Pheidippides
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Pheidippides

Marathon tumulus → Sparta → Marathon stadium → Kallimarmaro

Six days in heaven and hell. Dogs, heat and nose bleeding

I am writing this from a hotel in Mallorca, Spain. It has been almost two weeks since I completed this adventure, and in some way — it feels like a dream — that these days did not happen for real. These six days was so surreal, sometimes so frightening that I did not know what to do. At times a nightmare, alone in the dark with stray dogs coming after you. In this text I will write down my feelings and the way I look at this experience — two weeks later. Through the filter of distance using my altered memory.

And yes; this was a dream, and a nightmare. Heaven and hell. Sometimes I was so afraid that I tried to stop cars for help, for a lift (to take me out of the situation). But they never stopped. I climbed mountains and did enormous detours to flee from dogs chasing me. That was an element of fear every time. But now I am safe.

And yes, I do know that the route I was running was not 100% the historical correct Pheidippides route (even if I named the project so). But, I feel — and with that I stand 100% behind — that I did this project 100% in Pheidippides´ spirit. Please respect that. In the spirit of filotimo.

Thank you to all the people helping me out. I do not remmeber you all; but thank you to the cafe at the suburbs of Athen when the blood was flushing down my breast from my nose. You gave me a bag with ice to chill my head. Sorry for all that mess, and thank you for not calling the ambulance even if I was dehydrated, hot and not doing well. That could have disrupted my sub six days goal. After a short break — I was OK enough to continue.

Day 0: Traveling

I left home at Friday July 1st with just my running backpack. Did not bring any luggage to check in. In addition to the running gear, I had some leisure clothes on me — for travel only — a cotton tshirt, a shorts with belt and a underpant. I did not have any plans to bring these clothes back home. My idea was either to toss these or give it to someone somewhere. (And I had of course no intention to take these leisure clothes with me in my running pack . They would have been useless and too heavy to carry around.)

From my home town Stavanger, at the west coast of Norway, I took airplane to capital Oslo, switch airplane— and then from Oslo to Athen. After 3,5 hours I see lights from Athen at night. Down there under me. The feelings observing these lights was massive.

What am I planing to do? Do I really know what I have started?

I started shaking, and got mixed feelings about the project. Was this really such a good idea after all. Alone, down there in the dark… And what about all the dogs? “You hate dogs”, well — you do not really hate dogs; but you are very afraid of dogs, for some reasons, and in this massive landscape — there are plenty of dogs. Not all of them friendly.

At the airport, I was picked up by Dimitris Pantazis, whom I have never met. (I got I got into his car and we headed in direction for Marathon. On the way to Marathon, we picked up his wife, Aggeliki Gianni (she had cooked food for me, and created a smal food box that I could enjoy at the hotel). We made a stop at the Tumulus (the “Soros” that houses the ashes of 192 Athenians who fell during the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC) and then headed to the hotel, Marathon Beach hotel.

Is this real? I still feel that this is just a dream. It is hard for me to crasp the reality.

Hotel was good, and surprisingly, Dimitris and Aggeliki offered to pay for the hotel. I had not expected that, and after some discussions — I felt it unpolite to not have them to do so. This was showing true Greek friendliness.

Running club Telmessos had planned to run with me at the start next morning; but when I told them that I wanted to start 6 am and not 8 am — that turned out to be difficult for them.

At the hotel, I did the normal pre-race activites. Recharged all my electronics (Apple watch, Coros Apex sports watch, Airpods, IPhone, memory bank, RaceTracker sender and my Garmin InReach Satelite) to make sure that they had 100%. Posted a picture at Facebook and Instagram, replied to some comments while I was eating the food from Aggeliki (delicious pasta with some well cooked meat, all in tomato saus). And yes; I also had to adjust my watch to correct time zone. (Greece is one hour before Norway.)

Did a pretest of the RaceTracker and InReach. Set my alarm to 5 am and then went to bed.

It was late. In a few hours I was going to start my adventure.

Day 1: Warm up

05:45 Where is the start?

Hmm… Where am I? And in which direction is the start?

