Spartathlon 2024

Sep 28, 2024 — Sep 29, 2024 • Category: Events

The greatest of the greats in both physical and mental stamina convene in Sparta once more this year, on September 28th-29th.

Spartathlon is inspired by legendary messenger Pheidippides, who is also the inspiration of the traditional Marathon. It is said that in 490 BCE, on the eve of the Battle of Marathon between Greeks and Persians, Pheidippides was dispatched from Athens to Sparta to request the Spartans’ assistance in the war. Herodotus writes that he managed to reach his destination in a day.
First organized in 1983, Spartathlon attempts to recreate the ancient messenger’s route as closely as possible, covering a distance of 246.8 kilometers, as envisioned by RAF Wing Commander John Foden. Since then, the race has been held every year, and its historic route has been graced with the tracks of runners from all over the world.
The race has been described as “the world’s most grueling”, with only one-third of participants managing to complete the task. Running over everything from motorway-grade tarmac to seldom-trodden mountain footpaths, the road takes runners from sea level up to more than 1000 meters high at Mt. Parthenio. Racers usually reach this point in the freezing nighttime, with cold winds below 5 degrees battering their brow, often paired with rain. Pheidippides is said to have met the god Pan here, and often modern runners start to hallucinate around these stages of the race.

The race connects Athens, starting at the base of the Acropolis, with Sparta, finishing at the statue of Leonidas, with many other important cities of Ancient Greece in its way, including Eleusis, Megara, Corinth, Nemea, and Tegea. The whole distance is expected to be completed under a 36-hour time limit, with 75 control sections dispersed in between, each with its own time limits. Runners who don’t meet these limits are disqualified for their own safety. Runners’ safety is also ensured by the police and medical retinue accompanying them, as well as the aid stations every 3 to 5 kilometers, stocked with any provisions runners may need to carry on.

Almost 400 athletes register every year with the acceptance criteria being exceptionally high. The best of the best take more than 20 hours to complete the unbelievable journey, with only one runner, Fotis Zisimopoulos, managing to break the 20-hour barrier; and he only achieved it last year! In total, 3052 athletes have placed their name in the competition over 42 years.