American ultrarunner Camille Herron smashed the women’s record for the 153-mile long Spartathlon ultra in Greece, finishing third overall.
Meanwhile, Greek runner Fotis Zisimopoulos won his third title in a row and set the fastest time ever recorded on the route – finishing in a time of 19:55:09, becoming the first person to beat the time set by Yiannis Kouros in the first ever edition of the race in 1984.
The race follows the path taken by Phidippides, a long-distance runner who was sent to Sparta to ask for help in the Greek war against the Persians in 490BC.
Herron crushes record
153 miles long, the Spartathlon features 3,201m of elevation gain. The race starts at the Acropolis in Athens and finishes in front of the the statue of King Leonidas in Sparta, where all runners are crowned with a wreath of oilve leaves.
It was there that Herron arrived, third overall, to be crowned as the record breaking winner of the women’s race.
Herron broke the 48-hour distance record earlier this year, completing a staggering 435.336km over the course of a two-day event in Canberra, Australia, but she suffered a setback in June when she failed to finish the Western States 100.
She had pulled out of the Comrades Marathon to target the race, and the DNF proved a further disappointment when it contributed to her decision to drop out of the Leadville 100 to give her body a break.
But she returned to racing in emphatic style in Greece. Her time of 22:35:25 was more than two hours faster than the previous record of 24:48:18, set by the Polish runner Patrycja Bereznowska in 2017.
Second place -and fourth overall – was Finland’s Noora Honkala, who finished just under an hour behind Herron, with her compatriot Satu Lipiäinen a further ten minutes back. Both also broke the old record.
Zisimopoulos breaks 39-year record
Going into the 41st edition of the Spartathlon, Zisimopoulos had set the standard over the past two years with impressive victories in 2021 and 2022 – but now he was chasing a much more elusive aim.
In the first ever edition of the race in 1984, Yiannis Kouros ran a 20:25:00. Such was the dominance of the time, that it wasn’t until six years later that someone came close to matching it and even that was Kouros himself, running what remained the second fastest ever time in 1990 in 20:29:04.
Then, in 2022, Zisimopoulos picked up his second win in two years, but crucially finished in a time of 21:00:48, the fastest anyone other than Kouros had ever gone.
That set up some optimistic hope that Zisimopoulos would finally be the one to chase down Kouros’ record – but even then, it seemed unlikely.
Yet Zisimopoulos did not just break the 39-year-old record in the 2023 edition of the race, he smashed it. He arrived at the feet of King Leonidas as the first man to break the 20-hour barrier, finishing with 19:55:09 on the clock.
He was almost two and a half hours quicker than second place, the Norwegian runner Simen Holvik who finished in 22:17:17. The Uruguayan Fernando Andres Martinez Roman came in third in the men’s field, completing the race in a time of 23:32:53.
Spartathlon 2023 results
1. Fotis Zisimopoulos (GRE) – 19:55:09
2. Simen Holvik (NOR) – 22:17:17
3. Fernando Andres Martinez Roman (URU) – 23:32:53
1. Camille Herron (USA) – 22:35:31
2. Noora Honkala (FIN) – 23:22:56
3. Satu Lipiainen (FIN) – 23:48:28