(Note: Article is based on the 2018 Spartathlon entry rules)
How to qualify for Spartathlon?
So you want to run Spartathlon? Great, welcome!
On the opening day of the entry system for the 2018 Spartathlon , this article will explain the qualification and entry process. Unless you already have a qualifier then it’s pretty much too late for an entry this year (the Flitch Way 100k at the end of January being the last race I’m aware of before the close of entries) but hopefully this information will be useful for prospective entrants planning to run this event in the future.
Please note this information has been sourced from the official terms of participation which can be found here. This is the official ‘source’ and what is written below is our interpretation of these rules.
To run Spartathlon you need to have ‘qualified’ by meeting one of the minimum standards of entry in a previous race. I will refer to this as a ‘ballot qualifier’ going forward.
In addition, runners who have achieved a performance at least 20% better than the ones required (i.e. 20% better than the ballot qualifier) are considered qualified and are thus automatically admitted. I will refer to this as an ‘auto qualifier’.
Qualification needs to be achieved in 2016, 2017 or up to 24th Feb 2018 for the 2018 race.
As an example. If you finish a 100km race in 10hrs (men) then you are qualified and will be eligible for the ballot. However, if you can finish the 100km race in under 8 hours (men) then you are qualified and will be automatically admitted.
As this article is geared towards UK entrants, I have focussed on some of the more common qualification standards that are likely to apply but would suggest you refer to the full list of standards in the official terms of participation which also includes some race specific entries.
Please note this article refers to 2018 standards and these may change in the future.
Typical Qualifying Standards
Finish a 100-km race within 10:00 hours (men) or 10:30 hours (women)
To achieve a ballot qualifier you need to complete the 100km (62.5m) race within the following time limit:
For an auto-qualifier you need to be able to finish the race as follows:
In the UK we have the SVP 100km in August and if you really want to have a chance of participating in Spartathlon this year and don’t have a qualifier then the Flitch Way 100km is run before the end of January.
Cover a 120 km (men) or 110 km distance (women) in a 12-hour race
To achieve a ballot qualifier, once again you need to be able to complete the following:
For an auto-qualifier, you need to have achieved:
Compared to the 100km qualifier this is a little more challenging as you have to meet the same pace for a longer time period but with 12 hour races typically taking place on a track this makes it a possible alternative as a track race offers easy access, support and good running conditions.
In the UK we have the Crawley 6/12/24 hour race in April (Track event), the Ellis Brigham Trailblaster 12 in June (Trail), Monster Ambit 12 in June (Trail).
Finish a 100-mile race in 21:00 hours (men) or 22:00 hours (women).
To achieve a ballot qualifier, once again you need to be able to achieve the following:
If you are looking for an auto-qualifier then you need to achieve the following:
I would estimate an ‘average’ finishing time for a 100 mile race to be 24 hours based on when the peak number of runners finish so 3 hours quicker is definitely achievable for a lot of people. However, I would remind people that 21 hours is around the cut off point for 100 miles in Spartathlon so whilst your qualifying finish may place you mid-pack (a guess and I’ve not looked at data to calculate this) you might be towards the back at Spartathlon.
This is a common qualifying time based on the number of 100 mile races we have in the UK but be sure to select one where the terrain, environment, conditions and rules (buddy runners allowed?) may enable more running (i.e. Arc of Attrition not recommended).
In the UK we have the Centurion 100 mile events (Thames Path, South Downs, North Downs and Autumn 100), Robin Hood 100, Cotswold Way Century, West Country 100 miler as examples amongst others.
Cover at least 180 km (men) or 170 km (women) in a 24-hour race.
To achieve a ballot qualifier, you need to be able to achieve the following:
For an auto-qualifier the standard is as follows:
We have an abundance of 24 hour races in the UK with events such as the Thunder Run, Endure 24, Hope 24 amongst others aswell as track events such as Crawley and the Self-Transcendence 24 hour.
One slight ‘quirk’ to consider is that most of the lapped trail 24 hours (such as Endure, Thunder Run) allow competitors to start their final lap before the end of the 24 hour period. Therefore, it is possible to run a final lap (these trail races are typically 5-6 mile loops) and cover a bit more distance in a 24 hour race. I am not saying this is ‘fair’ but merely pointing out how these results are calculated and reported as ‘24 hour’ races.