I left the hotel at 5:45 am. Quiet, a beautiful morning. But not so quiet after all. Where is the starting point? Where is the statue that I have identified, with good help from Nick, as my start. I could not find it! I was getting stressed and a bit annoyed. Out here alone; at my second day of my four week vacation. Out in nowhere. 5:45 am, and trying to find a statue in a place I have never been before. I opened Google Maps, and checked my route at my phone. And then finally, got myself to the start. The square was fantastic, the beach and the sunset like a farytale. Just like a movie. No one there; well — actually two people were sleeping in a car just a few meters from me. One of them suddenly looked at me.

I did a live session at Instagram and then Facebook, and then I started running. What did I feel? Not sure. I was all a bit hectic this morning. I checked my Race Tracker again, and verified that I was on. (While I was running, I checked all the comments from yesterdays — and todays Facebook and Instagram post — a bad habit I have with this SOME work while running, but in some way — running at the road is my office). I am not addicted to social response, but it makes me feel less alone — and I also use this tell my family and friends back home that I am OK.

06:15 On the road to Kallimarmaro

After doing the lap of Honour around the Tumulus, I headed straight into the Athens Classic Marathon Course. That route is more or less only on traffic roads and is the shortest distance from Marathon to the Kallimarmaro stadium in Athens. There are fixed brown road signs every 2nd kilomters indicating the distance. Traffic was OK, and I had a good flow. (I love this; a perfect start, I love running the the left side of asphalt roads. There are something magic about all this. The houses you run by, the signs, the cars, the traveling, the smell, the gas stations, the kiosks.)

For this trip, I do not plan to bring any fluids or nutririons in my bag. I solely plan to eat at gas stations, kiosks, bakeries etc. etc., along the way.

The ride to Kallimarmaro was smooth. No issues at all. A perfect start.

Inside Kallimarmaro (the Panathenaic Stadium), I did one lap — and then I had to take the mandatory photo at the podium. (Here I met an American girl; my new Instagram friend, that helped me out with the photo. We had a chat, and she was a bit overwhelmed when I told her a bout my plans. (She was training for her first half marathon).

10:25 Where is Acropolis?

Traffic in Athen is busy, but not as chaotic as I had expected. I opened my map and manoeuvred from Kallimarmaro and in direction of Herrod Atticus, which is the start of the 246 km Athen to Sparta run. In the far distance I could easily see the Acropolis heigh.

September last year, I was there for the start of the 2021 Spartathlon ultra race. It was a strange feeling to be here again. This time only me, and no one here to salute you. (I ask the ticket guy on Herrod Attica if this was really the start of the Spartathlon. He did not know. Have never heard about Spartathlon).

11:07 On the way out of Athen

It was getting hot.

11:59 Cheidari

Cheiari is a suburb in the western part of Athens. At the A-8 highway, this is where the traffic is getting rough and dangerous. A lot of heavy traffic with trucks, cars and crazy motorcycles (without helmet).

15:13 Nea Peramos

The road to Nea Peramos is hot with high temperature at 38 degree Celcius. Following the yellow SP arrows, painted on the concrete, from the Spartahtlon race, it is easy to find the correct route. In principle, the route is the most logical one.

It has been all nice up till now, with no issues what so ever. But then, I got my first touch with the dogs. Running at the left side of the road, listening to music and entered into my own bubble. Then suddenly I past an industiral site where the gates were open, and out of nowhere — two big dogs where approaching me. Running after me. I was shocked. (I know that I should stand still and show no feelings, do not look them in their eyes, and show no fear…. but at this moment in time — that was totally impossible.) I started running, sprinting, with heavy tracfic at right and angry dogs at left. They are now a few centimeters away from me — and I was afraid. Really shocked. My only option was to through myself into the traffic, into the middle lane, so that I could have a set with speedy cars one each side of me. So I did. The cars had to push their breaks to not hit me. I felt relief, as a barrier — these cars where my defense against these dogs. For a few hundreds meters we were running like this. The dogs are left side of the road, and me in the middle — and with the dogs trying to find an option to jump into the middle lane to attack me. After maybe half a kilometre, the dogs backed out. I continued in the safe zone, in the middle of the road, for another kilometer or so. To recoup myself, and to get the pulse down to normal level. (Sitting here now; a few weeks later, I look at this, and all the other, still to come, that these dogs incident as part of the project. Stray dogs, watch dogs, and other dogs are just part of the project — and I just had to live with that.

