Team at the 34th Spartathlon
US Team at the 34th Spartathlon
The end of September marks a traditional passing for ultrarunners – a journey that only the most ambitious dare to take. They follow in the footsteps of the great Pheidippides, the Athenian soldier-messenger sent by his general from Athens to Sparta to ask for assistance from King Leonidas against the Persian army. Having run 153 miles from Athens to Sparta, at the feet of the Statue of King Leonidas that adorns the center of Sparta is where the journey will end.
Many will not make it. The Spartathlon, due to its strict cutoff times, treacherous mountain that must be climbed at mile 100, and unpredictable weather is arguably the most difficult race in the world. It must be run, the race founders warn every year, with reverence.
Yet that reverence is also what draws several runners back to the race every year. It is a veritable test of physical limits for sure, but that definition overlooks the true nature of the race. There is a much deeper meaning, one that transcends the physical, even transcends the self.
It may be the one thread that connects runners from fifty different countries who share no other language than that of the complex and often indescribable quest to surpass limits, preconceived notions, ultimately redefining the word possible.
Perhaps it was this desire that, in 1982, inspired five British endurance athletes to run from Athens to Sparta to answer the question: Is it possible to run 153 miles in less than 36 hours?
Now the answer is clear. Not just is it possible, but every year the now official Spartathlon flawlessly organized by Kostis Papadimitrou and several volunteers attracts increasingly more runners.
The American presence at the race started in 1984 when four American athletes finished the race: Lorna Richey, Mary Hanudel, Marcy Schwam, and Ray Krolewicz. Since then almost every year Americans had at least one representative crossing the finish line. Scott Jurek won the race three times and most recently, in 2015, Katalin Nagy won the female category. Other very well known American athletes such as Roy Pirrung or Dean Karanzes brought quite a bit of visibility to the Spartathlon in the US.
Several of the US ultrarunners have finished the race multiple times. Mary Hanudel finished the race 10 times under US flag and several other times under Sweden’s flag after she moved and became a Swedish citizen. She is followed by Roy Pirrung with 4 finishes, Scott Jurek, Stanley Hardesty, Ray Krolewicz, Steven Benjamin, and Andrei Nana with 3 finishes each, Robert Byrne, Eduardo Enrique Aquilar, and Katalin Nagy with 2 finishes each.
Last year there were 9 Americans crossing the finish line. This year, the team is formed of 15 athletes. They are:
Smith – bib number 130
2. Chris Benjamin – bib number 250
3. Amy Costa – bib number 251
4. Brenda Guajardo – bib number 252
5. Wyatt Hockmeyer – bib number 253
6. Andrei Nana – bib number 254
7. David Niblack – bib number 255
8. Pam Smith – bib number 256
9. Regina Sooey – bib number 267
10. Paul Schoenlaub – bib number 315
11. Philip McCarthy – bib number 318
12. Bob Hearn – bib number 339
13. Bradford Lombardi – bib number 353
14. Katalin Nagy – bib number 356
15. Scott McCreight – bib number 375
Tracking the athletes’ progress during this year’s edition can by following US Spartathlon Team Facebook page and twitter accounts which will be updated during the race. Additionally, the International Spartathlon Association (ISA) released free apps for Android and iOS devices which will offer live tracking, news, and maps. A link to download the apps can be found on the Team’s website.
Let’s wish the US Spartathlon Team and all the international athletes the best of luck, much success and ultimately an arrival at the feet of King Leonidas.
For more information please connect with the US Spartathlon Team