Friday, 18 January 2013

The Road To Sparta....

2013 The Road to Sparta......                        
Funny thing really, what do Ultrarunners talk about to other Ultrarunners when they are running an      Ultra? Well most of the time other Ultra's. So half way through the 52 in 52 challenge I was thinking of  what challenge  I could attempt in 2013.

2013 is also the year of my 40th birthday, ok I know I look more like I'm 50 but I am as I write this 39. Several years ago I decided I needed to do something big for my 40th. Two races came on my radar, Badwater  and Spartathlon
Badwater looked well, pretty interesting but bloody expensive (Crew, flights, Vehicle Hire, supplies etc etc ) Spartathlon seemed to look much more affordable, I didn't say doable though!

Spartathalon in a nut shell is a 153 mile race from Athens to Sparta. The race is predominately road and  the cut off is a tight 36hrs. During the day the temperatures can be pretty hot. The toughest aspect of the  
race (apart from 153 miles) is the cut offs. The first 50 miles must be covered in under 9hrs 30mins,
with many more cut offs.
 9hrs 30 may not sound much for 50 miles, two back to back marathons at around about 4hrs.40 Min's for each one, but remember you still have over 100 miles to go and a 3000 ft plus hill to climb.

Taken from the official website; 

Described as the world's most gruelling race, the Spartathlon runs over rough tracks and muddy paths (often it rains during the race), crosses vineyards and olive groves, climbs steep hillsides and, most challenging of all, takes the runners on the 1,200 meter ascent and descent of Mount Parthenio in the dead of night. This is the mountain, covered with rocks and bushes, on which it is said Pheidippides met the god Pan. In 2,500 years man has had no impact at all. There is still no pathway over the mountain that is swept by strong winds with temperatures as low as 4°C. The ascent is marked out by a trail of battery-driven coloured flashing lights and its challenge is a trial for human stamina and mental  strength. Over the mountain the last sections are no less energy sapping and exhausting for the runners as they follow a road that winds up and down hills before descending into Sparta. Even the finest athletes start hallucinating as they  cover these final stages. Having lost all sense of time and reality, they are "on automatic" as they push their weary bodies on towards the finishing line at the statue of Leonidas. At most, only about a third of the runners who leave Athens end 
the course in Sparta. The goal of all participants is to cover the course within the 36-hour time limit. Setting records is the primary aim. Those who succeed in reaching Sparta have trouble finding words to describe their feelings. Spartathlon 

has to be lived through. It is a very personal experience in which the athletes dream about participating. Their imagination is stirred by the idea of being a modern Pheidippides, running in the footsteps of the ancient messenger. 
They train for years to get fit enough both physically and mentally to meet the race's demands.

I am under no illusion that ill finish on my first attempt but I will have a bloody good go!! I am in this for the long haul.
2012 saw some very experienced tough British runners  (pretty fast ones, I now a couple of them well) have to drop out due to a combination of heat and pace. This is a race which finishing is something really special.

To qualify for Spartathon you must of completed either a 200km (124 miles) race before or 100k (62 miles) in under 10.30hrs. I ran the Tooting Bec 24 hour track race in September 2013 to use as a qualifier but unfortunately the wheels fell off in the process.

Spartathalon qualifying events are in short supply in the UK. 100k on hilly trail is a tough call to get  round in under 10hrs 30mins, so the easier option is 100k and 24hr races round a track but these events are limited to small fields of runners and not very often. 200k plus events are limited to the Grand Union Canal race, Viking way race Thames Ring and possibly the Spine. My choice at a second attempt for a qualifying race is The Viking Race in March. The Viking Way is a 147 mile race with 3000 metres of ascent from Barton Upon Humber  to Oakham (Leicstershire) with a time limit of 40 hrs. So no mean feet!!

If the first hurdle is completed (Qualifying) then the 2nd hurdle is being selected from what I guess will be this year an over subscribed race.

My training and to somewhat my races are all geared to getting into the best shape of my life for Spartathlon, leaving nothing to chance. Last year was a year of quantity so this year will hopefully be a year of quality. Fighting the urge to enter everything in sight. I have chosen certain races and given myself time to recover from them before running another race (well on most occasions) My training will include speedwork (tempo runs and intervals) which was missing from 2012. Plus the occasional 10k which seemed to work well for my overall speed in Ultras in 2011. I will actually log my miles and training plus diet. (I am currently experimenting with a Ketone Diet which will probably be changed around a little bit to become a Paleo Diet  i.e. adding fruit and dropping dairy.

2013 Races

5th     Scarborough Rock - 25miles (Trail)  ENTERED
                 25th    Dubai Marathon - 26.2miles  (Road)  ENTERED

2nd   Rombalds Stride - 23miles (Trail) ENTERED
24th    Maratona De Montana 26miles  (Valencia, Spain) (Trail)  ENTERED

1st   High Peak Marathon 42miles (Trail/fell)   ENTERED
              9th  Wuthering Hike   32miles (Trail)   2011 PB -5hrs 35mins  ENTERED
              30-31st The Viking Way 147miles (Trail)   ENTERED

  11th Tadcaster Harriers Old Course loop - 2.55miles (Road)
             21st London Marathon - 26.2 (Road)  ENTERED
             27th Fellsman  62miles (Trail/fell)       ENTERED
             30th York 10k Summer League Pocklington 6.2miles (Road)

  11th  Brecon 40 - 40miles (Trail/fell) or Ingleborough Marathon 27miles (fell/trail)
             19th  Scafell Trail Marathon 26miles (Trail/fell)  ENTERED
             28th  York 10k Summer League Easingwold 6.2miles (Road)

 2nd  Comrades (Africa) 56miles (Road)    ENTERED
           20th  Midsummers Madness Tadcaster Harriers 5miles (Road)
           25th  York 10k Summer League Bishop Wilton  6.2miles (Road)
29th Bob Graham Round attempt

7th  Osmotherley Phoenix 32miles (Trail)   PB -  2011 5hrs 38mins  ENTERED
           9th York 10k summer League Wistlow 6.2miles (Road)
           14th Lyke Wake Race  42miles (Trail)        PB -  2011 7hrs 33mins
           18th Tadcaster Harriers Track 5k (Track)
           27th Lakeland 100   105miles (Trail/fell)     PB -  2011 36hrs 40mins   ENTERED

10th Long tour of Bradwell 32miles (Trail)
               24th Speyside Way 36.5miles (Trail)

TBA   Continous Coast to Coast attempt 190miles(Trail)

19th  Round Rotherham 50miles (Trail)
        20th  Yorkshire Marathon 26.2miles (Road)

November and December are still in the planning stages. No doubt certain races may be added to June 
and August. 

Where PB is, this relates to my Personal Best which I plan to beat this year.

Wainstones ( Wainstones Trail Marathon Recce Jan 2013)

Looking over towards the Wainstones



Bob Graham Attempt  May 2012 
L-R Myself - Andy Norman - Rorie Macintosh (foreground scratching his bum) Mark Dalton - Shirley 



  1. Well done on least year Jon. Really wish I hadn't just read this post though... On the bucket list now!

  2. crikey, thats you paring it down? lol some interesting races there, i'm jealous! Good luck :)