But this first “dog episode” was a shock to me. After that I was always on the alert. I did not run with music in what I considered as “possible dog areas”, I always looked into runaway options, had a good overview of fences I could climb over, hiding options. My nerves, and my observational skills improved. I watched, I listen to, and I learned day by day how to handle these, for me extreamly difficult situations.

I was back to nature. This adventure turned into a fight; a survival against a hostile terrority with dogs running after you, burning heat, bleeding nose due to hot conditition and hunger.

And this is exactly why I loved (why I need) these projects. Facing, and going into, this fear — make me feel alive. I struggle against primitive issues; fear, hunger, heat — and that is good for me.

You cannot imagne how afraid I was during many of these dog attacks. At one point, I did not know what to do — with several dogs around you from all angles. Why did I use my vacation in this hell?

15:37 Low energy

After my first touch with the concept of the Greek dogs, I lost a bit of my energy. I was completely shaken, tired, hot — and just wanted to stop it all. Found a smal restaurant at the left side, and just took a short break.

17:44 Beer time

I felt for a beer. Yes; sometime I drink alcohol (in form of beer) when I am running long distances (or even races). Why? From l physical standpoint I agree that this is utterly stupid, but sometime it is more important to switch / re-tune your head. And for me; that works best with alcohol. (After runing a long day, let say more than twelve hours, you get bored, you get pessimist, and a bit tired of yourself. Then it works good for me to have a pint to shaken things up. Ok; it gives me good energy — but it also gives me a happy alcoholic felling that will assist me for the last strech. Now, it was such a moment.

I stopped at a restuarant, at Hotel Cokkins, at the left side, ordered a pint, a Moussaka, Coca Cola and a liter of water. Had a very long break. Perfect, I got my nerves back on track — and the energy back to normal. This is what I love about running, well; my kind of running; slow distance and with eating (and drinking) normal. I charged up all my electronics, took off my shoes, my socks, and — for a short time — I was a real tourist, just like everyone else here. After maybe one hour, and after a live ranting at SoMe, I started running again.

18:53 Come and get me!

The last strech was about 15 kilometer. I had alcohol flowing in my veins, the sun was shining, the clock was 18:53. I was in good shape. And I was ready for the final running for this first day.

The road was beautiful, and I was now prepared for real life. As I entered into troubled areas I was equipped with Dog Defense Spray and a stone. (As a reference; I did not need to use that spray during this adventure, I did not even had to through a stone — but on several occasions I had to pick up stones, one for each dog. And that they noticed and changed their minds).

20:21 Yes !!!

After a long day; from 6:00 am to 8:30 pm, I arrived at my destinaton, Hotel Siagas in Agoi Theodori. (At 20:21:07 to be exactly) I checked in and took a shower. (A good indication is this shower; is anything hurting? That is the first checkpoint. And I passed. No major issues. My left big, blue toe was not any bigger, and the scratches on my back (due to backpack) was not a big deal. (I did not mention that earlier, but just after Athen — I changed my underpant due to sctraching issues. My favourite underpant did not work anymore — and I had to put on a new one.)

After fixing an issue with the air conditioning at the room; I went to the restaurant and ordered a Fix Hells beer, water and a Spaghetti Carbonara. Tasted fantastic. And what a location. I try to tell myself all the time “This is my vacation, right?”, and right now it feels just like that.

Tomorrow; I have planed for a 6 am start — so I have ordered an extra sandwich, a Coca Cola and bag with potato chips for tomorrow.

This ends my first day. With 107 kilometers and more than fourteen hours on my feet.

It was a fantastic day with a taste of real life. Fear, anger, hunger, heat, sun and survival.

I did not know at this moment in time that, tomorrw, I was entering deeper into the wild ares with massive dogs issues.

