The British Spartathlon Team FAQ
We receive the occasional email from runners enquiring about entry for Spartathlon and joining the British team and we hope this article will answer common questions.
What is the British Spartathlon Team?
The British Spartathlon Team is an organisation which is designed to bring together the British runners participating in the Spartathlon event.
The United Kingdom has a strong link with the Spartathlon event since the first modern attempt in the early 80’s by John Foden and his team, through to a regular presence of British runners at the new official event.
When was the team formed?
We could point to John Foden and crew as the original ‘British Team’ when they successfully recreated Pheidippides journey and gave birth to the Spartathlon event.
In 2012, the British runners started to organise themselves into a team to ensure that we were visible represented alongside other countries at this international event.
This “British Spartathlon Team” concept was pushed further by in 2013 with creation of the first version of the website.
What does the team do?
We have a number of objectives:
- To bring together the British runners participating in the Spartathlon and create a team atmosphere.
- To raise sponsorship for the team each year to provide some kit so British Runners have a visible presence at the event.
- Provide advice and support (where required)
- To catalogue the success (or failure) of British participants
What resources can you offer?
The team website is a fantastic source of information about the event (including articles, reports, photographs and videos of previous participants) which helps support the growing interest in the event from the British ultra-running community.
In addition, we have established a Facebook group where past, present and future runners can interact with each other.
Why the interest in Spartathlon?
Rob Pinnington kindly wrote a few words to answer the question.
“Why would someone want to do this race? UTMB has more hills. Badwater is hotter. La Ultra is higher.
What Spartathlon has is two things.
Firstly the history. A course first run in 490BC… and the retracing of the journey of the Athenian messenger Pheidippides who ran the distance in advance of the Battle of Marathon to ask for Spartan help against the invading Persian forces.
Secondly the cut offs. Every one of the 72 checkpoints has its own cut off. Fail to reach the Checkpoint in time and you are out. Each Checkpoint has a board that is confusing after a few 50kms
You have to race the hilly, hot, mainly tarmac course at such a pace not to be caught by the ‘Death Bus;’ that is ever eager to gobble up the next unfortunate soul that has miss calculated.
Race tactics and strategy can be tricky. Go too slow, as I did in 2012, and you don’t even reach the first major Checkpoint at Corinth; go too fast, as I did in 2014, and you burn out and watch your buffer, that you built in the first 40km, slowly and agonisingly deteriorate; take a moment too long at a Checkpoint, as I did in 2013, and the ‘Death Bus’ gets you.
All the while you have to pound the tarmac in the heat ascending or descending the next undulating part of the course. It is not flat, any person who says so, lies.
Tarmac, that beautiful harsh mistress. At once beautiful, in its smoothness that allows you to trust it and run at speed and at the one and the same time, harsh as it smashes your legs with it’s unforgiving hardness.
You run out of the bowl that is Athens, down a steep hill and get to what seems to be a visual treat, the view of the Sardonic gulf. A beautiful blue shining sea as far as you can see. The heat is pouring down from the sun on to your head….It is bouncing off the tarmac and frying your legs…It is held in place by the immense cliff to your right that signifies that the that road was cut into it, is actually a deep scar and cliff really wants to make you suffer….Finally it is reflected off that beautiful sea.
Get past this and you run over the Corinth Canal and into the Peloponnese hinterland. More tarmac, more hills, more heat. By 100km, the sun starts to go down and the roads are pitch black. You run on following the lights ahead, worrying that you have missed a turn and then there is the climb to Nemea…half way…finish the climb and you drop down to Lykria…miles of downhill running on tarmac that mashes your quads and sucks the energy from you….
Now I have to end my personal recollection as this currently marks the end of my journey, so far.
I am told that the path to the mountain seems to go on forever. Then it is a hands on knees job to get to the Sangas Pass, where Phedippides saw the God Pan.Then down and up again, a long climb to the final hill and then forty kms of downhill until you reach the city of Sparti.
Children and Police escort you to the finish and what a finish it is! I have never seen anything like it, a true Heroe’s welcome with masses of people congratulating the runners who complete the journey and take the final steps to kiss the statue.
The statue of a man who wasn’t King at the time of the original race, but who cares about history when the race is done?
That is why people want to run this race. It is not the hottest, hardest, toughest or hilliest.
It is Spartathlon”.
Can you help me get a place in Spartathlon?
No, the British Spartathlon Team has no influence in the qualification of athletes for the Spartathlon event.
Our work starts each year once the application and ballot process has been concluded by the International Spartathlon Association.
How to join the British Spartathlon Team?
There are only two criteria for membership of the British Spartathlon Team.
- You hold a British Passport.
- You have a place in the race.
Who runs the British Spartathlon Team?
The current ‘guardians’ of the British Spartathlon Team are Rob Pinnington, James Ellis and Paul Ali.
We can be reached at our team email address of email@example.com
I am interested in sponsoring or supporting the British Spartathlon Team?
Fantastic, thank you. We are only able to continue supporting the runners with kit and equipment through the kind support of sponsors and service suppliers.
Details of our sponsorship document can be found here.