Spartathlon is a 246 kilometre (152.85 miles) ultramarathon race held in Greece since 1983 between Athens and Sparta.
The Spartathlon aims to re-trace the footsteps of Pheidippides, who in 490 BC left Athens to seek help against the Persians in the Battle of Marathon. Pheidippides arrived in Sparta the day after he departed. Almost 1500 years later in 1982, British RAF Wing Commander Jonh Foden and four other RAF officers set out to discover whether or not it was possible to cover the nearly 250 kilometres in a day an a half. Two of them made their self-appointed 36 hour cutoff time and the following year, the team decided to organise the first Spartathlon.
The race starts at 7:00 am, usually on the last Friday each September, at the foot of the Acropolis. It runs out of Athens toward the coast and runs along the coast towards Corinth via Elefsis, Megara, and Kineta. The route reaches the Corinth Canal at 78.5 kilometres and the runners hit the first of six major check points at 81 kilometres.
After Corinth, the race heads toward Ancient Corinth, Nemea, Lyrkia and at 159 kilometres, reaches the top of Mount Parthenio. From there, it continues south toward Nestani and Tegea, before reaching the main Sparta highway just before the 200 kilometer mark.
Runners must pass through 75 checkpoints along the way and each checkpoint has a cut-off time. Runners outside the cut-off may be pulled out of the race although tardiness in the first half of the race is generally tolerated. This tolerance begins to fade after sunset and in the last third of the race, organisers may pull out runners who are either outside the time limit or who display extreme fatigue.
Yiannis Kouros will forever be associated with the Spartathlon after his debut performance in 1983 defied belief.