Day 2: Deeper into the wild

I did not sleep much that night. As expected. My thigh muscles did not relax. They were running during my sleep. I had the same experience when doing the 100 km a day in 25 days project last summer. The first five, six days — before the body gets the message — that this all day running is the new norm — it feels like this. I like to picture this to myself that it takes about a week for the body and soul to clean-up the old you. To modify my 2022 version of myself, and to make it more alligned with the real you. To the genes and to the nature.

It is normal to run 100 kilomters per day. We have just forgotten that!

At 6:03 am I left the Siagas Beach hotel and continued on the National Road 8 (the old Athens-Patras national road) heading for Corrinth Chanel.

07:11 Panic

I do not want this summary to be all about dogs, but I feel that I need to mention some of the most important issues.

As I was approaching the quiet and easy running stretch to the Corrinth Channel, I got into a real issue. (After yesterdays happening; I was now more aware of this real life issue. I did no longer run with music, and all my observational skills where on alert mode).

After about 9 kilomters from the start, I was running towards the Motor Oil Hellas oil refinary, lonesome in my own thoughts. Just outside of the gates, there were four (or five) big dogs blocking the street. I was far away, and had not yet attracted their attentention . I just heard the barking and seeing them walking aournd on that street.

Screenshot from Google. There, just outside of the refinery on the left side — I saw the dogs blocking the streets. Barking and running after each car that passed them. No, I was not willing to go into that trouble.
Detour due to dogs

I did not know what to do.No way I could pass these beasts. What to do? For a minute I tried to get a hike from a car passing me (a hike for a kilomters would not matter…) (lucky I did not do that. That would have been allowed under the self-supported schema I was running under).

I know that dogs are part of this adventure, part of the my history — but I do not going into a situation which smells trouble.

I looked for alternative routes. I was afraid, and was looking for safety. I really needed some long slow miles on a road from heaven. I decided to run up to the highway (I realized later that it is not allowed to run on motorways). I found a way to get up to the Motorway 8 (which is part of the European route E94) which is the main road between Athen and Patras). I climbed over the high fence that separated the motorway and started running.

07:30 Heaven

Running at the left side of the E94 was fantastic. High fences on each side of the rodes, and heavy traffic. Definitely no dogs here. My nerves relaxed and I got myself back on track. I could have contiuned with this forever. Just grinding kilometers. Not beeing afraid all the time. That reminded me of last years running accross Norway. At that project, I had more or less no external worries — by this year, I had plenty. (Maybe that these exteral risk factor (mostly dogs, but also high temperature) made me less focused on actual muscles tirednes and me being unfocued. At this project, I could not focus on minor elements like that — it turned out more and more to be a fight for survival, at least a challenge to not be catched by animals (read: dogs)).

Some of the cars where using their horns (at that time I did not know why…).

I was running at the E94 all the way till I reached the brigde with the old national road. Then I finally got into my planned (and the Sparthathlon) route.

08:15 Hungry

I was really getting hungry. Starting at the hotel, I had packed 1 liter with liquids, but that was 20 kilometers ago (and more than two hours ago). Luckily I was now at the busy Corinth Canal. I stopped at cafe that I do not remember that name of. Had a few drinks and some potato chips.

(The Corinth area is known for their stray dogs. Crazy dogs outside the bridge running after cars and cyclists). I was behind my schedule and had to move on. The time was now 08:30. I passed the bridge, and realized one angry dog just wantering around on the right side of the road. I moved to the left side as normal and quiet as possible. (In these situations I have learned that I should not run, but just walk, show no fear, do not look in his direction — and just show 100% ignorence. So I did. Proud of myself.)

09:43 Finally Examilia

Yes, I was getting this far. I knew from my Sparthathlon experience last year that the stretch from Agioi Theodoroi, through Corrinth and Kiras Vrisi could be dog heavy. But I survived. Now I am at Examilia. A smal village. The temperature was high and I was getting thirsty. Bought a flask with cold water at the first kiosk I could find. At the left side of the corner. Then I went to a cafe and had Coca Cola, another bottle of water, two scoop with ice cream and a Cafe Freddo with suger.

