Thursday 2 October 2014

Spartathlon Race Report 2014 - Highway to Hellas

The cheers surround me; envelope me; consume me. The drivers that cross my path show their support through blaring horns, enthusiastic shouts, and wild gesticulation. People from all sides shouting, cheering, willing me to finish. They know the journey I have made. They know the suffering. But all of that is a distant memory, washed aside in a torrent of elation at the journey's end. I look up to the sky, at the radiant sun that has shone its rays to both aid and hinder the crossing. As I squint in the dazzling glow all pain is seemingly washed away, leaving a a feeling of sheer elation. I come back to myself. Live in the moment. Soak in the atmosphere. Take in the experience. Make memories to last a lifetime. We turn the final corner, and there at the end of the road I see my goal. He stands aloft, in defiance of the world, daring me to approach. 

"Molon labe; come and get it". 

I will. 

I will...

Come and get it! Official Spartathlon photo.

So I've got this great idea for a race. It's a road race starting in London. I reckon we should start in the morning during a Friday rush-hour. Don't worry, we'll ask really nicely for the commuters to not drive into anyone - they'll be fine with it. Then the runners can head through central London, off onto the M25, then along the M40 towards Birmingham...

The Spartathlon simply could not be held anywhere else in the world. The sure audacity of it is incredible, and yet there it sits - one of the most highly prestigious and toughest races in the world. The race itself was created when several officers from the British RAF decided to see if Heroditus' accounts of the messenger Phiedippides running from Athens to Sparta before nightfall the following day was possible. They chose a route that was likely to match the one chosen by the messenger, including passing over Mount Parthenio, where Phiedippides was said to have conversed with the God Pan. Three of the runners (including John Foden who came up with the idea) completed the route in under 36 hours, and the following year the race was born.

Now in its 32nd year, the race has become one of the most prestigious and iconic ultra races in the world. For about €450, plus a cheap flight, you get one hell of a package. Food, accommodation, and drinks are all covered. Oh yeah, plus the race as well, which has 75 checkpoints spaced a couple of miles apart each on average, meaning that you are never far away from assistance. You really can run this race without taking anything with you at all to Greece. To be honest, it's almost worth entering every year just for a cheap holiday!

But I was definitely here for the race. More specifically I was here for the finish. For most of the races that I enter, it is the journey that interests me the most. At the Spine Challenger earlier this year I dropped due to turning an ankle with only about 6 miles to go. I could have limped to the finish, but I had had a great experience up to that time, and didn't want to risk being put out of running due to injury for months to come, all for the sake of a medal. 

This race however was different. The journey, all told, did not excite me. 153 miles on busy roads in the Greek summer isn't really my idea of a good time. But hearing the reports from friends like James' Adams and Elson ignited something in me. The final approach to the statue of King Leonidas of Sparta; supporters lining the street and cheering you on; kissing the foot of the statue which so few runners have ever reached; a ceremony that few in the world would ever experience. I wanted that. 

I arrived Wednesday into Athens airport with no idea how the hell to get to the hotel. I collared a likely looking runner (easy to spot as he had that same crazed look in his eyes), who it turned out was Irish - making my frantic attempts to make myself understood seem a little silly in hindsight. Anton and I shared a cab, and after frantically waving the address at the poor driver we were off to the Oasis hotel in Glyfada. 

We survived (just), but I did decide to get a bus back. 

I checked in at the hotel and dumped my bags in my room. The room was very nice considering the cheap price tag. A little drab decor-wise maybe, but who really cares when we were only likely to be in there to sleep. I wondered downstairs for a late lunch where I bumped into a few other Team GB members, Lawrence Eccles (who I would be sharing the room with) and Sean Maley. After some good hearty grub (no complaints about food the whole trip - if you're a quantity over quality sort of person like me you'll be laughing), we headed over to registration to get our numbers and chew the fat with some of the other runners. 

