Hello everyone, we are now around 6 weeks away from the race and it’s time to bring you up to date on some team news.
British Spartathlon Team Kit
Thanks to the work of the British Spartathlon Team committee, sponsors funding has been secured and kit design has been finalised, ordered and delivered. We now have all the team kit in our possession!
None of this could have been possible without the kind support of our sponsors and a huge thank you to the Ultramarathon Running Store, Rathbones, Runderwear, Indigo Fitness aswell as Endure Nutrition, DaznBone Ultra Coaching and Race Drone.
I (Paul) would also like to thank Darren Strachan in particular for doing a lot of the kit organising behind the scenes and pulling a lot of this work together. Once you receive the kit (and if you like it.. we hope you do!) then please take the opportunity to thank the sponsors and committee member for organising this. Let’s see lots of pictures of people adorned in their new kit.
We also have a fabulous new banner for the team as well as you can see from the picture below. We will use this for the team photos and hopefully we can also use this to mark a spot where the British runners and crew can congregate at the finish in Sparta.
We were sorry to hear that Mark Bisset and Richard Pomeroy both recently sustained injuries and will no longer be able to participate.
However, this has created an opportunity for a couple of later British entrants who were on the waiting list and we welcome Richard Cranswick and Carl Howells to the team.
British Spartathlon Casual T-Shirts & Hoodies
Shane Benzie from Running Reborn kindly hosted a running technique workshop for members of the British Spartathlon Team where he introduced his coaching work on body movement and efficiency of running based on his study and experience of working with a range of athletes including elite ultra-marathon and marathon runners.
This workshop was designed to look at different aspects of running technique and included various discussion and debate on a range of subjects, followed by video analysis of each individual runners style and advice on where individuals technique could be improved to increase their efficiency of movement. Shane also had a wealth of material collected from his previous work which included excellent examples of good form… the ‘train’ of African marathon runners running laps around a track in perfect unison was a joy to behold. The team didn’t quite feel brave enough to try and recreate this however!
The training day covered four main topics (and I hope I’ve remembered all the facts correctly!). The first focussed on footfall analysis and introduced a focus on the ‘foot tripod’ concept of hitting the ground using the three contact points of the bottom of the heel, ball of the big toe and ball of the little toe at the same time to spread the weight distribution when hitting the ground.
This led to the next phase of technique which looked at the movement and spring between strides which covered body angle (the 70 degree lean forward); vertical oscillation (spring between steps), cadence (around 175-185 is ideal) and leg movement in the air (cycling your legs).
Each of the runners running style was recorded and then analysed as a group and suggestions given on potential areas of improvement before they had an opportunity to try out their refined technique. Visible improvements were seen almost immediately although the effort of tweaking your style did require some concentration and effort and requires ongoing practice.
Following a lunch break where the guys chatted about running, events in general, a sneak preview of kit samples and some specific advice on Spartathlon for those newcomers to the team it was onto the second part of the training.
In the afternoon, the workshop focussed on the fascial bands in the body and looked at runners form (i.e. keeping a central line running from your forehead to your chest aligned and raised and head positioning looking forward) followed by the importance of your arms form both a technique and efficiency perspective (keep them loose not tense) and the fact that the arms are a key influence for cadence.
Those who attended the day found the advice and knowledge very useful and there were certainly a few areas where runners were going to try out the refinements to their technique. Whilst Shane was keen to impart his knowledge, this was offered on the basis that individual runners could take on board what worked for them and recognition that every runners is different.
The British Spartathlon Team would like to thank Shane for hosting the workshop. Shane also has a book coming out next year entitled “The Lost Art of Running” which can be pre-ordered from Amazon here which promises to be a very useful read for those interested in the subject of running technique.
For those interested in reading about Shane’s work and coaching services, you can visit his website here
Hey everyone, we have some exciting news for you all!
