Spartathlon - The Practicalities

I'm at the point now where I am making some of the cruicial decisions about the race. The training is long gone and the race itself is not for another week. I'm making decisions that could have a significant impact on my race next week, and I'm making them all in Sainsbury's.

There comes a point where there is little more you can do with your body, the only impact you can make is with your nectar card. I find this part quite difficult and frustrating. I loved the month of running and am in no doubt I'll love the race, I don't like the mental task of trying to decide how to distribute 10000 calories and 10+ litres of fluid over 75 checkpoints. 

The Spartathlon has checkpoints every 2 miles or so which means you don't really need to carry much. All checkpoints have water, electrolyte, bicuits, fruits and yoghurt. Some have tea/coffee, coke and other food. One has beer. I was going to make do with this for the whole race but onspeaking to Mark Cockbain after the 32go marathon I decided otherwise. Before the start of the race there are 75 drop bags where you can place anything you want and he suggested that I do that, even energy drink. The stuff they provide might not be that good.

This made everything more complicated. 

In the GUCR you get a drop bag which follows you along the course. Essentially all your stuff is at every checkpoint so there is no need to think too much about what to take, you can take everything. The MDS you have everything with you at all times and are only restricted by what you can carry. In this case you have to think about what to take and where to put it. I've certainly not had this problem before. I have no support crew (generally runners don't here) so have to make sure I have everything I need. 

Mark suggested taking a load of empty water bottles out to Greece and then putting energy powder and water in them once I arrive. Alongside these I should drop off whatever food I need at about 20 of the stops. I have no idea which ones I will leave stuff at and am likely to forget anyway. Perhaps I should leave them in an orderly sequence, like every 4th one, or some logical sequence.

On a trip to Sainsbury's today I bought my usual comfort foods. Bombay mix, nuts and peanut M&M's. I'm going to mix it all together in tubs with some coffee beans too. I'm also taking soluble aspirin and berocca to make cocktails with on the way. They helped (a bit) in the MDS and it can be useful to have piss that glows in the dark.

While picking up cellotape to attach my name to these things I spotted some stickers that I recall getting (sometimes) at school for doing good work. Pictures of bees and elephants and rabbits with "WELL DONE!" and "GOOD EFFORT!" and "SUPER STAR". They look very silly but they may make me smile after 100 odd miles where a sense of humour failure is likely. I certainly had some sort of failure when I got to the checkout. The lady asked me what all the stickers and sweeties for and I just couldn't think what to say. I eventually blurted out "ermmm, they are for the kids". Not very convincing.

Funny that. I'm almost embarrassed about what I am about to do, yet giving the impression that I'm trying to entice children with sweets and happy stickers seems fine?


A List I don't want to go on.

Before I start to think about the practicalities of actually running 153 hot and hilly miles I want to say something about the Spartathlon website

It is (resists awful pun) quite basic but very functional, all the information you need about the race and it's history is there. No compromise on content for the sake of flashy videos and adverts. Just like the race I hope, just the way I like it.

One thing I do quite like (or hate, I really can't decide right now) is it's apparent celbration for the failed runners. There is a list that draws attention to those who have attempted the most and not finished. How many times do you think someone would fail to finish this race before calling it quits? Two times? Three? Five?


Two people have started this race eleven times each and not finished. I can't imagine what they must be thinking when inevitabily they line up for the 12th time. There are several others who have "only" attempted it half a dozen times. Many seem to have given up. 

