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
Hey everyone, it’s been a little while since we wrote our last team post and we have various news we wanted to update you on.
We have had a few changes to the team with drop-outs and withdrawals meaning a few lucky people on the waiting list have now been offered places.
We can now welcome James Ellis, Carl Howells, Martin Bacon and Simon Prytherch to the 2018 team although we are sorry to see that Marco, Jez & Roz were not able to take up their places.
As at the 31/5/18 The 2018 British Team is now comprised of 24 runners as follows; Stephen Walker, Ian Thomas, Cat Simpson, Matthew Blackburn, John Melbourne, John Stocker, Nathan Flear, Alastair Higgins, Cameron Humphries, Dan Masters, John Volanthen, Russell Tullet, Paul Ali, Matthew Brand, Laurence Chownsmith, Peter Summers, Steve Gordon, Stuart Shipley, Stuart Wilkie, James Ellis, Carl Howells, Martin Bacon & Simon Prytherch. Fabio Rizzo Calcio is also a member of the British Team although he is noted as an Italian entrant. (Yes, we could do with some more female entrants next year).
With payments now due then we are not expecting many (if any) changes from this point so we are sorry to those people who are still on the waiting list.
We would like to thank all of our sponsors who have kindly agreed to support the British Spartathlon Team through financial support or provision of services. The 2018 Sponsors are as follows:
The Ultramarathon Running Store, a specialist ultra running store have been a long-time supporter of the British Spartathlon Team.
We are once again pleased to welcome Oyster Wealth, who offer financial advice and services as a team sponsor.
We are pleased to welcome a new sponsor, Peak Pinole who supply energy bars for ultra athletes.
Endure Communications (formerly It’s All About the Story) are once again providing press services to the team.
Race Drone have once again agreed to sponsor the team through the supply of GPS tracking devices during the race.
We would also like to thank Mark Burnell for developing our new kit designs. Mark has done an excellent job in helping design our kits over the past few years and his work is one of the key reasons our team look well turned out on race weekend.
Now the really exciting news! We are pleased to unveil the 2018 Team Kit design as follows. We have once again followed the usual format of a white technical top for the runners and a red technical top for crew and once again includes the “Lion Logo” the team’s adopted motif.
2018 Runners Top Design
2018 Crew Top Design
2018 Buff Design
Hopefully, we have once again ‘freshened’ the kit design but retained some familiarity and consistency with previous years which was our aim.
We have raised sufficient funds through the kind donation of our sponsors to provide some kit to each of the runners (including runners tops, crew tops and buffs) although there will be an option to purchase additional items if you wish and we will be emailing the runners directly in the next week or so to organise this.
In addition, we will also be organising a British Spartathlon Team banner which we can use each year as part of our team photo shoot and perhaps even use at the end of the race as a point where British Runners and crews can congregate. We would like to thank Rob Pinnington, Ian & Gil Thomas and John Volanthen for agreeing to make a financial contribution towards this item.
British Team Banner Design
Paul, David, James, Rob & Darren.
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.
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:
- Men = 10hrs (9.36m/m pace)
- Women = 10.30 hrs (10.05m/m pace)
For an auto-qualifier you need to be able to finish the race as follows:
- Men = 8 hours (7.41m/m pace)
- Women = 8 hours 24 mins (8.04m/m pace)
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:
- Men = 75 miles (9.36m/m pace) for 12 hours
- Women = 68.75 miles (10.28m/m pace) for 12 hours
For an auto-qualifier, you need to have achieved:
- Men = 90 miles (8.00m/m pace) for 12 hours.
- Women’s = 82.5 miles (8.44m/m pace) for 12 hours.
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:
- Men = 21 hour finish (12.56m/m pace for the 100 mile distance)
- Women = 22 hours (13.12m/m pace for the 100 mile distance)
If you are looking for an auto-qualifier then you need to achieve the following:
- Men = 16.48 hour finish (10.05 m/m pace for the 100 mile distance)
- Women = 17.36 hour finish (10.34 m/m pace for the 100 mile distance)
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:
- Men = 180km/112.5 miles (12.48m/m pace in 24 hours)
- Women = 170km/106.25 miles (13.33m/m pace in 24 hours)
For an auto-qualifier the standard is as follows:
- Men = 216km/135 miles (10.40m/m pace for 24 hours)
- Women = 204km/127.5m (11.17m/m pace for 24 hours)
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:
- Men = 29 hours (between 12.39 – 13.55m/m pace (depending on the race distance)
- Women = 30 hours (between 13.05m/m – 14.24m/m (depending on the race distance)
To achieve an auto qualifier, once again you need to be able to average complete the 200-220km (125m-137.5m) distance as follows:
- Men = 23.12 hours (between 10.07 – 11.08m/m pace depending on the race distance)
- Women = 24 hours (between 10.28 – 11.31m/m pace depending on the race distance).
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:
- Men = in 36 hours (15.43 m/m pace)
- Women = 37 hours (16.09 m/m pace)
To achieve an auto qualifier, once again you need to be able to complete (assuming a) 220km (137.5m) distance as follows:
- Men = 28.48 hours (12.34 m/m pace)
- Women = 29.36 hours (12.55 m/m pace).
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:
- Men = 34 hours (14.04 m/m pace)
- Women – 35 hours (14.29 m/m pace).
To achieve an auto qualifier, once again you need to be able to complete the distance as follows:
- Men = 27.12 hours (11.39m/m pace)
- Women = 28.00 hours (11.35m/m pace)
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:
- Auto qualifier places granted
- Ballot selection places granted
- UK will receive (up to) 25 places and Spartathlon race will allocate 390 places in total
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.