Greek ultra marathon runner Marios Giannakou crossed the Arctic Circle — twice — while competing in the 500 km (310 mile) race called the “Lapland Arctic Ultra.”
Upon reaching the end, Giannakou waved his Greek flag with pride.
“The race was long, and it was the most difficult attempt that I’ve done to this day,” the Greek athlete from the city of Drama stated to AMNA.
The Lapland Ulta race takes place in Swedish Lapland and is known for its challenging terrain, extreme temperatures, and incredible difficulty. While taking part in the multi-day race, competitors must travel through rivers, lakes, and forests to complete the course.
Greek athlete completed ultra marathon with support from thousands in Greece
As Giannakou described, racers not only had to run through the difficult terrain, but they also had to carry their supplies and equipment with them.
“Apart from the great distance and extreme temperatures, we had to overcome the fact that we had to drag our stuff on a sledge that often became very heavy, particularly on the inclines,” he stated.
Giannakou and his fellow racers faced extreme weather conditions as well, including a snow storm on his second day that held many competitors back.
Despite all the difficulties he had to overcome, Giannakou completed the race, but not without the support of thousands of people rooting for him across Greece.
The supportive messages from Greeks, as well as his desire to carry the Greek flag across the finish line, “were the biggest sources of inspiration to finish,” the athlete stated.
To Giannakou, the race is “a journey that begins much earlier. I was getting ready for the race for many years, and it was a race I was thinking of every day,” he stressed.
This is not the first time Giannakou has completed an ultra marathon. He has raced 270 kilometers (168 miles) in the hot Al Marmoum Desert in the United Arab Emirates and finished first in the 150 kilometer (93 miles) race in freezing Antarctica.
Marios Giannakou’s other achievements
Yet the most important trek of his life was likely when the long-distance runner climbed to the summit of Mount Olympus carrying his disabled friend, Eleftheria Tosiou, on his back in October, 2020.
“There is nothing more real than the dream,” Giannakou wrote on Instagram, as he reached Mytikas, the peak of the Mountain of the Gods, at 9:02 local time.
Tosiou is a student of biology in Thessaloniki. The two climbers had met in September of 2020, when the young woman expressed to Giannakou her desire to climb to the highest peak of Olympus, a route the runner had already completed 50 times successfully. But the 51st, he had said, would be the most special for him.
Just before the climb to the top, Giannakou said: “With Eleftheria we will try to climb next week (early October) to the highest peak in Greece, carrying her on my back with a specially modified backpack.
“For me, all international races, the medals and the distinctions so far, mean little compared to that goal.”
Eleftheria was secured to a specially modified backpack that Giannakou wore on his back throughout the climb — which took more than 10 hours.
Giannakos and Eleftheria climbed with an eight-member support crew. They reached a refuge at 2,400 meters (7,874 feet), where they spent the night before setting off early in the morning for Mt. Mytikas, Olympus’ highest peak at 2,918 meters (9,573 feet).