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Greek Runner Is the Modern Pheidippides Winning the Spartathlon

Spartathlon Fotis Zisimopoulos
Fotis Zisimopoulos broke the record held by Kouros in the Spartathlon race. Credit: AMNA

Greek runner Fotis Zisimopoulos won the 41st Spartathlon, the historic ultra-marathon race from Athens to Sparta, on Sunday.

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 Persians.

Zisimopoulos, 41, covered the 246 kilometers with a remarkable time of 19 hours, 55 minutes, and 2 seconds, breaking the previous record of 20 hours and 25 minutes.

This marks Zisimopoulos’ third consecutive Spartathlon win. He arrived at the statue of ancient Spartan King Leonidas in Sparta during the early hours of Sunday and was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd.

In honor of his achievement, Zisimopoulos received an olive wreath and partook in the tradition of taking a sip of water from the nearby Evrotas River, a ritual for all finishers.

Simen Holvik from Norway secured the second position followed by Noora Honkala from Finland, who claimed the top spot in the women’s category.

The Spartathlon commenced at the base of the Acropolis hill on Saturday morning, featuring 380 participants from fifty countries. Completion rates are rarely over forty percent.

Spartathlon traces the footsteps of Pheidippides from Athens to Sparta

In 1984, the International Association “Spartathlon” was founded. The association has continuously organized the race each September since then .

Zisimopoulos finally broke the record of Greek veteran runner Yiannis Kouros, who won the first edition of Spartathlon 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,” and “Unstoppable” are among these. All these epithets are more than well-deserved.

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

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.

According to Herodotus, Pheidippides ran back to Athens after delivering the message. His journey on foot to and from Sparta lasted an incredible three days.

Much like the other version of the story, which unaccountably gained more traction over the years, the military courier ran from the battlefield at Marathon northeast of the Greek capital and then collapsed and died afterward.

Everyone has always known this iconic figure as the man who tragically passed away in 490 BC after bringing the good news in the form of the word “νικε!” or “Victory!” to the citadel in Athens after the Persians had finally been defeated.

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