The instructions to our next rental said that while it is 20km further to go via Sparta, there are fewer curves in the road. So the route via Sparta sounded like the best one. It was also important for us to take a route that avoided steep hills (the car was gutless), so we first went north from Nafplio and Argos, to the freeway. Despite the fact that we had already make 2 trips through Argos, we managed to get lost. We still puzzle over where we went wrong.
The trip on the freeway was interesting because of the trucker's strike. Sooooo many big trucks parked on the side of the road. Greece has many problems!
Once we left the freeway we noticed runners that were obviously struggling to complete some sort of race. When we stopped in Sparta we learned that it was a 2-day ultra marathon, called the Spartathlon. They were running (many were seen to be walking) 245.3km (150 miles) from Athens to Sparta, which is the route a messenger took to request help to defend Athens from invaders, in 490 BC.
The race has control points, each of which has its own time limitations and should a runner arrive later than the official closing time he or she will be eliminated from the race. For instance, the first leg, from Athens to Corinth, is 81 km and has a time limit of 9.5 hrs.
Here are the prerequisites necessary to compete:
- The athlete has finished a race of at least 100 km in not more than 10:30 hours, OR
- The athlete has compete in the SPARTATHLON race and has reached checkpoint NESTANI ( 172 km ) in less than 24:30 hours, OR
- The athlete has reached the finishing point when competing at SPARTATHLON OR
- The athlete has competed in an event of more than 200 kilometers and has finished the race regardless of the time.
The fastest runner finished in 23 hr. One hundred and twenty-eight finished. They had to run through the night.