Most starts and no finishes

AKAKTSE HEL 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1992        
ARGYROPOULOS ELEFT HEL 1987 1988 1991 1992 1993 1997          
ANTONOPOULOS PANAG HEL 1992 1993 1994 2004 2005            
ASTERIS THEODOROS HEL 1998 1999 2000 2001 2003 2005          
BEVERATOS HEL 1991 1992 1994 1996 1997 1998 1999        
BESSARD SWI 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996            
CSAMANGO HUN 1987 1988 1989 1994 1995 1996          
CLOSSET FRA 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002            
GIANNOU HEL 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1992 1993 1994      
GEMES HUN 1990 1992 1993 1996 2000            
GRIZARD FRA 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005  
HATZIS HEL 1998 2002 2003 2004 2005            
HYTAS HEL 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003          
HOSHIKO KOMURO JPN 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2004          
KARACHRISTOS HEL 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005        
KELLY TERENS GBR 1999 2000 2001 2003 2004            
LAPOSI HUN 1999 2001 2002 2003 2005            
MIHOPOULOS HEL 1983 1984 1987 1988 1989 1992          
MARIAUX SWI 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996            
NAKOS HEL 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005            
TOSHIO OHMORI JPN 1994 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005        
PALMQVIST SWE 1994 1995 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
TOSHIKAZU SUEMATSU JPN 1993 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
SAVVA CYP 1996 1997 1998 2000 2001 2002 2003        
RAMINA FRA 1994 1995 1996 1998 1999 2000 2001        
SHINICHI SHOBOU JPN 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004            
TSEKOURAS THEODOROS HEL 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003          
KEIKO WATANABE JPN 1990 1991 1992 1994 1996            

It will take me a long time to get on this list. I hope to rule myself out of making this list on the first attempt. 

Anyway, this is all distracting me from preparing for the race. 78 checkpoints and I need to decide and prepare exactly what I will be putting at each of them.

And I've just looked at the map again. It's a fucking long way....







Traning over. Now the hardest part. And then the race.

Yesterday I ran the last miles of what I would consider "training" for this event. My goal was to do 500 miles in August and 150 in the last 5 days. I exceed both of those. In August I have spend 75 hours running, that's 3 days non-stop. I got the numbers I wanted to.

More importantly, I feel so much different from how I felt at the beginning of the month. I felt tired and weak, possibly due to the diet. As I heaved myself over the finish line in the Salisbury marathon I realised things had to get better if I was to finish what it one of the hardest races there is. For the past week I have run every mile of the long runs like they were my first. Keeping a constant pace for 40 miles even though I may have done 30 the day before. I am so pleased with how I felt during and after each run and now I enter the "tapering" period which is going to drive me mad.

I feel like I could just carry on upping the miles into a 200 mile week. The only limitations on the amount of running I can do are the working day and pub outings. Along the way I've eaten so many McDonalds meals I have a whole set of Coke glasses. I'm gutted to have to cut down but know that I have to.

The Ridgeway 85 mile race was this weekend. I decided not to do it and didn't really pay much attention to it. It'shard not running races that you enter, harder still when you feel like you could do it and do it well. I showed reasonable restraint in not doing it though.

So, I know I can run 150 miles over 5 days and not feel a single ache. I can run for hours in the sunshine and not feel the heat. I can run straight after eating a fillet o fish and fries. All signs look go now. All I need now is a chest infection.

Now I just have to read through the instructions for the race. This is where the nerves start...

August Running

Date Miles Time Pace Speed
Sun 2 6pm  9 01:10:00 07:47 7.71
Mon 3 12pm  24 03:45:00 09:23 6.4
Tue 4 7am  9.03 01:15:00 08:18 7.22
Tue 4 5pm  9.03 01:15:00 08:18 7.22
Wed 5 7am  9.03 01:15:00 08:18 7.22
Fri 7 5pm  12 01:45:00 08:45 6.86
Sat 8 2pm  6 0:45:00 07:30 8
Sat 8 6pm  9 01:14:00 08:13 7.3
Sun 9 6am  27 04:00:00 08:53 6.75
Mon 10 7am  9.03 01:15:00 08:18 7.22
Mon 10 5pm  9.03 01:15:00 08:18 7.22
Tue 11 7am  9.03 01:15:00 08:18 7.22
Tue 11 7pm  9.03 01:16:00 08:25 7.13
Wed 12 4pm  28 04:15:00 09:06 6.59
Thu 13 4pm  10 01:30:00 09:00 6.67
Sun 16 12pm  24 03:30:00 08:45 6.86
Mon 17 7am  9.03 01:15:00 08:18 7.22
Mon 17 5pm  9.03 01:15:00 08:18 7.22
Tue 18 7am  9.03 01:15:00 08:18 7.22
Tue 18 5pm  9.03 01:15:00 08:18 7.22
Wed 19 4pm  30 04:10:00 08:20 7.2
Thu 20 4pm  4 0:30:00 07:30 8
Sat 22 11am  36 05:20:00 08:53 6.75
Sun 23 8am  13 01:50:00 08:28 7.09
Sun 23 12pm  15 03:00:00 12:00 5
Mon 24 7am  9.03 01:15:00 08:18 7.22
Mon 24 5pm  6 0:45:00 07:30 8
Tue 25 7am  9.03 01:15:00 08:18 7.22
Thu 27 5pm  26 03:45:00 08:39 6.93
Fri 28 12pm  24 03:30:00 08:45 6.86
Sat 29 2pm  40 06:00:00 09:00 6.67
Sun 30 10am  21 02:50:00 08:06 7.41
Mon 31 9am  21 03:00:00 08:34 7
Mon 31 11am    19 03:05:00 09:44 6.16
Total 521.39 75:55:00    

