From marathon runners to cake sale bakers, we know that you fantastic supporters aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty for Tommy's and we couldn’t be more grateful!
But how about taking on the “Holy Grail of long distance running” and attempting to tackle the Spartathlon?
Tommy’s supporter Paul Rowlinson will be standing alongside 370 other runners at the Acropolis in Athens to take on this incredible test of endurance for the 3rd year in a row.
A challenge for modern day warriors!
It’s 490 BC. The mighty Persian Army is bearing down on Athens. The Greeks, outnumbered and facing defeat, send a messenger to neighbouring Sparti to seek help. Pheidippides left Athens at sunrise and arrived in Sparti before sunset the following day having run the 153 miles (246km) between the two cities in less than 36 hours.
It is this legendary feat of endurance that we seek to emulate.
Qualification criteria are tough. This will be my 3rd Spartathlon in 3 years in order to even make the start of Spartathlon I’ve run races of 100km in 10 hours, 100 miles along the South Downs Way in 19 hours, and 145 miles from Birmingham to London in 32½ hours.
Despite these requirements, each year only about 40% of runners reach the finish of Spartathlon.
It is one of the toughest ultramarathons to finish. It combines a number of factors; the distance, the constantly rolling hills, the heat (up to 35C during the day) and at 100 miles you have to go up and over Mount Parthenion on rough trails, in the dead of night when it’s cold, wet and windy.
All of those factors play a part, but what REALLY marks this race out versus other ultramarathons is the pressure of the clock.
Checkpoints every 4-5km offer water and food and cheery Greek volunteers. But every one of them also has a “cut-off time”.
The pressure to stay ahead of the clock and the “Death Bus” that sweeps up stragglers is relentless. It’s a psychological challenge that means runners make mistakes, pushing too hard to build up a time cushion. And if things go wrong there is no chance to rest and recover.
There is no room for error.
You are welcomed into Sparti as a hero. Local children run alongside yelling encouragement, people in bars and cafes stand and cheer, crowds line the final Avenue that leads to the statue of the famous King of Sparta.
It is perhaps the most iconic finish to any race in the world. A moment that many yearn for, but few experience.
In 2014 I only got to 96 miles. I spent the next 12 months obsessing about reaching the King and kissing his feet.
In 2015 I finished Spartathlon in 34 hours and 53 minutes, becoming the 67th Brit to do so since the first race in 1983. It’s impossible to put the emotions of that moment into words.
I don’t know what will happen in 2016. Only a handful of Brits have finished more than once, but I hope to become one of them.
What this space for Paul’s donation page which he will be putting up on completion of the race!
If you want to see what the Spartathlon looks like you can see Paul’s pictures from the 2015 race here.
If you’re interested, you can also follow Paul’s progress here.