Thursday, September 08, 2011

3 weeks to the Spartathlon

In 490 B.C. Pheidippides ran from Athens to Sparta a few days before the Battle of Marathon.

My run starts atop the Acropolis, under the imposing but beautiful Parthenon, at 7 a.m. on Friday, September 30,

Here are the cutoffs every runner will try to stay under in order to advance towards the Finish:

Athens to Corinth ===> 81 km ===> 81 km IN 9.5 hrs
Corinth to Nemea ===> 124 km ===> 43.0 km IN 6.5 hrs
Nemes to Lyrkeia ===> 148.5 km ===> 24.5 km IN 4 hrs
Lyrkia to Nestani ===> 172 km ===> 23.5 km IN 4.5 hrs
Nestani to Tegea ===> 195 km ===> 23 km IN 3.5 hrs
Tegea to Sparta ===> 245.3 km ===> 50.3 km IN 8 hrs

The elevation profile is shown below.

The days will be hot and humid while the night could possibly see rain and cold. Last year it was sad to see some runners in nothing but shorts and singlets getting soaked to the skin, from the rain that hit for an hour or so, and getting hypothermic.

What do I hope will happen on Saturday, Oct 1? This!

From Tegea the road takes on the final climb of the race rising from 640 m (2,100 ft) to 975 meters (3,200 ft) in a distance of 22 km. The runners will pass through the villages of Kamari (196.8 km) and Manthirea (202.1 km) where the paved road twists and turns through an evergreen landscape that is visible almost as far as the eye can see. The final 28 kilometres to Sparta are almost all downhill descending into the Evrotas Valley. At the village of Voutiani (236.2 kilometres), the runners can clearly see their goal and after crossing over the Evrotas river bridge (243.5 km) the runners are met by local school children who will accompany them to checkpoint 75 and the finish line in Sparta the capital of Laconia (245.3 km).

The city turns out in force to welcome the athletes as heroes in front of the statue of King Leonidas. All finishers are presented with an olive wreath and offered a goblet of water from the Evrotas River, much as Olympian winners would have been honoured in ancient times.

To say that I am very, very excited is an understatement. The nervousness may, and probably will, come the night before the race but I am prepared for it. To be given the opportunity to start one of the hardest and most iconic of races is an honor I am humbled by. I worked hard last year, and again this year, to finish the 145-mile Grand Union Canal Race in the UK, races that have become my qualifiers for Spartathlon 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

The plan, as of right now, is to run this race this year and in 2012. I may skip 2013 but friends who have run it before insist that it's like a drug - you cannot have enough of it. Having seen it for myself last year, during my crewing stint for Nattu Natraj, I kind of understand their assertion.

Stay tuned.