Firstly, details of the 2019 team has ‘nearly’ (there may be one or two late additions once the entry/payment deadline has elapsed) been finalised and you can read all about this years British Spartathlon runners by visiting the page here and reading the individual runners profiles.
Thanks to some fantastic work by our kit designer Mark with some support from Darren, we are now in a position to reveal the 2019 British Spartathlon Team kit design. I’m sure you will all agree the team will once again look fantastic as a group in Greece later this year.
Emails should be on their way to the runners with details about ordering kit and sizing so please look out for this. If you haven’t received anything, then please contact us at our email address or post a message on the British Spartathlon Team Facebook page and we will be in touch.
The provision of kit would not have been possible without the kind support from a range of sponsors and the team would like to formally thank everyone who has offered sponsorship or support for the 2019 British Spartathlon Team.
Your support is very much appreciated and ensures the British Runners are well represented at this fantastic event, thank you. We would like to take this opportunity to highlight each of our sponsors and service providers.
ULTRAmarathonRunningStore.com is a specialist ultra running store with a range of clothing, gear and equipment selected specifically for ultra runners, both for trail running and road running. We are based near Milton Keynes in the UK countryside and our shop ships internationally too. At Ultramarathon Running Store we want you to shop with confidence and that’s why you’ll find shopping with us is easy, hassle free and reliable. So, from our fast and reliable delivery service through to our easy no-quibble returns policy, we are dedicated to providing ultra runners with the best shopping experience and dependable customer service.
Rathbone Investment Management is one of the leading providers of high-quality personalised investment management services for private clients, charities and trustees. We are here to help you look forward with confidence.
For over 20 years, Indigo Fitness have been at the forefront of high performance strength training
We set out with the simple goal of creating and manufacturing strong and durable strength training equipment, and over the years we’ve grown and developed into a full-service solution provider, or as we like to call it ‘Creator of Training Spaces’. We strive to push the boundaries of both product and space design, utilising our experience and the latest technologies to deliver the best solutions for our customers.
We Create Training Spaces, We are a UK manufacturer, We are flooring experts.
The Runderwear team is made up of a small group of runners, whose philosophy is built on creating innovative, chafe-free, performance underwear, for their fellow runners.
Runderwear creates underwear that is seamless, moisture-wicking and breathable to ensure every Runderwearer remains comfortable no matter how many miles (or hundreds of miles!) they run.
Runderwear is the official underwear and bra partner of England Athletics and has won Gold at the National Running Awards for the best underwear and socks 2018/19 and 2019/20.
Endure Nutrition is owned by four-time Spartathlon finisher and member of the BST organising team James Ellis.
James is a qualified personal trainer and nutrition scientist with special interests in performance nutrition, weight management, allergies and intolerances, and support for those with long-term illnesses.
Whether you are training for a big race, battling a long-standing condition or want help with ideas to better feed your family, James can support those efforts with evidence-based strategies.
For ultra runners good nutrition is supremely important. Gastrointestinal issues has been proven to be the number one reason people DNF in big races. To get a highly personalised programme to support and enhance your race efforts, get in touch. We treat all our clients with a holistic, functional medicine approach that looks at your overall lifestyle and diet to help you reach greater heights in your performance.
Once again GPS tracking website http://www.RaceDrone.net have offered to sponsor the UK Spartathlon team, by offering each runner use of a mini GPS tracker to during the event, so their friends, family and supporters, both in Greece and a home can follow their progress in the race.
The British Spartathlon Team will be tracked during the race using the following link Spartathlon Tracking.
As ultra-marathon coaches daznbone love the shared experiences our running has brought to us. So many great people, such great events and amazing locations around the globe. We are on a mission to help others with their running, health and fitness journeys. If you’d like to make progress with your ultra-running, or need some help taking things to the next level (specialist in AQ standards), get in touch with us today and let’s start this coaching journey together.
Thanks for reading everyone.
Paul, Darren, David, James, Cat.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.