Finish a non-stop 200-220 km race within 29:00 hours (men) or 30:00 hours (women).
To achieve a ballot qualifier, once again you need to be able to average complete the 200-220km (125m-137.5m) distance as follows:
To achieve an auto qualifier, once again you need to be able to average complete the 200-220km (125m-137.5m) distance as follows:
In the UK, the Liverpool Leeds Canal Race is 130m (208km) and a good option here.
Finish a longer than 220 km non-stop race within 36:00 hours (men) or 37:00 hours (women).
To achieve a ballot qualifier, once again you need to be able to complete (assuming a) 220km (137.5m) distance as follows:
To achieve an auto qualifier, once again you need to be able to complete (assuming a) 220km (137.5m) distance as follows:
With a 220km + distance then several races in the UK fall into this category but events like the T184, Thames Ring, Lon Las, Viking Way (and others) are not suited to this due to the distance being well beyond the 220km and other elements such as limited support, terrain and self-navigational elements.
The Grand Union Canal Race and Kennet & Avon Canal Race are your most likely options. However the GUCR has its own specific criteria (see below). The KACR is 145m in length 232km and close to the minimum distance needed for this criteria and a good option here.
Finish Grand Union Canal Race within 34:00 hours (men) or 35:00 hours (women).
This criteria for this race specifically was changed a couple of years ago. (It could have been considered a ‘soft qualifier’ in the past).
To achieve a ballot qualifier, once again you need to be able finish the race as follows:
To achieve an auto qualifier, once again you need to be able to complete the distance as follows:
As mentioned above the Kennet & Avon Canal Race is a better option at present with a more forgiving cut off although these may be aligned in the future.
Cover a distance of at least 280 km (men) or 260 km (women) in a 48-hour race.
I’ve added this here but not aware of any 48 hour races in the UK so you may have to look abroad for races within this criteria.
Qualifier Achieved – What’s Next?
Once you have the qualifier than you will need to submit your application through the Spartathlon website.
This is run around the same time each year and for 2018 opens on the 20th January and closes on the 25th February 2018. There is no advantage in entering this early.
The race is limited to 390 participants (with a very small number of discretionary places) and the ballot draw takes place in March.
From a UK perspective, we are limited to 25 entrants and demand for these places generally exceeds the number of places available (in 2017, I recall we had around 40-50 applications).
In view of the above the likelihood of achieving a place is as follows:
If we exceed the UK cap or race entry limit then people are placed on a waiting list.
Therefore, we could have scenarios where 390 places are allocated but less than 25 UK names are selected drawn or 25 UK are selected before we reach the 390 race cap and UK entrants are then added to the waiting list as we have reached our country cap. This is a consequence of wishing to take part in a popular race.
If the UK entered more than 25 entrants who all have auto-qualifiers then 25 would be drawn by lot and others placed on the waiting list.
Statistically, you probably still have a better chance of running Spartathlon than the London Marathon ballot though!
If you are desperate to achieve a place in Spartathlon then the best option is to try and achieve an auto-qualifier. If you enter by way of a ballot qualifier then it’s down to the luck the draw.
Based on a quick look at previous British entrants, I would assess between 33-50% of entrants have had an auto-qualifier so essentially ballot entries could potentially be fighting for a dozen available places for the UK.
With the rise of social media, blogging and the efforts of the British Spartathlon Team publicising and promoting the event, the demand will continue to grow each year as more and more UK ultra-runners seek to participate in this event.
The British Spartathlon Team
The British Spartathlon Team represents the UK runners. If you are a British national and have completed all of the above entry criteria and are fortunate to be selected then you essentially are a member of the team.
The purpose of the team is to bring together and represent the British runners and provide advice, information and support for this fantastic event.
To be absolutely clear, the British Spartathlon Team has no influence over the selection and draw process… our job starts when the entrants have already been selected.
I hope you found this article useful (and hopefully my maths is correct for the pace breakdowns shown above). In addition, I have provided examples of races that fit into each criteria but this is not an exhaustive list and there are other races that may apply.
If you have any further questions then feel free to raise these on the British Spartathlon Team Facebook group.