our fab sponsors.
Paul Beechey did the T-Series T-100 with no niggles and is looking good to go.
Lots and lots of lovely pics of all the British Spartathlon Team have been posted in their gear on the site.
The hotels have been announced
Team hotels have changed for this year … Out goes the Oasis in Glyfada (Athens) where the team have been based for the last couple of races and in comes the (perhaps aptly named) Hotel London, just across the street. Nice hotel, similar set up and a rooftop bar for us to exchange stories post-race.
In Sparta… well, we actually aren’t staying in Sparta this year but in the Hotel Belle Helene in Gythio about 40 km away. In the past, those picked up by the Death Bus have often been shipped back to their hotels – so if you want to see everyone at the finish, the only way to guarantee it is to not drop out!
Live GPS Tracking (Courtesy of Race Drone)
Those UK Spartathletes who have elected to carry the GPS Tracker can be tracked here during the race. Feel free to share the link with friends and fellow runners.
The 2016 Spartathlon event is getting closer and closer now and hopefully everyone’s training has been going well.
A huge thank you to all of our sponsors including Ultramarathon Running Store, Oyster Wealth Management, Altas Running, Lynchpin Media, all about the story, Tailwind UK and Race Drone Tracking for supporting the 2016 British Spartathlon Team.
The great news is that this years kit (designed by the talented Mark Burnell) is on its way to the runners as we speak. We would like to add an extra thank you to Mike Julien at Tailwind for handling the distribution.
Here’s a look at this year’s kit.
British Spartathlon Team Buff
British Spartathlon Runners Top
British Spartathlon Crew Top
British Spartathlon Team Hoodie
British Spartathlon Team Hoodie (Reverse)
I’m sure you will all agree the kit looks great and once again the British Spartathlon Team will look the part in Greece in September! Just looking at the kit makes me want to sign up for next year.
As a final reminder, can I remind everyone to check out the various links on the website under the “Information” or “Media” links for lots of resources, photos, videos and race reports.
Good luck with the rest of your training.
Payment Deadline Approaches!
The next big cut off for those in the team is coming up – payment! If you’ve not already sent your race fee to the organisers, now is the time to do it.
The cut-off date is May 31 – but please take into account that international transfers can take a few days, and the last thing you want to do is get this far and miss out due to an admin error.
We’d recommend you send the cash (€520) to Spartathlon at least seven working days in advance to ensure clearance. Past team members have used a service by transferwise.com and that seems to have gone smoothly. Fees are also reduced using this method.
You should also note that if you have not been allocated a race number, it may be because you have not yet paid. Once ISA get the dosh, you’ll get the next sequential number … perhaps some of you are hanging back in the hope of bagging 300!
Another point to highlight is that you do not have to pay for your crew or name them now. On your application form (which can be changed if you log on to your account), you can put the number of crew you are using and TBC in the name section and verify and pay for them later. The cut off for crew payment is sometime in the summer – we’ll let you know in a subsequent newsletter.
The team kit is ready and approved and we need to send out some special thanks to:
Team manager Rob Pinnington who has once again badgered sponsors in record numbers.
Mark Burnell who has provided graphics that will again be the envy of other national teams.
Our generous sponsors and service providers: The Ultramarathon Store, Atlas Running, Oyster Wealth Management, Tailwind Nutrition, Lynchpin Media and All About The Story.
To clarify what is available:
Team members get for free:
2 Runners Tops
2 Crew Tops
Extra kit can be ordered at the following prices
Extra buffs GBP5
Extra crew shirt GBP15
Extra hoodie GBP 25
Please be aware extra runner shirts cannot be purchased. Also the shirts are on the ‘fitted’ side… If you’re in doubt, size up when the forms come out later this month… We don’t want you chafing in the heat of an Athenian autumn.
* Kit order instructions will be emailed to each runner over the next few weeks *
In the News
Press officer James Ellis managed to secure us some national coverage in The Sun at the end of April.
Once names are confirmed after May 31 and the team solidifies, he’ll be getting in touch with all local radio/TV stations of runners who are happy to take part in press for the team. This usually involves a feature on the local runner claiming what a hero/fool he/she is for taking part.
The key thing to remember is that this is all part of keeping the race, the team and the sponsors in the public eye to ensure that British participation remains strong, sponsor interest remains high and we can afford to keep being so generous with the kit.
