International 100+ UltraRunning Foundation

Connecting Ultrarunners Across The Globe


Symbolism in American Ultra – Interview with Raul Engle,

the U.S. Spartathlon Team logo designer


By Andrei Nana
July 2015



Since the beginning of time symbols have been used to communicate and to connect with groups, concepts, divinity. From the very letters used in this interview, to drawings, paintings, flags they all tell us a story. Some have a more powerful meaning than others, yet they connect us in a common understanding of what they generally mean.

A Californian by birth, Raul Engle was born in Val Verde, a quiet town with only a couple of street lights. He is the proud father of three children ages 3, 17, and 19 and lives with his wife and family in Santa Clarita.

Trained Behavioral Specialist, Raul has been helping people with disabilities since 2000. He explains, “I love my job, as it provides a challenge daily. I am also proud that I have had the chance to help so many families in that time.”


An important part of Raul’s life, running is not only important to Raul in a personal and physical way, but in a social/communal way as well. While he completed his first 50-mile run at the Leona Divide 50, he also founded a local running club (Happy Feat Running Club) that focuses on developing the beginning runner to be able to run marathons. Raul’s background is after all in Kinesiology/Exercise Science and he admitted “I feel a need to educate and motivate others to get moving.”


But Raul has a creative side, too. As he tells us, “I would say I am an amateur gardener too. I started my own garden three years ago and I love learning about it. It keeps me busy and calm when I'm resting. I also have loved to draw since I was a kid. My grandparents always encouraged me to keep my talents up, so as an adult I decided to transition to graphic design and putting my designs on our club shirts and for other events. I'm currently working on a children's book inspired by my daughter.”


So what led Raul to become the logo designer for the U.S. Spartathlon Team?


According to Raul, “I was first exposed to the Spartathlon on YouTube, when I watched Michael Arnstein's (The Fruitarian) videos of him and Oz Pearlman at the 2011 and 2012 Spartathlon. I just heard of the 100 mile distance of that time, and starting to get into ultras, this was fascinating to me. So of course when the design contest was presented, I was inspired.”


Designing the logo was not easy, as we were looking for something to connect with the race, Greece, and the mystical and historic aspects of this unique event. At the same time, we needed to represent the American athletes in the context of upholding the Olympic Spirit.

Because we wanted to see if the designers take the time to understand the history, the challenges of the race, and if they can relate to what the athletes in the Team will experience from a physical, mental and spiritual point during the race, we didn’t give many details as to how the design should look.

Raul met the challenge and created a design that all past and current team members quickly embraced. Raul explains, “I knew the elements of my design had to be significant and not just another design thrown together. I wanted symbolism to encompass the design. To begin, the helmet was inspired by various elements of Hermes' helmet. He was many things, but the messenger of the gods, the patron and protector of travelers, sports and athletics. Also being a fan of The Flash, I looked into the pan-like Hermes helmet in the Golden Age of the D.C. comic book series. I decided to take the wing concept and place it on a more familiar and powerful Spartan-style helmet. Being an American-based organization, I wanted to incorporate the gold ol' stars and stripes. The stars are represented as part of the helmet and the white and red stripes can be seen on the mohawk, cresting the helmet. That element you will notice seven spikes that represent the seven continents of the world. Like the Statue of Liberty I wanted an element of global unity, which I saw that the Spartathlon is.”

The shape of the design is important especially since the logo is used in different situations, being printed on the running equipment, official papers, and displayed on banners, flags, etc. Understanding the importance, Raul explains, “the coin-like element was also an essential structure because the circle is reminiscent of strength and planet earth. And as you may know, olive branch represents the reward received at the end of the race.”


While we are forever indebted to Raul for creating this piece of American ultra-running history, he feels strongly about thanking the U.S. Spartathlon Team for the opportunity to allow him to make a contribution to the running community through the design. Raul explains, “I am excited and humbled that some of the very people that inspire me will be wearing this design. I hope to one day perhaps participate in the race myself.”





Photos Courtesy of Engle Library




For more information about the U.S. Spartathlon Team and/or sponsorship opportunities please visit:


U.S. Spartathlon website: www.spartathlon.us

U.S. Spartathlon facebook page: www.facebook.com/spartathlon.us

U.S. Spartathlon twitter: @spartathlon_us

U.S. Spartathlon email:  [email protected]
U.S. Spartathlon phone: 865-414-0362




The US Spartathlon Team is organized/admin by the International 100+ UltraRunning Foundation, Inc., a Florida registered 501(c)(3) organization under the RRCA.