Historic race in blazing heat

Ian Hammett
Ian Hammett

A fitness expert will be braving the heat in Greece to tackle a 153-mile ultramarathon.

Ian Hammet, 38, a fitness advisor for Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, will be attempting to run the historic Spartathlon ultramarathon on September 29.

The race is considered one of the most gruelling on earth thanks to a 36-hour time limit, temperatures ranging from 4 to 34 degrees and a 1,000-metre mountain pass at 100 miles.

Spartathlon was founded 34 years ago following an RAF expedition but has its origins in Greek history dating back to the Battle of Marathon of 490BC. Less than 100 British people have completed the race.

Ian will be joining a British team to honour the race’s modern father RAF Wing Commander John Foden.

The race has its origins in ancient Greek history when Pheidippides ran the

same route to plead for Spartan help in the 490BC Battle of Marathon.

Wing Commander Foden, who died last year 2016, led a 1982 expedition to re-trace Pheidippides’ footsteps providing the inspiration for Spartathlon which celebrates its 34th edition this year.

The Britih team of 26 will commemorate Wing Cmdr Foden wearing shirts in his memory.

Wg Cdr Foden provided the inspiration for the modern foot race when he led a 1982 RAF expedition, including fellow officers John Scholtens and John McCarthy, to see if they could repeat the journey of Pheidippides, an Athenian messenger with near mythological running powers.

After the 1982 expedition proved the distance could be covered in around 36 hours, the first Open International Spartathlon Race took place a year later and the International Spartathlon Association was formed.

The modern race provides a unique set of challenges that often see less than 50 per cent of starters complete the journey.

The 390-strong field will have to cover the 153-mile distance in less than 36 hours, through the early morning rush hour in Athens’ city centre, the blazing heat of late Greek summer and a hand-over-foot ascent to the 3,900ft summit of Mount Parthenion in the dead of night.

There are 75 check points and failing to meet strict time cut-offs at each one sees runners forced to join the “death bus” that sweeps up those whose efforts culminate with the letters DNF (did not finish) after their name.

BST team manager Rob Pinnington said: “John Foden and the RAF expedition played a leading role in making Spartathlon the amazing race it is today. We could think of no better way of honouring his memory than having his famous words provide inspiration to the 2017 British runners on their journey from Athens to Sparta.”