Race Road

Race Road

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. Aid stations are placed every 3 to 5 km and are provisioned with food, water and other refreshments as well as the runners' personal supplies. The race is run under police and medical supervision with doctors, physiotherapists, and emergency vehicles being on call throughout the 36-hour race duration. The race is very demanding, not only because of the distance, but also for the cut-off requirements and weather conditions.
It should be noted that each of the 75 race control points has its own time limitations and should a runner arrive later than the official closing time he or she will be eliminated from the race. For a runner to be able to plan effectively it is useful to look at the race in series of sections as shown in the following table:

Race SectionCheck Point NoDistance from AthensFinal Point ClosesDistance for SectorMax Time
ATHENS TO CORINTH 0 - 22 81 KM 16:30 FRIDAY 81 KM 9:30 HOURS
CORINTH TO NEMEA 22 - 35 124 KM 23:00 FRIDAY 43 KM 6:30 HOURS
NEMEA TO LYRKEIA 35 - 43 148,4 KM 03:30 SATURDAY 24,5 KM 4:00 HOURS
LYRKIA TO NESTANI 43 - 52 172 KM 07:30 SATURDAY 23,5 KM 4:30 HOURS
NESTANI TO TEGEA 52 - 60 195 KM 11:00 SATURDAY 23 KM 3:30 HOURS
TEGEA TO SPARTA 60 - 75 245,3 KM 19:00 SATURDAY 50,3 KM 8:00 HOURS

Corinth Section

Leaving the starting line at the base of the celebrated Acropolis of Athens the runners set out down the pedestrian precinct that is Apostolou Pavlou Street, passing the Thiseo metro station and entering the Platea Ag.Asomaton where they will turn left onto Ermou Street. Almost immediately the Sacred Way (Iera Odos) beckons and the runners will stay on this historic route until Daphni Monastery where they cross the Athens-Corinth highway and continue through Aspropirgos to Elefsis (24.2 km). Returning to the old road for Corinth the runners pass in succession Loutropirgos, Megara (Marathon distance 42.5 km), Kineta and Agioi Theodoroi to arrive at Isthmia and the bridge over the Corinth Canal (78.5 kilometres).
The route has thus far has been a series of gradual climbs and descents close to the sea but now we veer south into the country and the Peloponnese. Shortly after the bridge (2.5 km) the Runners turn left to checkpoint 22 at the Hellas Can factory (81 km).

Nemea Section

The narrow road continues on to Examilia and ancient Corinth. Descending through the center of Ancient Corinth, the runners turns right at the Temple of Apollo and continue through citrus orchards to Assos (100.5 km). Here begins the ascent of the hills dividing Ancient Nemea from the sea. Along this narrow winding climb (351 meters in 24 kilometres) the road passes through the villages of Zevgolatio and Halkion to checkpoint 35, entering Nemea (124 km) alongside the ruins of Greece's ancient civilization and its recently excavated stadium.

Lyrkia Section

Continuing on a country road where conditions have changed little in the past two decades, care must be taken, as it is easy to trip on the stones and potholes that are perpetually scattered along the road. It is now into evening darkness for many of the runners and a damp chill will be descending from the lush mountainside. A haven in the darkness is the village of Malandreni (140.2 Km) before another stony descent and brief climb close to the north-south E65 Trans-Peloponnese highway and checkpoint 43 at Lyrkia village (148.5 Km)

Mountain and Nestani Section

Lyrkia is a lively spot on this special night and is often overflowing with visitors and supporters alike who have come to dine and watch the race as it progresses through this important checkpoint. Leaving the aroma of coffee and souvlaki behind, the runner follows the road, which winds steeply upwards, quickly leaving civilisation behind. In the next 13 km the runner will climb some 960 meters (3,150 ft) to reach the head of the Sangas Pass on the flank of the Artemission range. The goals are Kaperelli village (154.1 km) then checkpoint 47 at Mountain Base (159.3 Km).
Reaching the top of Sangas is no mean feat and great care must be taken on the treacherous twisting path. From the summit (1,100 m - 3,608 ft) there is a plunge down a zigzag track to the village of Sangas (164.3 km) in Arcadia when the route again joins the paved road for the often-necessary fast sprint to checkpoint 52 at Nestani (172 km).

Tegea Section

From Nestani the runner gradually eases on to the plains of Tripolis and passes through a succession of small hamlets and the village of Zevgolatio of Arcadia. Now the way is through flat farmland that is often cloaked in morning mist until the sun rises over checkpoint 60 at Tegea (195 km). The runner needs to take stock of his physical resources here, although only 50 kilometres from Sparta it is still a heartbreaking slog often in the unrelenting heat of the new day.

Sparta Section

From Tegea the road takes on the final climb of the race rising from 640 m (2,100 ft) to 975 meters (3,200 ft) in a distance of 22 km. The runners will pass through the villages of Kamari (196.8 km) and Manthirea (202.1 km) where the paved road twists and turns through an evergreen landscape that is visible almost as far as the eye can see. The final 28 kilometres to Sparta are almost all downhill descending into the Evrotas Valley. At the village of Voutiani (236.2 kilometres), the runners can clearly see their goal and after crossing over the Evrotas river bridge (243.5 km) the runners are met by local school children who will accompany them to checkpoint 75 and the finish line in Sparta the capital of Laconia (245.3 km).

The city turns out in force to welcome the athletes as heroes in front of the statue of King Leonidas. All finishers are presented with an olive wreath and offered a goblet of water from the Evrotas River, much as Olympian winners would have been honoured in ancient times.

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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.

Spartathlon is the event that brings this deed to attention today by drawing a legend out of the depths of history. The idea for its creation is belongs to John Foden, a British RAF Wing Commander. As a lover of Greece and student of ancient Greek history, Foden stopped his reading of Herodotus' narration regarding Pheidippides, puzzled and wondering if a modern man could cover the distance from Athens to Sparta, i.e. 250 kms, within 36 hours.

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