Team GB ready and raring to go! Man I'm short...
The atmosphere was fantastic, and everybody was really looking forward to setting off. The race didn't start until the Friday, but it would have been a bit of a rush getting there on the Thursday evening. Plus it was nice to just chill out and relax for a couple of days with everybody. 

Going into the race, I had decided that I wasn't going to stress or think too much about things. The cutoffs are very tough, but rather than constantly trying to work out and adjust my pace to match the cutoffs, I figured I would just run - if it was fast enough, great. If not, tough. It's all part of my "running stupid" mentality - don't think, just run! 

However, I did cock about a bit over my drop bags, in particular trying to work out the best place to leave my head torch before the overnight stage. There were checkpoints every 3 or 4 Km, so judging which one you would be at at any given time was tough. Plus because there were so many, I wanted to keep the drop locations memorable. Unfortunately 30 seemed too early and 35 was probably too late. I just split the difference in the end after chatting to some other people for a sanity check. 

I was keeping things light kit-wise, and planned to wear only a small UltrAspire Quantum waist pack to hold a handful of gels and some Lanacane, and one of the new Salamon Park Hydro soft flask hand-helds. I'll review them both soon, but they were both outstanding! In total I only used 5 drop bags, each containing a couple of gels. I also stuck a warm top and head torch in the overnight bag, a spare pair of socks at the mountain, and a change of clothes (which I never touched) for the morning. Keep it stupid simple. 

It took far too long to put these couple of bits together.
After dropping these off, I met the other members of the team; Mark Woolley, Terrence Zengerink, Sammy Kirpatrick, Jon Steele (the greatest name in Ultrarunning), Rob Pinnington, Lindley Chambers, Russ Bestley, Martin Illiot and Martin Bacon, and collected our team T-shirts from Mark. There was a slight issue in that there was a massive advert on the back which was expressly forbidden in the rules, so at least I knew where my race number was going to go. After a few photos (and wondering why there were attack helicopters and typhoon jet fighters circling overhead - probably Dean Karnazes' crew) we headed off to the pool. My suggestions for a night out on the town fell on deaf ears, so we retired to bed early (at what was technically 7 pm our time I think...) for a good night's sleep before our 4:30 am (2:30 am our time) start. 

I woke up refreshed and raring to go after a pretty good night's sleep all told, despite the band that was playing into the early hours of the morning. So glad I took my ear plugs with me! Lawrence and I got dressed with minimum fuss, and headed down to join the others for breakfast (which was kindly put on early for us by the hotel). After slinging down a couple of bananas, we hopped on the bus to the Acropolis for the off. 

One of the (many) difficulties faced by runners in this race is the weather. At the end of summer it can be pushing into high 30s, and sometime even into the 40s. It started pissing down when we got there. How typically British. Still, while others were running around getting wet and whinging, Team GB were in their element! 

After catching up with some of the people that would be following along helping the various members of the team throughout the day (Russ, Sandra, Sarah, Julia, Maxine, Nick, Tina and David), and dodging the video cameras, we were off!

A bit of rain never hurt anybody. Although thin white T-shirts may not have been the best plan... Photo CO Maxine Lock.
Running down the stony path into Athens was a little treacherous in the wet, and stopping off briefly behind a tree (I couldn't bring myself to piss on the Acropolis) put me dead last. Oh well, no rush! The clouds had cleared up and the sun was coming out as we approached the main road. The traffic was held up by the local police and there was a lot of honking (whether in support or defiance was never entirely clear for the whole race), what with it being rush hour in one of the busiest cities in Greece. 

It's utterly ridiculous, but in a truly fantastic way. It seems as if everyone in Greece knows of the race and is generally incredibly supportive (despite the disruption). The international media interest must be fantastic for the country as a whole. 

Is it time to go yet? Photo CO Advendure.
As we made it into the centre of Athens, the sun was up and the cloud had parted. The first miles of the race are actually not particularly pleasant - running along main roads in one of the most polluted cities in the world isn't nice, and when a car came skidding out of a side road in front of a group of us with their brakes on full lock, the true danger of dealing with fucking idiots on the road really hit home. Oh well, not long to go now...

