SPARTA, GREECE – Yoshihiko Ishikawa battled through cold and rain to win the 245.3-km Spartathlon race on Saturday, one of the world’s toughest ultra-marathons.
The 30-year-old, one of a record 60 Japanese runners who took part, clocked 22 hours, 54 minutes and 40 seconds for victory, for which he received an olive wreath and a cup of water from the Evrotas River.
Ishikawa is no stranger to ultra-running, having finished fourth last year after clinching the men’s title at the World 24-Hour Championships in Belfast, where he ran 267.566 km .
Finishing second in the 36th edition of the Spartathlon for the second year in a row was 44-year-old Radek Brunner of the Czech Republic in 23:36:43 while 41-year-old Joao Oliveira of Portugal was third in 24:33:35.
The first woman to cross the finish line and 17th overall was Hungary’s Zsuzsanna Maraz, 38, in 27:04:28.
The race traces the classical route of Pheidippides, an Athenian messenger sent to Sparta in 490 BC to seek help against the Persians in the Battle of Marathon.
According to Greek historian Herodotus, Pheidippides arrived in Sparta “on the next day of his departure.”
The Spartathlon is one of the world’s most difficult races run over rough tracks, crossing vineyards and olive groves, steep hillsides and, most challenging of all, the 1,200-meter ascent and descent of Mount Parthenion in the dead of night. This year’s athletes also faced cold temperatures, rain and high winds.
The idea for the creation of the Spartathlon belongs to John Foden, a British RAF Wing Commander who first ran the course in 1982 in 36 hours. The first Spartathlon was organized in 1983 with the participation of just 45 runners from 12 countries.
The race started at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens on Friday morning with 381 runners from 51 countries with ages ranging from 20 to 70 years, and ended in the southern Greek town of Sparta with many of the participants failing to reach the finish line.