If you’ve not already emailed James at firstname.lastname@example.org, please send him your:
- Where you’re from
- What your local paper name is
- What your local radio station names are
All help in this drive is appreciated but not essential.
Occupation: Civil Servant
Home Town: Originally from Exeter in Devon but now reside in Stourbridge in the West Midlands.
What is your running background? Retired from all sport around 15 . Never was a runner at school. Took up running in 2006 when cajoled into running a 10k for charity.
When did you first start running Ultra marathons and why? After running a 10k I wanted to do something else but running a marathon didn’t really inspire me. My Dad ran two of the early London Marathons and I remember him saying that after his second one he had no desire to do another one but he mentioned these races called ‘Ultramarathons’ and he may do one of those (He never did). This must have stuck in my mind as when I was searching on the internet for a new running challenge one of the first things I typed into Google was ‘Ultramarathon’…..this opened up a whole raft of races and I was intrigued by the huge number of races there were. My first event was a LDWA event around 2 years after running the 10k. I kind of skipped the half marathon and marathon distances and went straight in with a 40 mile event.
When or where (at which events) are we most likely to see you? I race long only a couple of times a year at most and prefer single stage longer races. I can usually be found on a canal either running or crewing but also run shorter more hilly races. I also run a lot of cross country in the winter in local leagues.
What are your personal key running achievements to date? Finishing the first LLC130 and finishing the ‘easy’ Cockbain event.- the C2C. A well paced 2.57 and a few seconds at London this year.
What was your hardest race experience? Having to drag my left leg for 4-5 hours through Newcastle to finish the C2C. One ankle was the size of a grapefruit!
What events do you have planned for 2015 up to Spartathlon? London Marathon (never done it), GUCR
What is your typical race strategy for an ultra? Big fan of run/walk.Start steady and minimise drop in pace so I am hopefully passing people all the while. Minimal time spent at checkpoints or with crew.
What does a typical training week look like? 4-5 runs a week, anywhere between 40-80 miles a week depending on the event I’m training for. Runs are a mix of speed and hills . Back to back long runs usually spread over 3 days, clocking up around 50ish miles
What one tip would you pass onto people running an Ultra marathon for the first time? Know you are going to finish before you start the race.
Can you tell us one interesting fact about yourself? I can drive a tractor
Have you taken part in the Spartathlon before? No
What are you looking forward to at the Spartathlon race? The whole experience..the camaraderie, the mountain, the final right turn for the finish.
What are you not looking forward to during the Spartathlon race? Nothing. I can’t wait
How will you prepare specifically for the Spartathlon race? Just more miles on the road. I’m believer in training on what you’re going to race on. A bit of speedwork and long up and down hill sessions to prepare the quads for a bashing.
Will you be bringing any support crew to the race? No
Name: Barry Miller
What is your running background? I started running to keep fit in my late twenties, I found trail running and loved the adventure exploring new trails when training and at events.
Why did you first start running ultra marathons and why? I was training for my first marathon back in 2009 when a friend suggested doing the London to Brighton trail run. I thought it was a stupid idea at first but sounded like an adventure so gave it a go and not looked back since.
When or where (at which events) are we most likely to see you? Centurion 100 milers, GoBeyond ultras, other low key trail events and parkruns.
Running achievements to date:
Centurion Grandslam 2013
Grandslam of Ultrarunning 2014 – (Read about it here: https://ultratales.wordpress.com/portfolio/ultra-tales-issue-13-october-2014/
Western States finish 2015
Hardest race experience: Either climbing up to hope pass the second time at the Leadville 100 or battling cut offs at the Wasatch 100. Both amazing experiences to look back on that tested me physically and mentally.
Pre Spartathlon events: GUCR, NDW100, and a couple of trail marathons.
Typical race strategy: Get to the finish! I run by perceived effort not to specific split times and strategies. Although my best race performances have been achieved by setting out steadier but I love getting stuck into a quick early pace. Something I need to work on before September.
Typical training week: Daily lunchtime 5 milers during the week, some hard some easy. A couple of 10 milers after work per week, 5k speed session on a Saturday morning followed by a long run.
Tip for first time ultra: Start steady, eat and drink little and often.
Have you participated in Sparta before? No
What are you looking forward to at Sparta? Meeting Pan on the mountain.
What are you not looking forward to? What is there to not look forward to?
How will you prepare for Sparta? More road running than usual along with some core strength work
Will you be bringing support crew? Kirstin and I are going on a summer holiday to Greece.