Things improved vista-wise when we reached the coast, and whilst we were still running with heavy traffic, the sea looked absolutely beautiful in the morning light. It amazes me how the sea here can be so pristine, with the beautiful azure sheen of the Mediterranean (or possibly the Myrtoan) Sea, when the streets and roads are so full of shit. I mean, seriously - I had heard stories of dead dogs on the road (a combination of many feral dogs and a more, erm, relaxed driving style) and was going to see how many I could see. I lost count. I saw 3 half tortoises (so 1.5 tortoises I guess), easily 20 dogs and cats, birds, a porcupine, and I'm pretty sure a diamond-back snake. It seems like there are no birds to eat them, probably because they're all dead on the side of the road somewhere. 

In general, the first 50 miles was all much of a muchness really. We followed the coast, it alternated between very hot, and pretty hot with pouring rain, and after starting dead last I was sitting comfortably in the top 50 and cycling backwards and forwards with a few of the same characters. 

Because of the international nature of the race, conversation was not entirely forthcoming. I found myself chatting with some of the American guys quite a lot. They were a really nice group, and very friendly. Dave Krupski from Miami had done the same as me and headed out a bit quick because of the cooler temperature (trying to run with team mate Jon Olson, who was aiming for the win), so we were both reigning it in a little. Bryce Carlson was a cool guy who works in anthropology and was in great demand for interviews, including from National Geographic. Rob Youngren was a southern boy who was really relaxed and easy to chat with and probably the guy I ran with the most. And Andrei was a really interesting guy who, by his own omission, "hates running and just does it to punish himself". You wouldn't know it to look at him as he seemed to be enjoying himself!

Come to Greece they said. See the beautiful sights they said. Photo CO Lindley Chambers.
I also found myself chatting with Dean Karnazes, who is quite a polarising figure in this sport. This is the first time he has run this race despite having Greek heritage and a lot of family out there. It was incredible that seemingly everybody along the route knew him, but as he pointed out it's a double edged sword. He has the fame and money from his self-promotion (which some people seem to hate him for, but it was his writing that first really gave me a taste for this kind of stuff), but because of that there is a lot of pressure on him to perform. I confess that one of my goals was to beat him, and I suspect a lot of people were thinking the same thing. After nearly having our heads taken off by a lorry, I took off and didn't see him again until the end. 

To be fair, it's kind of like feeling impressed that I overtook my Dad. Photo CO Advendure.
My breakdown of the race was quite simple. There were 3 parts: First it's a 50 mile warm up run to Corinth. This is the least pleasant section where the cutoffs are tight and there's not much to see. Time to bank some fast miles before the heat really kicks in. Second, it's a 50 mile run to the mountain. This is the crux of the race since the cutoffs get easier after this point. If you make the mountain you can pretty much walk the rest of the way. This section was about keeping myself in good shape and staying comfortable. Lastly, it's 50 miles to Sparta. But apart from one or two climbs, it's almost all downhill. Great, free speed!

No matter what, I wasn't interested in the times. That way lies madness! I think I asked the time once in the whole race. I came into Corinth feeling pretty good and comfortably inside the cutoffs. Just before the checkpoint I overtook Lawrence who wasn't feeling so great and was thinking about dropping. He was well inside the cutoffs so I tried to encourage him to stop for a rest at the aid station, and warned David and Tina, who were waiting at the canal, that Larence was on his way and wasn't feeling it. He pushed on through a few more sections, but ultimately decided to call it a day. 

The canal at Corinth. Photo CO Advendure.
The city of ancient Corinth was fantastic, with revellers at the bars and restaurants cheering us on. I saw a banner of British flags, and surprised the British supporters who hadn't seen one of their own come through yet. After Corinth, route became much more pretty despite the fact that we were still on roads. Many of the roads now were minor tracks through olive and fig groves, and all the time we were surrounded by the incredible Greek mountains. I had no idea that Greece was so hilly. I had a brief moment of insanity (because doing this run in the first place was perfectly sane) and almost veered off to crest one of the peaks, but figured that there would be a mountain to run soon enough. 

