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Race Reports

but I chose one about every 10 to 15 k. I found it humorous to prepare drop bags for the last 50 miles. I suspected I would never see them. But we dream on so my drop bags for aid stations all the way to Sparta were put into the bins.

The race starts in the shadow of the Acropolis and I immediately team up with Mark Williams the English/Ameri- can. Mark had a number of Spartathlon finishes and was a master at skimming the early cut-offs saving energy for later in the race when he would open it up. I had witnessed Mark’s first ever Barkley marathons finish and my photo of his fin- ish made it into Ultrarunning magazine. When Spartathlon finished Mark would travel to Athens with me to see the sights, then he had a girl friend, then he married the girl friend and finally brought his daughter to Spartathlon. That tells you how many years passed as I, time after time, was a loser.

So now fast forward to 05, Mark leads me skimming cut-offs until about 100k when he takes off. I now am on my own. There are tell-tale symptoms of cramps but I carry on. Suddenly my toes point like a ballet dancer and I actually go backwards falling on my butt. I lie on the ground in pain, both ankles are like rocks, muscles locked. Many runners pass asking if I need help. With my hands I squeeze both ankles as hard as I can. I know it is over, less than half way. only 1 minute ahead of cut-off. Some-

how I get up, arrive at the next aid sta- tion and eat potato chips, anything with salt, and carry on.

It’s a miracle. Somehow the ankles gradually recover and I can run again. Eventually I get back that 1 minute ad- vantage over cut-off. Second disaster oc- curs when I leave an aid station at about 80 miles. I go straight instead of turning right. An official noticed my error and chased me down with a car. Returning to the aid station, taking the proper turn I am again just at cut-off.

The packman bus has been busy eating runners behind me. The bus will pass me on my journey to each aid station and await. It was maddening.

Finally I arrive at the base of the moun- tain, I run around the bus, make eye contact with no one. Standing at the base of the mountain is a German who gives me a great torch. Some runners who arrived just minutes before me said later that they were pulled. I was not about to get into that packman bus - it would have to chase me up the mountain.

So learning from the previous year I had gloves to grasp the bushes and literally pull myself up the mountain. Otherwise my feet would slide down just about the same distance as I stepped. I was last to start up the mountain. Ahead were flashlights; below me only darkness. Somehow I arrived at the

top. There was no official to time me out and the aid person offered nothing only yelled “RUN”. I got rid of my jacket and now the run down the mountain on a dirt trail.

When I emerged onto the highway I

swear a cold front came in. The tem- perature dropped into the 40’s and rain. Huge drops of driving rain right into our faces. After 10k or so on the highway I had joined the back of the pack. Run- ners who always barely make it to Sparta within the time limit. We passed and re-passed each other repeatedly barely making cut-off times. Actually we had no choice, either run to Sparta or freeze to death.

Strange how it was never over. Disaster seemed to loom each minute.

On the outskirts of Sparta there were no course markings. A young boy on a bicy- cle became my guide. He seemed totally unconcerned, talking to people leaning out of second story windows. Finally the run to the statue of Leonidas and touch the foot of Leonidas symbolic of the fin- ish. The olive wreath on my head and a drink of water from the Evrotas river commemorate my finish.

I am led into the medical tent. My feet are washed, I don’t remember any blisters but I got the little plastic booties and was taken to the hotel. I remember as I watched in prior years how jealous I was of those with plastic booties. I told myself I would never take them off if I should ever be so lucky. Actually my feet were swimming in sweat in just a few minutes so the booties were taken off and the sweat poured into the sink.

At dinner I had always sat with the English speaking group and after the fin- ish there was always the losers table.

When I had finished in 2005, the only change was I sat at the head of the losers table. These were the runners I so identi- fied with.

When I reviewed finish results 1983 to 2005, I found I was 3rd oldest to ever fin- ish Spartathlon. I was a young 68 year’s old.

It was simply a miracle, a gift from God. February/March 2011 | Ultrarunning World 29

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