Any runner with a desire to run a long distance race in Greece has a range of choices, all with historic roots. The Athens Marathon is where the famous test of endurance began, giving rise to the first race of its kind when the modern Olympic era began with the 1896 Games and it takes place to this day, every November, on the original course. The Spartathlon is for devotees who might regard a marathon as a gentle warm-up: a classic ultra distance event from Athens to Sparta, held over 246 kilometres every September. But next year will bring the seventh edition of another Greek race which has the potential to develop to the level of international renown held by the Spartathlon, although it is at present relatively unknown. The Dolihos combines the ancient sites of Delphi and Olympia and with a length of 255 kilometres is even longer than its more established counterpart, the Spartathlon.
While places in the Spartathlon are always in short supply because of its international reputation, entries are still available for the Dolihos which will take place from the 27th to 29th April. The race is set in attractive and varied scenery with 60% on dirt roads and footpaths. The remaining sections are on tarmac roads, including crossing the Rio Antirrio Bridge which links the Greek mainland with the northern Pelopponese across the Gulf of Corinth, one of the world’s longest suspension bridges at 2.8km. The highest point of the course is comparable with the Spartathlon at 1,100 metres. The total ascent of the course is over 5,400m and the overall drop is almost 6,000m. The event begins in daylight and runs through the night with 28 feeding stations at regular intervals to the finish in Olympia.
A time limit of 48 hours is set to cover the 255 kilometres and reach the finish line in Olympia, site of the Ancient Olympic Games. Every finisher has the chance to savour the surroundings where the Olympic flame is lit before every Games.
Competitors will be taken from Athens by the organizing team to the start in Delphi with the return journey four days later from Olympia after what should be one of the great experiences in ultra distance running. As for how the event gained its name, the Dolihos in the Ancient Games was the longest foot race on the schedule but, in comparison to its modern counterpart, a mere “sprint” at 4,600 metres.
Participants will also have the opportunity to view the sights in Delphi before the start. The UNESCO World Heritage site has the Temple of Apollo where they can reflect before departure on the Sayings of the Seven Sages on its walls, including “Know Thyself.” Any runner crossing the finish line in Olympia after 255 kilometres is likely to have learned that lesson well.
Further details about the Dolihos Race can be found at: www.doliho.gr