My entire plan here was to keep myself in good shape, so I was making sure to eat at aid stations, and sorting myself out whenever anything cropped up rather than leaving it and hoping it would go away (hotspots, stones in shoes, bathroom breaks, etc). I never mastered the "pissing on the run into the traffic" technique favoured by one guy I was running behind (ballsy, and I don't just mean the drivers' view), or the "shitting down the back of your leg" technique favoured by another runner (who I very quickly passed and put some distance on). 

Just keep your head down and plough on through kid! Photo CO Advendure.
Running was feeling good. A week before the race I had turned my ankle on a little training run, and was genuinely worried that I was going to have to pull out. Just the day before I had tweaked it in a funny way and suffered a shooting pain in the ankle. This had played heavily on my mind leading up to the race, but I had decided that I was just going to have to give it a go and hope for the best. I was trying not to think about it, and 50 miles into the run it was feeing fine. I had dropped very lucky. I found that if I got myself up onto my toes, not only did it hurt less but I could run much faster and more comfortably than resorting to the typical "ultra shuffle". 

The only thing feeling crap was my stomach. More specifically I was feeling quite nauseous, and was worried that if I tried to eat too quickly I would vomit and suffer for it. I didn't have as many gels as I originally planned (bloody airport security), so was supplementing what I had with food that just wasn't sitting comfortably. After seeing the Jackson Pollock that Robbie Britton made of the roads last year, I tried to take it steady and walked out of all of the aid stations until I felt comfortable. It felt pretty slow and like I was haemorrhaging places as everybody shot past me, but in hindsight this probably helped to maintain myself during this portion of the race and stay feeling comfortable - we weren't even halfway yet!

As it started to turn a bit more dusky, Sean came flying past. He was absolutely storming and looked happy and strong as he sped away up the hill. My only concern at this stage was to get to Checkpoint 33 for my head torch before it got dark, and I pulled in just as the light disappeared through the trees. Boom! It was still warm, but I put my long sleeved top on underneath my T-shirt anyway to save carrying it. I stuck my headtorch on, turned it on, and... nothing. Erm, what the actual fuck?! These were brand new batteries! I had some spares, but they were at the mountain for halfway through the night. Not good. After a bit of magical battery twisting and the old secret of "smack it until it works", I was back up and running. The guy at the aid station very kindly leant me a small handheld torch in case I ran into issues, but luckily the torch behaved itself for the rest of the night. 

A little further down the road I bumped into Rob who was running with Kim Allan from New Zealand. I had spoken with her at the start, and she was aiming to be the first Kiwi ever to finish. She had recently done a 500km run non-stop for a new record (even I think that's nuts), so this should be a walk in the park for her. 

The night section went really well. My feet were feeling good, the nausea was subsiding allowing me to get going a bit quicker each time, and I was generally feeling very happy. I had a lot of comments from people at aid stations that I seemed far too jolly. I had taken up singing to myself to keep me entertained (no iPods allowed), and was taking requests from some of the volunteers. I left one checkpoint feeling particularly good, singing "The Womderful Thing About Tiggers" (my song reportoir has changed significantly since Lottie bounced into my life) and bouncing down the road like a loon. 

I came into the checkpoint at Lyrkia, and it was like there was a party going on. Runners were everywhere, with cameras and crew milling about taking in the action. I grabbed some soup, and had a chat with Barney and his cameraman. They were filming Mark Woolley and Rob Pinnington, along with Dean Karnazes and Angela Tarzi on their Road to Sparta. I noticed that the cameraman (I didn't catch his name but he was a lovely chap) was surreptitiously filming me, and before I knew it I was being interviewed. It was going well until the question "what's with the sideburns, is it a Bradley Wiggims thing" came up. That guy has ruined sideburns for me! Ever heard of Elvis? George Best? Goddamn Wolverine?! But I forgave him, and when the cameraman said his leg hurt from crouching I quickly offered up my chair for the poor dear. 

