Its Getting Close…

Spartathlon billed as the most grueling foot race on earth. Spartathlon is the 153 mile (246km) ultramarathon race held in Greece since 1983. The Spartathlon race aims to trace the footsteps of Pheidippides, an Athenian messenger sent to Sparta in 490 BC to seek help against the Persians in the Battle of Marathon. Pheidippides, according to an account by Greek historian Herodotus in The Persian Wars, arrived in Sparta the day after he departed. Herodotus wrote: “On the occasion of which we speak when Pheidippides was sent by the Athenian generals, and, according to his own account, saw Pan on his journey, he reached Sparta on the very next day after quitting the city of Athens.”

Based on this account, British RAF Wing Commander John Foden and four other RAF officers traveled to Greece in 1982 on an official expedition to test whether it was possible to cover the nearly 250 kilometres in a day and a half. Three runners were successful in completing the distance: John Foden (37:37), John Scholtens (34:30) and John McCarthy in (39:00).

The rest is history and we now have one of the greatest ultras with competitors from all over the globe in what I consider, as an old footballer, as the World Cup of ultra running.

The mood in the British camp is buzzing with “ultra”-electricity. Training for some going strong and for others balancing the niggles of over-training. The British Spartathlon Facebook page is full of content, new runners asking more experienced pros about the different checkpoints, the dogs, the hill and ways of staying cool plus some great profile reads. Here is mine

This is the note we handed to Sorokin when he had one lap of 100 miles left.

For me it’s been an interesting build up. 2020 was a tough year with covid lockdowns, increased binge drinking, a bicycle accident and still in court vs the driver after getting a bleed on the brain, then losing cartilage in my knee… the highlight of which though was having Mr A Sorokin at my house and then crewing him for his first 100 mile and 12 hours world records at the Centurion track 100 mile. This included cooking for him for 10 days, bringing my knowledge of “marginal gains” as I am an athlete that needs a lot of help to even get close to the better in the field! This also included introducing him to Precision Hydration, a balanced diet and calculating the calories I was putting in him during his world record and a formula one pit stop style 30 second shoe change from Hoka Carbon X to my Nike’s as we had the same size shoes and he wanted a change as there was a pain in his feet… all marginal gains… it was some performance!

Finally by 2021 I was back racing and got my Spartathlon ballot place with a 189 odd km run at Battersea 24. I was on holiday with my partner in Suffolk when my name was drawn and they read out “Bryan Jones” … so some scanning of DUV to see if there was a Bryan from Overseas. US… no… Australian… no Canadian… no… I was in!!

This is what we handed Sorokin when he neared the 12 hour record, as a joke… but we realised at this point that he could actually break 24 hour record in the future.

This year’s training has been a bit stop start after a big dosage of covid in February which I reckon took me three months to get back to some form of fitness. Managed a sub 12 hour in UK Ultra’s excellently organised South Downs 100km, 19th and 3rd V40 and then a baking hot Round the Rock Jersey ultra 13th male in very hot temperatures. The north coast is death by stairs up and down for 20 miles. It’s a beautiful ultra but saw less than I wanted to as was staring at the damn wooden steps for nearly half of it! Most recently I visited Barbados for 11 days and trained in feels like 35 degrees and the radiation in the sun was up in the 40’s. I am hoping this will help me for any rough high temperatures coming up.

One more ultra to race – a 50km in Gravesend where I’ll be trialing Sparta kit. One thing I have is a cool vest. Recently tested this at a half marathon training run on my favourite training track in Crowborough where in 2019 training for Basel 24 hour I did a 90km 9 hour training run.

Crewing me will be James Fox of and my coaches’, legends David Bone and Darren Strachan and good friend Aleksandr Sorokin and other legends like Mark Denby, Marco Consani and Galen Rey will be on my case via WhatsApp I am sure. I think this race will suit me. I love tarmac, I love the heat and I love trying to go beyond what my body is capable. My A goal is sub 30 hour. B goal is to finish… The sadist chimp in me is looking forward to it.

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