BRIEF RETROSPECTIVE OF PERFORMANCE TRENDS IN THE SPARTATHLON

Special award of the 25th Spartathlon running

The Spartathlon is one of the most popular and difficult ultra-marathons in the world. Celebrated since 1983 it covers the 246 kilometres of the route from Athens to Sparta, following a tough course that must be covered within 36h.

A race as demanding as this one has entry requirements (obtained during the previous 3 years) as difficult as:

  • 120k (men) or 110k (women) in a 12h race.
  • 180k (men) or 170k (women) in a 24h race.
  • Finish the ‘Western States 100 Miles’ within 24h (men) or 25h (women)
  • Finish the ‘Badwater’ (235k) within 39h (men) or 40h (women).

These conditions ensure that only the best ultramarathoners compete in the race.

A recent retrospective study with data until 2019 investigated the trends in performance and participation in the Sparthatlon.

The monument to the Spartathlon winners in Sparta

Facts and numbers about the Sparthatlon (up to 2019)

  • Officially 3504 ultra-marathoners (3097 men and 407 women) finished the Spartathlon.
  • The age group with the highest number of participants was the 40–49 years group.
  • The country with most finishers was Japan (737), followed by Germany (393), Greece (326), and France (274).
  • The countries with the highest numbers of athletes in the top-5 were Japan (71), Germany (59), and UK (31).
  • About the running speed by age, the fastest athletes were in the age groups of 20-29 and 30–39 years in men and 30-39 and 40–49 years in women.
  • When considering the annual top five finishers and winners, there was an improvement of performance in men and women.
  • When considering ALL runners, performance was relatively stable over the years.

Age and performance in the longest ultra-marathons

It is well known that the age of peak ultra-marathon performance increases with the length of the race.

In 50k ultra-marathons women achieved best race times later in life than men. However, in 100k races, women achieved best performances younger than men.

With no data available about sex differences in performance for ultra-marathons longer than 100k, future studies would need to investigate the age of peak performance and any sex differences over these distances.

Spartathlon medal (front)
Spartathlon medal (back)

Bibliography

From Athens to Sparta—37 Years of Spartathlon. Knechtle B, Gomes M, Scheer V, Gajda R, Nikolaidis PT, Hill L, Rosemann T, Sousa CV. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2021; 18(9):4914. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18094914

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