Clear skies up over the mountain. Photo CO Advendure.
The next big stage was the mountain. I arrived at the bottom of the pass with Rob and Andrei, and we walked up the winding road together towards the base camp which would mark two thirds of the race. Most people who have done this race say that if you make it over the mountain, you're pretty much home and dry. Being a short-arse, I couldn't keep up the pace, and dropped back slightly, then decided to stop briefly at the base camp to put a new pair of socks on. My feet were actually feeling okay so I was tempted to leave it (if it ain't broke...), but there was a small hotspot I could feel and there's just something nice about a fresh pair of socks. The guys at the aid station were really helpful, and promised me a beer in Sparta (amazingly they actually delivered the following day!).

The mountain pass is the only non-road section of the course, and is actually quite tricky. I was glad here of my footwear choice. I don't really have road shoes, so had decided to stick to what I know and used my Salomon Sense Mantras. They're not really designed for this much road, but there was enough cushioning to keep things comfortable. But the grip was coming into its own here. I passed Andrei and Bryce on the way up the pass, wanting to get up and off the mountain as quickly as possible. I had been warned it gets very cold up there, and particularly as it hadn't been so hot during the day, but in all honesty I wish I hadn't bothered with the warm top and just stick to my T shirt. Andrei disagreed - he was from Florida and was freezing!

I made it over the top and went straight down, not stopping at the checkpoint. Still very conscious of my ankle, I took it very gingerly down the other side. There are a lot of loose rocks, and it is very easy to slide. The last thing I wanted was to fuck it up now! It's probably genuinely safer to run it, but if something goes wrong then you're boned. Julian Jornet I am not! 

I survived and came into another big checkpoint at Nestani and stopped to take stock. They had tubs of roasted potatoes in olive oil and salt that were an absolute godsend, and I wolfed them down along with a coffee (which I never normally drink) to help stave off the impending sleep monsters. As I was getting up to go, Russ and Martin arrived. Martin was chomping at the bit to catch up, and did so a while later. He had first Brit in sight, and shot off like a rocket to catch up with Sean. I honestly thought there was no chance I would ever catch either of them again, but by that point I wasn't particularly bothered. 

My gleeful exuberance was starting to dissipate (I certainly couldn't have come up with that sentence), and as morning came the tiredness hit me. I found myself drifting as I ran along the road, and if I slowed down at all I simply fell asleep on my feet. Fine on backwood roads at 6 am, but not so great if we ended up back on a highway again. I came into the next checkpoint and said I needed a quick nap, so passed out for 10 minute. When the volunteer woke me up, I felt fantastic. It's amazing the difference such a tiny nap can make! As far as I was concerned there was nothing in my way now. It was about 40 miles to Sparta, and almost all flat or downhill. I headed off and picked up the pace. 

The finish was in sight now, but there was still a long way to go. With the start of a new day came a real rejuvenation of purpose. That finish line was in my grasp and I knew that one way or another I was going to kiss that foot. 

The final part of the race was fantastic. I solved my nausea problems using a tried and tested method of not eating any more food. I still had gels, and this was enough to see me through. I felt better. I felt great! I ran. 

With only a few exceptions, I ran the entire final 30 miles. I ran the long drawn out highway, around precariously placed blind bends with the sun beating down in my eyes, overtaking David, Bryce, Andrei and Kim in the process. I caught Martin climbing up a long straight road, struggling with the heat having pushed too hard to catch Sean. I caught Sean pushing up a long hill in the baking heat, and whilst I originally suggested we run in to the finish together he could see that I was feeling good and told me to push on. I just wanted to get there now as quickly as possible, and I was flying. The highway ahead of me was an open road to the finish. And now not only was I going to finish, but I was going to finish stronger than I had thought possible only a few hours before. 

