Race Report 2018: Aykut Celikbas

Race Report 2018: Aykut Celikbas

Spartathlon 2018… How to start, where to begin?  Five days after the race I sat in front of the computer for 1.5 hours but couldn't write more than a few sentences. Whether you have a good or a bad race Spartathlon triggers your emotions like nothing else.  
 
As I said in previous reports, I started writing these reports for myself. This may seem selfish but it forces me to be honest to myself and analyze the race not only with my emotions but also with a certain degree of logic. At the end of the day these reports are a tool for me to better understand my strengths and weaknesses. If they also help somebody else, great. Thus, I don't put myself any limits in terms of length and the level of detail.  There’s a short note that I posted immediately after the race on my social media accounts, if you prefer to read that. 
 
I’ve written three detailed English reports in the past, which you can access via the Spartathlon tab on the top right. I'll therefore try not to repeat some of the basic info about the race. But in short, the Spartathlon is a 246-kilometer (153 mile) ultramarathon from Athens to Sparta, held annually in Greece since 1983. Based on Herodotus's account, it represents the historical run of Pheidippides, who ran from Athens to Sparta before the Battle of Marathon in a day and a half to seek support against the Persians. 
 
In  2014, I became the first Turkish runner to run the Spartathlon. I finished also in 2015 and 2016 but was unlucky at the 2017 ballot. friend of ours, Mert Derman, represented Turkey last year and also successfully finished the race.
 
Who knows maybe it was for the better. In March that year, I had managed to break my arm during a night trail run. After that I focused on finishing my book “Ultra”, which became the first ultramarathon running guide book in Turkish. After that I ran a few races to get into form, including the Sri Chimnoy 50-mile in Canada and the UTMB-CCC in France. More importantly, I was in Chamonix to help and witness my brother Aytuğ finish the UTMB. 6 weeks later, I ran a good race at the Salomon Cappadocia Ultra Trail in October 2017. I was feeling stronger and stronger as the year progressed. Now I had the biggest challenge of the year in front of me: the Barcelona 24-hour track race. It was going to be my first 24-hour challenge.
 
I set myself three goals: 200K (a good round number for a first 24hr), 212.5K (the Turkish national record) and 216K (Spartathlon auto-qualification criteria). I wrote a detailed report (in Turkish), so I won't go into much detail now, but I finished with 225.897 km (140.365 miles). This was beyond my expectations and topped my highest goal for the race. I wasn't aware at the time that this race would later play a crucial role for me at this year's Spartathlon. Let's just put it aside for a moment, but I’ll be coming back to it further down this report.
 
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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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