If you like running this is the right topic for you and if you are like me, lazy, then you will be motivated to put your shoes on and run…maybe.
Greece, 246 km for only 36 hours, extremely strenuous race, rough tracks and muddy paths, climbs steep hillsides, crosses vineyards;olive groves, 1,200 meter ascent and descent of Mount Parthenio…yes that is Spartathlon.
If you think “it is impossible” Alexandros Georgiou, has something to tell you. His friend Lloyd would say “A real warrior” and I agree.
He ran Athens Classic Marathon 8 times, trail races like Olympus marathon,Virgin Forest Ultra trail, Zagori Mountain run…and he ran the Spartathlon.
Thank you: Alex for the interview and Lloyd for your help.
Why you choose Spartathlon?
Spartathlon was my dream race; it was something in my mind that was pushing me to run it. Like a climber wants to climb Mount Everest. I started running at the age of 17, while I was training to go to university of physical education and sport science. Before that I was playing football. My first race was at the age of 21…which was a 21 km race.
I am not a sport journalist and I was so interested to find out how fast he is, if he gets bored can he run from town to town and does he ever get bored while running?
I can’t tell how fast I am, because it depends the distance that you are running. For example when I have to run a marathon I am faster than running an ultra marathon. I can easily run from town to town because I like that…or i can easily run to sight see a city that i will go for my holidays, for three days i almost run the whole Budapest. I never get bored while I run. At that time I can hear my body talking to me, sometimes I feel my soul getting out of my body.
Let’s go back to Spartathlon, can you describe us the whole process, preparations, how to apply, what to wear, how to avoid injures and cramps, also there are 74 check points is that enough, if the weather is bad you still running?
If you want to run Spartathlon you need a race to qualify. You need to do 100km in less than 10.30 hours or to have finished Spartathlon it’s not easy to get because when the registrations are open you have to be fast to register. You need to have many kilometers on your legs because it is considered one of the toughest ultra marathons in the world. You can wear whatever makes you feel comfortable and can keep you warm or dry (depends on weather conditions). Each runner has his own style and needs, so it’s different from one to another. If you want to avoid injuries and cramps firstly you have to train a lot so that your body becomes more tough, secondly to train your brain to be friend with the pain, most great runners finish the race with an injury, and of course you need good luck. I ran half of the race (125km) with a bad injury at my leg and my mind was so strong that could forget the pain(at this point I want to thank Mary a friend chiropractic that was there with me and helping me). The checkpoints were often, that is good because you know that every 3-5 km you will find some food or your people to encourage you. Even if the weather is bad you keep on running. I love running when the weather is bad, makes me feel stronger. You reach your limits. It is so good to know where your limits are and then you can realize that you can do a little more and a little more. People are much stronger than we think we are. There is a battle between the body and the mind. The first is tired and tells you to stop and the second wants you to continue. If the mind wants the body follows.
What do you think about new technologies and applications for runners?
Maria, I am an old fashioned runner, I love to hear my body running instead of a computer without a soul. It is what we have inside us that will lead us, for example I was running with an injury and finished the race, a computer would have said “abort the mission”.
How did you spend the day before Spartathlon? I was working until 7 o clock, then I had dinner and fell asleep. You had no sleeping problems before the race? No I didn’t. I was completely calm and waiting to run it I was confident that I will finish it. My mind and body were ready and waiting to be placed on the starting line.
The hardest part of the race, can you walk a little during the race and is it hard running at night?
Each runner has a different peak for his attempt, for example my the hardest parts of the race; the part before you reach the base of the mountain and the last 40 kilometers of the race. Another runner maybe had some other parts that were difficult for him. It is never the same to all of us. We walk many times during the race, but just for a little because it makes your legs sleep, it’s difficult at nights because your mind is used to sleep at these times, but to tell the truth to this race I didn’t have any problem. Usually I have, but not this time.
Whether you can carry extra clothes and shoes?
If you have a support car, like I did, you have your staff there and at specific checkpoints you can change clothes or shoes or whatever you want. If not you can leave drop bags with your staff at the checkpoints that you want…this preparation happens the day before the race, when you go and pick your number for the race.
The first hour after the race was…?
When I finished and for the next three hours I was like I was beat in my whole body. I couldn’t walk on my own, I needed someone to hold me probably this happened because my body felt that I finished and I need to relax.
And how do you feel now?
I feel proud for myself and for having friends that helped to finish that race with their support. Sometimes I don’t believe what I have done, but every time I think it I have great memories.
Memories, can you share with us one or two, maybe three?
I remember Tasos (the friend who was running with me and stopped at 80 km) having a sponge with water and wiping my head and knees to cool me down. I remember my niece from Canada calling me and tell “Run, Kiko Run” (she calls me Kiko) and Lloyd as well calling me from Australia. I remember my friends being there for me Mary, Tasos, Kostas, Vasiliki and Dionisis encouraging me and I thank them for that. I remember at the finish line announcing my name and the name of the town that I come from Keratea, and when the spectators heard that were cheering a lot. I felt that I was running for a whole town…I was the man carrying the flag of Ovriocastro to Sparta.
What do you tell to your students about running, how much kids are interested for Spartathlon?
I’m not telling them something especially for the running…I just tell them to believe to their selves and do their best to everything they love (any sport or music or anything that makes them feel that completes them). Kids are hard to realize how hard is to run an ultra marathon like Spartathlon. They are amazed ,for example by a goal that Ronaldo scored.
What is the price after you ran 246 km? There is no prize money and its finances are derived from fees paid by members. Source:spartathlon.gr
Alexandros says ” Each one defines prize award on his own way. For most of the runners finishing that race is the best award. It’s the felling that you did something that if you think it is above anyone’s limits. In my case was my dream that came true.”
If Spartathlon is your dream the opening date is January 15th. Applications will be accepted (only via Internet) till February 28th. The entry fee for Spartathlon race for foreign athletes is €450.00 and is payable to the International Spartathlon Association. Included within the entry fee is free accommodation from the Wednesday before the race up to Tuesday morning(six nights) after the race. All meals and transportation from Sparta to Athens are included. Source:http://www.spartathlon.gr
For the end this passionate runner says “Usually you can run more than you think you can, you just have to break the ”wall” “… and he broke it.