The route into Sparta is long and winding, with the city visible off in the distance down below via a curving downhill road. With about 15 Km to go, the end was well and truly in sight, but I was definitely feeling ready to wrap things up. Well, there's only one way to do that - run faster! I pushed on downhill, stopping only very briefly at each of the checkpoints to get a little water. Despite the heat, I intentionally wasn't drinking too much, being sure to only drink to my thirst and using the water to cool my head down instead. I was quickly eating up the distance, and taking back many of the places which I had lost earlier in the race.

The road wound incessantly down through small villages and hills, until finally signs of civilisation appeared. As I headed into Sparta itself, I was looking out for the final checkpoint which crept up after passing over the River Evrotas. "What happens now", I asked. Two young boys on bicycles were ready to escort me through the town centre towards the final destination. The sign said 0.8 Km to go, but I was reliably informed by the boys that it was easily over 2 Km. I prefer the ugly truth to the beautiful lie, so was pleased that I knew that there was still a little way to go. But not far. Not far at all.

The final approach to the finish is probably one of the most incredible experiences of my life. As we ran through the city, the support was amazing, with almost every single person that I saw cheering me on my way. With a beaming smile on my face, I waved my thanks to everybody that shouted and cheered as I passed. The residents of Sparta make every athlete that passes through their city feel like a hero. I chatted briefly to the young boys about how they felt about the race, and it seems as if it is a huge experience for them to be a part of it. After seemingly turning right a few too many times and going full circle, we came out onto a long concourse with world flags lining the street. "Up there is your finish", said the older of the two boys. 

This was it. Once more unto the breach dear friends, once more. I picked up my feet for one final push to the finish. I usually like to finish strong with a sprint finish, and today was going to be no different. I could not see the statue yet, but I picked up the pace. Ahead I could see the Brits in the road cheering me on. It was a shame to see some of the guys there who had set out the previous day with me as it meant that their journey's had prematurely come to an end, but the support and enthusiasm that they showed me was incredible despite their own misfortunes. I tossed my bottle to the side as I prepared for the final push. 

He's not as tall as I expected... Photo CO Lindley Chambers.
As I set off, a group of kids on bikes joined me. Then I noticed a small boy pulling up next to me, running along with a big smile on his face. "I'll race ya!" I shouted. He gave me a funny look, so I picked up the pace. He matched it, so I picked it up some more. Then I launched into a full on sprint, feeling like I was approaching the end of a local Parkrun. I was elated and as I sprinted I was shouting at the other kids to come and join the race. Like some kind of hairy, sweaty Pied Piper of Hamelin, I ran with a train of kids trailing behind. It was an incredible experience, especially as I was somehow able to muster the strength to hold them all at bay. 

Suddenly, there was the statue. King Leonidas of Sparta standing tall and gazing out at the attacking forces that dare to defy him. The engraving on the plinth reads Molon Labe - "come and get it". And so I did, with gusto. I ran and took the steps in a single bound, threw my arms up into the air in celebration and slowed to approach the base of the statue. I reached the foot, took it in my hands, closed my eyes, and kissed it.

Spartathlon 2014 finished in 32:04:48 for 51st place, and first British finisher.

Mmmm. Cheesy. Photo CO Lindley Chambers.
The ceremony at the finish is really quite something. After kissing the foot, I was handed a ceremonial bowl full of water from the River Evrotas. After taking a sip, an olive wreath was placed on my head and one of the most impressive medals I have ever seen was presented to me. Ordinarily I am not overly fussed by medals, but I have to say that this is one that I will definitely display with pride. Also, the kids from the local schools were all involved in the race, with each one given a different runner to prepare a personalised drawing and handmade clay pot for. The little boy who had my number handed me his presents and joined me for some photos, although he looked pretty terrified. It was probably the smell...

