Thursday, September 23, 2010

This Weekend

Starting tomorrow, Kathy Youngren will be representing Nike Fleet Feet Racing Team on the grandest of ultra running stages in Greece at the epic Spartathlon.  The Spartathlon course is conducted point-to-point, the elevation ranges from sea level to 1,200 meters (3,937 ft), over tarmac road, trail and mountain footpath.  Of the 351 participants, Kathy is one of only 4 Americans this year to compete, and the only female.  The distance is 246 kilometers or 152.85 miles from Athens to Sparta.  You can follow live updates of the 2010 Spartathlon via this weblink  The race starts Thursday at 11pm central.

The prerequisites are tough even to get in with athletes needing to meet one of the following:

1) The athlete has finished a race of at least 100 km. In not more than 10:30 hours,
2) The athlete has reached the finishing point when competing at SPARTATHLON
3) The athlete has competed in an event of more than 200 kilometers and has finished the race regardless of the time.

Shown below is some of the background information on the race, and the website for more information is here.

"The battle of Marathon in 490 B.C. , one of the most famous battles in world history, constituted a landmark and a starting point in the history of civilization. The triumph of the genius of Miltiades and the self-denial of his soldiers made the hordes of Persians flee and rescued Athens and Hellenism from the utmost danger of subjugation to the barbarian invaders. The effects of the victory at Marathon continue to influence the present.  It was the first victory against the planned domination of "Asianization" over Europe and an event with momentous significance. Because of this victory, Athens was able to achieve a great deal and bequeath the benefits of its knowledge, arts and virtue to mankind.  Two and a half thousand years after that historical battle, a sports event, inseparably related to it, was born in Greece

"It all started from Herodotus' account of the Battle of Marathon. The great historian of antiquity described the details of the battle many years later and mentioned the deeds of Pheidippides, an Athenian messenger, sent by his generals to Sparta in order to secure help for the reinforcement of the scanty Athenian forces against the forthcoming Asiatic incursion. According to Herodotus, Pheidippides arrived in Sparta on the next day of his departure" from Athens"

"Described as the world's most grueling 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 colored 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."