The 'Spartathlon'

Spartathlon ultra-distance foot race has been held annually, starting on the last Friday of September, since 1983.  The race traces the original footsteps of Pheidippides, the Athenian runner who ran this distance in 490 BC to ask for Spartan military assistance against the Persian invasion.  However, due to the sacred festival of Carneia, the Athenians and their Plataean allies were left to fight alone and win the historic Battle of Marathon.  Todays runners get 36 hours to run the whole 246 kms, roughly the equivelant of 6 full Marathons. Spartathlon athletes start the foot race at dawn from the foot of the Acropolis in Athens and head for the Corinth Canal, then onto Ancient Corinth, past Mount Parthenion towards Tegia, then downhill towards Sparta. The Spartathlon finishes at the statue of Leonidas in Sparta. 

Greek ultra-runner Fotis Zisimpoulos won the 39th Spartathlon on Saturday 25th September 2021 by an impressive 1 hour and 20 minutes.  Zisimpoulos, 38, covered the 246 kilometres (152.85 miles) in 21 hrs, 57 mins and 20 secs, followed by Czech runner Radek Brunner, 46, in 23:17:30 and Milan Sumny, 44, in 23:52:57.  Diana Dzaviza, 34, a Latvian athlete living in Austria, won the women's race, clocking 25:23:59.  The 2021 race started at the foot of the Acropolis hill on Friday morning with 334 athletes from 46 countries and regions taking part.  The competition started after five British Royal Air Force officers tested the course in 1982.  From 1984 the International Association 'Spartathlon' was founded, which since then has continuously organised the famous international ultra-marathon race each September.

Last year for the first time in its history, Spartathlon, which is held under the auspices of the Ministries of Tourism and National Defence, was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  This year it resumed under strict safety measures.  Usually, about a third of participants finish the course each year to get awarded with an olive wreath and a sip of water from the nearby Evrotas River.  Greek veteran runner Yiannis Kouros, who won the very first edition of Spartathlon in 1983, still holds the record time at 20:25:00.