Can you imagine doing this from the River Thames?! Official Spartathlon photo
Afterwards I was led away (literally - they wouldn't let me walk on my own even though I felt great) to the first aid tent where my feet were checked (one small blister between my toes, but otherwise surprisingly fine) and I was given a beer and a massage. Lovely! Unfortunately after this I ran into my only dodgy moment of the whole weekend. I was told that I would be taken by taxi to a hotel around the corner, where I could shower before joining my friends to cheer in the other finishers. Unfortunately what actually happened was that I was chucked out 2 minutes down the road and told to get on a coach. With no further information I did as I was told, anxious to get out of my sweaty clothes and get back for a well-deserved beer. Through various problems with communication, I ended up stuck on the coach not moving anywhere for over 2 hours, before I decided to just sod it and go and join everybody as I was. Thanks to Russell's kind use of his nearby hotel room (when he finally found it), I was able to at least clean up a bit, although I ended up stuck in a pair of his running shorts, my finisher's t-shirt, and the shoes that I had just run 153 miles in for the next 2 days. Pleasant

I don't envy this dude his job! Official Spartathlon photo.
This was really crappy planning on their part and was in fact quite dangerous. Shoving knackered sweaty runners who are about to have an adrenaline crash onto a boiling hot bus for several hours is a really bad idea, and in fact one poor guy had to be taken away by an ambulance. I never saw what happened to him, but hope he was okay. For next year, I recommend them addressing this.

"Daddy! Daddy! He smells really bad!" Official Spartathlon photo.
However, this really is my only gripe. The rest of the event is outstanding, and this event is absolutely the best value ultra that I have ever taken part in. You could enter every year for a cheap week's holiday, drop out at the first aid station, and still be happy with the value of your week away in Greece. The next few days consisted of eating, drinking and generally being merry, and I was sad to leave early Monday morning to head home (not least because it was basically 2:30 am, and I was going to miss the prize-giving ceremony). But I was anxious to get home to see my wife and little girl, and when I finally made it home to Cambridge and picked Lottie up from nursery, it was a fantastic ending to an amazing experience. 

Lottie was so excited listening to daddy's stories.
And then it was back to normal. The next day I was back to work, and with seemingly no obvious issues from the weekend's exertions. I even managed to do my usual cycle ride without any issues, and my ankle actually feels better now than it did the day before the race. Weird. I'm sure that there is a lot of damage done though, so I am being sensible and won't be running for a few days to be on the safe side. 

Heck of a chunk of metal. Almost took my bag over its weight limit on the flight home!
All in all I was really pleased with my performance. It wasn't a super fast time overall, but the way I ran in the final 30 miles of the race makes me confident that I can improve on that if I ever go back. I could probably shave over half an hour off just by not being so tentative on the mountain descent (although the flip side to that is that if anything went wrong it would end things there and then), and if I wasn't having to walk out of every checkpoint (a couple of minutes lost at all of those checkpoints really adds up) that would also shave time off. But then again, I might not have been able to maintain things. I might have felt more knackered later in the race. It's difficult to say. It's all very well wondering what could have been, but the important part in this, my first attempt, was to finish. Everything else (beating Dean Karnazes, coming top Brit, etc.) was all just icing on the tasty, tasty cake.

It was great to be part of the GB team, and I had a fantastic time with the boys and girls out there. Congratulations to Martin, Sean and Sammy who all finished, but it was a real shame that everybody didn't get a chance to experience the finish firsthand. Talking to everybody about whether they will be back in the future, the fire already seems to be burning in a lot of them so I have no doubt that they will do it if they return. Every single person there has the running skills to complete the race, and next time they will kiss that foot!

So now I guess the question is; what next? Will I return to Greece? Honestly I don't know, so I'll have to have a think about that. I suspect if I turn up again to do better, I will crash and burn. But hey, that's the game right! For now I will be chilling out, putting my feet up, and enjoying some time with my girls. Ah, bliss!

Ha ha ha!


  1. Great blog and superb achievement Sam

  2. Great run Sam!!! Congrats, i wa s with the psysio group and always have an eye to you and your sideburns!!!!
    All the best!!!


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