Spartathlon is a 246 kilometers (153 mi) ultramarathon held annually during the last weekend of September in Greece. The ultra marathon boasts an impressive historical background and is one of the most demanding and difficult ultra marathons in the world. The Spartathlon traces the legendary course run of Pheidippides, an ancient Athenian long-distance runner, who in 490 BC before the battle of Marathon, was sent to Sparta to ask for help in the war between the Greeks and the Persians. According to the ancient historian Herodotus who recorded the run, Pheidippides arrived in Sparta the day after his departure from Athens and after delivering the message ran back to Athens.
In 1982, five officers of the British Air Force (RAF), who were also long-distance runners, travelled to Greece, led by Squadron Leader John Foden in order to test whether it was possible to cover the approximately 250 kilometers between the two cities in one day and a half. Three of the officers were successful in completing the distance. The following year a team of long-distance runners from Greece, Britain and other countries, organized the first Open International Marathon Race. The event was held under SEGAS, the Hellenic Athletics Federation.One year later, in 1984, the International Association “Spartathlon” was founded.
The race starts at about 19:00 am, at the foot of the Acropolis of Athens. The end off the race is at the statue of Leonidas, the Spartan King who died in the battle of Thermopylae fighting the Persians, in Sparta. The Spartathlon runs over roads, rough tracks and muddy paths, crosses vineyards and olive groves, climbs steep hillsides and, most challenging of all, takes the runners on the 1,200 meters ascent and descent of Mount Parthenio during the night. The race track was designed based on the description of ancient historian Herodotus, in order to be as close as possible to the route followed by Pheidippides. No monetary award is given to any of the runners who finish, but those who finish the race receive a laurel wreath and water from schoolgirls dressed in chitons.
Greek runner Yiannis Kouros held the record for the fastest time until 2023. This year’s winner Fotis Zisimopoulos has achieved an historic victory in the 41st Spartathlon, surpassing the record set by Yainnis Kouros in 1984. The 41-year-old runner completed the race with a remarkable time of 19 hours 55 minutes and 2 seconds, breaking the previous record of 20 hours and 25 minutes held by Υiannis Kouros.