Updated: Jan 28
Been reading books of old, the legends and the myths
After DNF'ing last year, I wanted personal salvation in this race. And, if i'm honest, I wanted it really badly. I tried to hide it from everyone, but last year had hurt, a lot. It still wasn't perfect by any means but this year's preparation had been stronger, including specific downhill training, many more long training runs of 40 to 60 miles and two long ultras in July, one of which went pretty badly in the Belfast 24 hour Worlds, and one which went a lot better on the Kennet and Avon Canal. Despite the usual worrying niggles during taper, I felt pretty strong physically. All year i'd been trying to train my brain to not quit when things got tough. It hadn't worked at all in Belfast, but in general mentally I felt stronger too. I really believed I could finish, but I knew I still needed to burn some anti-quit thoughts into my brain. I'd recently read Dean Karnazes "Road to Sparta" and been inspired once again by the story of Pheidippides, the hemerodrome who ran from Athens to Sparta to request Spartan help against the invading Persian army: "Honour The Messenger". This year was the 35th anniversary of the race and last year the race founder John Foden sadly passed away. In 1982 John and 3 of his RAF colleagues successfully re-created Pheidippides' run, with no aid stations and barely navigable maps. Truly the men are legends. A few days before the race there was an online post of the most wonderful interview from last year with John which showed just the kind of man he was. Just a pure steel core wrapped in the most wonderful voice and character. This year our British team kit was in-memoriam to John and included his famous "I shan't wish you luck...." quote. "Honour the Airmen". Last year, the day after the race, I sat and stared at the statue of Leonidas in Sparti. Probably cried my eyes out. Of course I wouldn't go near it for a photograph. Back then, I swore to myself that I would be back having earned the right to touch it.
"Is there a bronze foot to kiss yet? No? Keep running then".
Come and Take Them - Achilles and his gold, Hercules and his gifts
No pressure then, no pressure at all. Just to pile it a bit more, this year i'd be running in a team with my three best running buds David, James and Jamie. David is a 2:51 marathon runner, an irrepressible force of nature who'd run 130+ miles in Belfast in the summer and been banging out 100 mile training weeks all summer. David, aka Achilles (my branding, not his), had sworn to be by my side for this race, I think the DNF last year had hurt him too. Thank you my friend, you were truly magnificent. James is just the hardest, most stubborn runner in the world. He has two previous Spartathlon finishes in 2015 and 2016 and this year was going for the magic hat-trick. Ultra running in general and Spartathlon in particular has transformed James over the past few years, and he is a very different runner from when we first ran together on the BB2LL challenge. James I am so proud of you my friend, thank you for everything. Jamie, aka Jamie Duracell, is a man I am very proud to call a friend. His sense of humor and banter is second to none and he keeps us all going with a well timed word or joke. He also has a terrifying ability to run long distances (Spartathlon finisher in 2015) and never seem to slow down. In fact just about the only thing that annoys Jamie is running a mile split that doesn't start with a 6, 7, 8 or 9. Sorry for all those times we went over 10m/mile Jamie! (And clearly I don't see myself upon that list)<