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Greek Runner Wins Spartathlon, the Historic Race from Athens to Sparta

Spartathlon
Fotis Zisimopoulos won the historic race from Athens to Sparta, Credit: spartathlon.gr

Greek runner Fotis Zisimopoulos won the 39th Spartathlon, the ultra-marathon race from Athens to Sparta in southern Greece, on Saturday, by an impressive margin of one hour and 20 minutes.

Zisimopoulos, 38, covered the 246 kilometers in 21 hours, 57 minutes and 20 seconds, followed by Czech runner Radek Brunner, 46, in 23:17:30, and Milan Sumny, 44, in 23:52:57.

Diana Dzaviza, 34, a Latvian athlete living in Austria, won the women’s race, clocking 25:23:59.

The historic ultra-distance foot race takes place in September of every year in Greece. It is one of the most difficult and satisfying ultra-distance races in the world because of its unique history and background.

The Spartathlon revives the footsteps of Pheidippides

The Spartathlon revives the footsteps of Pheidippides, an ancient Athenian long distance runner, who in 490 BC, before the battle of Marathon, was sent to Sparta to seek help in the war between the Greeks and the Persians.

It was in September of the year 490 BC when, just 42 kilometers (26 miles) outside of Athens, a vastly-outnumbered army of brave soldiers saved their city from the invading Persian army.

But as the course of history shows, in the Battle of Marathon they saved more than just their own city: they saved Athenian democracy itself, and consequently, protected the course of western civilization.

According to the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, Pheidippides arrived in Sparta the day after his departure from Athens.

From 1984 the International Association “Spartathlon” was founded, which since then has continuously organized the race each September.

The race started at the foot of the Acropolis hill on Friday morning with 334 athletes from 46 countries and regions taking part this year.

From 1984 the International Association “Spartathlon” was founded, which since then has continuously organized the race each September.

About a third of participants finish the course each year to get awarded with an olive wreath and a sip of water from the nearby Evrotas river, according to the statistics.

The competition started after several British Royal Air Force officers tested the course in 1982.

Last year for the first time in its history, Spartathlon, which is held under the auspices of the Ministries of Tourism and National Defense, was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This year it resumed under strict safety measures.

Modern Pheidippides Yiannis Kouros

Greek veteran runner Yiannis Kouros, who won the first edition of Spartathlon, still holds the record time at 20:25:00.

Kouros has been called many things by his peers, running experts and the public: “The Running God,” “The Golden Greek,” “Modern Pheidippides,” “The Master of Pain,” “Unstoppable” and many others. And all these epithets are more than well-deserved.

Ultrarunning experts have also calculated the miles the 63-year-old Greek runner has run since high school and came to the conclusion that Kouros has covered the distance from the earth to the moon.

According to the website “Ultrarunning History,” the seasoned Greek athlete is the greatest ultrarunner of all time.

Kouros has broken more than 160 world records up to now — and perhaps most astoundingly, all of these remain unbroken. One of his peers, Canadian Trishal Cherns, has said, “There’s the elite, the world class, then there’s Yiannis.”

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