It is THE classic ultra – the oldest recorded one in history. The first edition (arguably) took place in 490 BC, ahead of the battle of Marathon against the Persian forces. Then, according to the historians, the Athenian messenger, Pheidippides, ran the 240+km between Athens and Sparta non-stop warning of the oncoming battle and seeking help.
The Greeks won, and that was to prove his undoing. Legend has it that this indefatigable running courier then ran the 40km from the battlefield near Marathon to Athens to announce the victory, got there, announced the victory and dropped dead. A hero for all time and the marathon was born.
The modern-day 35th Spartathlon from Athens to Sparta kicked off at the foot of the Acropolis hill on Friday morning, 29th September, at 7:00am local time. There were 400 runners.
The race was won by Lithuanian runner Aleksandr Sorokin 22 hours, 4 minutes and 5 seconds, and 246km, later. He came in first at just before dawn on Saturday to touch the feet of the statue of the ancient Spartan King, Leonidas, in the centre of Sparta.
It was the fifth best time in the history of the event, according to the International Association “SPARTATHLON” which organizes the event each year. Greek veteran runner Yannis Kouros, who won the first Spartathlon, still holds the record time at 20:25:00.
Sorokin, a casino employee who took up running five years ago to lose weight, shouted “Sparta” as he reached the finish line. It was his first time running the Spartathlon. “It is a great event. I dedicate the victory to my wife. I am so happy,” he said.
Czech runner, Radek Brunner, finished second in 22:49:38, Greek, Nikos Sideridis, came third in 22:58:41 and Japanese, Ishikawa Yoshihiko, fourth in 23:20:57. For the women, Patrycja Bereznowska of Poland, won in 24:48:18 and came sixth overall. She was followed by Maraz Zsuzsanna of Hungary in 25:43:40 and then Niwinska Alexsandra of Poland in third with 26:28:48.