Japan’s Yoshihiko Ishikawa wins 36th Spartathlon race

Japan’s Yoshihiko Ishikawa wins 36th Spartathlon race

Japanese runner Yoshihiko Ishikawa was the winner of the 36th Spartathlon, one of the most challenging and historical ultra-marathon races in the world, hosted in Greece.

Ishikawa reached the finish line first early Saturday after covering nonstop 246 kilometers from Athens to Sparta in southern Greece in 22 hours, 55 minutes and 13 seconds, according to the international association that organizes the event each year.

The Japanese runner ranked fourth last year in his first participation in the event.

Czech Radek Brunner ranked second in 23:37:15 this year, as in 2017, while Portuguese Oliveira Joao was the third runner to reach the statue of ancient Spartan King Leonidas in the center of Sparta.

Hungary's Maraz Zsuzsanna won the women's race, ranking 17th in the general division.

The 36th Spartathlon race started at the foot of the Acropolis hill on Friday morning and was conducted amid adverse weather conditions this year, as a cold front with strong winds and storms is sweeping across the country this week.

This year 381 runners from 51 countries and regions competed, following the footsteps of ancient Greek soldier Pheidippides from the Greek capital to the southern Peloponnese peninsula city of Sparta.

In 490 BC, ahead of the battle of Marathon against the Persian forces, according to historians, the Athenian messenger who inspired the Classic Marathon was sent to Sparta to request support, making the journey on foot nonstop within two days.

In 1982 British RAF Wing Commander John Foden, an ultra-marathon runner, with four friends decided to test whether ancient Greek historian Herodotus' reference to the Pheidippides deed was correct.

They made it and thousands of runners of various ages and professions from across the world followed their footsteps ever since, testing the limits of human stamina and mental strength.

The target is to reach within the 36-hour time limit the statue of Leonidas in order to get awarded with an olive wreath and a sip of water from the nearby Evrotas river.

Only about a third of participants complete Spartathlon each year, according to the statistics. The race runs over rough tracks and muddy paths, climbs steep hillsides and takes the runners on the 1,200 meter ascent and descent of Mount Parthenio in the dead of night.

Greek veteran runner Yiannis Kouros, who won the first Spartathlon, still holds the record time at 20:25:00. [Xinhua]

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