Salisbury 54321

Another race to demonstrate my poor recollection of any race I ever do though I may have an excuse for this one. Last year Ian and I went to Salisbury the night before and decided to get absolutely hammered, just to see what would happen in the race. It actually went quite well, 3.45 in a 27 mile off road marathon. Or so I thought it was off road.

I arrived here in slightly better wear than last year, still really unfit but not quite so hungover. I got a lift with Oli and was taking advantage of his new found desire to do every race in the UK. And his mum's car...

This is a very well organised race considering it only costs £10 to enter and involves being given a page of directions. I don't recall from last year getting lost so was hopeful that I could just follow others and keep on track. It starts in Salisbury and takes a scenic loop passing 5 somethings 4 somthing elses 3 2 1 etc. I can't remember what is what. I remember a cathedral.

I ran the first half with Oli who had done a hilly 30 mile race the day before. Jen was also here doing her second trail marathon in as many weeks and it was great to see her ditch the road marathon rat race to join us in more fun surroundings. She set off like a bullet and I was in no mood to try and follow her. 

I was only accidentally a bit hungover for this one. I was supposed to meet Rob in the pub in central Westminster the night before, he ended up being late and hence I ended up getting pissed. It was purely an accident. I wasn't expecting to be able to keep up with Oli for long and certainly after I had to stop and do the Pope's job in the woods again. However I put on a bit of a sprint and caught him up again.

There was a lot more road running than I recalled from last year. At least two thirds is on road. I was disappointed with this although I was struggling with the off road sections. Oli left me on a grassy bit at about half way and ended up taking half an hour out of me. As Oli sped off I just felt like I'd hit a wall. I had no energy left. 

2 months ago while enjoying a really nice run I decided to change my life drastically and become a vegan. Now 2 months on while suffering again during a long run and feeling much worse in the same places I was running last year I decided to change it back. No more veganism. It was fun trying and I learn a lot about food. I'm sure it can be done by someone with more patience and time than me but that isn't me.

I struggled on, getting passed by people as my legs gave up. I thought a lot about the Spartathlon. In my current state there was no way I was going to finish it. I had a plan to run as much of August as possible and knew that I couldn't do it like this. Then I thought a lot about milkshake. How I ran so much without milkshake is beyond me.

The end of this race was quite funny from last year. Whoever puts out the markers obviously gets way to enthusiatic about it at the start and then realised after about 18 miles that he is running low on signs. Then the signs appear only every mile or so. Many got lost in the closing stages of the race. i seemed to know where to go from last year and stumbled in 4.01 or thereabouts. 15 minutes slower than last time. 

I want to remember this for a while. The shitty feeling of bad running so that I can feel better about good running. I have a massive month of running planned to get me into the shape I need to be for Greece. I'm going to start by eating some Haloumi. 


Stupid Question Number 1

All runners get the same questions. Nowadays I just give the same one word answer as I'm bored of the explanation. Along with "Don't you ever get bored?" and "Have you run "THE MARATHON"?" this is one in a series of questions that just make me wish I didn't know people who don't run.

The offending idiot usually believes he has won the argument by saying something like "Well, my mate Dave used to do running and now his knees are knackered, so therefore running is bad for you". You'll not normally here about all the football Dave played, his weight and his tendancy to run with injuries on roads.

Studies cited here suggest that runners do not suffer athritis more than average and that running can help protect the knee rather than destroy the cartilage.

The studies are here. I don't really care, I just wished people would stop asking..