I love this. Running for many hours, often in remote areas, and often with elements of fear all around you — and then you finally reach a town. A safe place. With people, and food. This is so primitive, but so real. Back to basic. This is why I love doing these projects. To get a touch of the real life. Fear, survival, heat, food and people.

Examilia

10:26 Ancient Corrinth

To be honest, I do not care to much about old ruins and all that. (I love history, but not buildings). But the ancient town of Corrinth is fanstatic. A very touristic town, with plenty of great restaurants. I had a meal and quickly moved one. Time was now 10:52.

Down left. It gives me a good feeling when I see the brown signs for the Spartathlon race.

12:40 Move on

I then passed the villages of Assos and Zevgolatio. I am now at kilometer 49, the clock is 12:40. And it is really hot.

Suddenly I run into an area I know (will in principle, I know the route from my Spartathlon last year), but for some reason I now had to stop and take some pictures. For some reason this is so Greek to me. Hot and brutal climate, signs in letters you do not understand, raw vegation and no-one else.

13:13 The Greek friendliness

Clock is now 13:12, and I am tired, hungry and thirsty. I am running into a small village, through narrow streets with no name. I do not know the name of this place. I see no-one. Only a church and empty buildings. But deep down in my memory I remember this place from last September. (Checking my notes now; I see that the name of this village is Soulinari, the cafe is called Ο Καλλά ς. And is at checkpoint 31 at kilometer 109.3).

At the end I see a cafe with several old men sitting outside in the shaddow. Some of them drinking beer, others drinking something that looks like Ouzo.

This is life. No stress. Out in “nowhere”. A good discussion. Beer.

They all stop talking when I arrive. Of course this place knows about the Sparthathlon, but that is not until September. Based on their reactions; it is not normal to see a runner outside of that race.

I walk in. The interior looks like something my grandmother had in her living room; several pictures of flowers on the wall and gray curtains. A set with tables and chairs. And a very minimalistic bar. It is very clear that they do not understand a word English. An old guy comes in from outside and shouts out something. Then an even older woman (again; could be my grandmother) comes to my table. I try to communicate that I am hungry and thirsty. Pointing at my stomach. The basic language works always. She understands. A second later I get a Coca Cola. And then she leaves into a backdoor.

I think she is about to cook something. Excited to see that I get.

It is only seven kilometres since my last stop, but I had to do this stop. My energy is getting low, and it can be long till next possible option. (I have done my planing, but I see that trusting the opening hours from Google is not always correct. Out here I need to take more care, and eat a lot when I get the chance. Not always sure when next option occurs.)

I open my iPhone and do a live broadcast at Facebook in Norwegian. This is so surreal. But still so real. It feels good to talk. I feel less alone. Several people connects, asks questions or commenting.

I’m excited. To not know what I am getting for food. I am a food junkie and can eat anything. Please bring it on.

Then she comes. A big plate with potatoes, and cooked meat, and a classic cucumber salad with vinegar. And white bread. Taste delicious. This is far the best meal so far on this adventure. So simple, so basic. Greek lamb and potatos. Must have been slow-cooked for hours. I am euphoric. Forget about the dogs or the busy highways. This is the core. The charm. To me this is so Greek.

(A side note: when it comes to bread; that is not working out for me at my long runs. Something is happening in the mouth. Not able to chew that.)

Temperature now is not too bad. 31 degree Celcius and a bit windy. (But earlier today I had to put on a t-shirt as I was getting a bit burned on my shoulders).

Trying to order a coffee. Note sure what I am getting. After a few minutes I am getting a Frappe ice coffe. Fantastic.

I have more than 50 kilomters left, so I have to leave. (Normally I am drinking only at cafes, and normally every 10 kilomters. In my backpack I only have backup energy in case of emergency. (Note: I never used that.))

15:15 Dinner time

After 11 hot kilometers I finally see the beautiful village Archaia Nemea. It is very very hot. I am tired and on very low energy. There are no-one here. I need to find a place to relax and refuel. Oppss… In my planing using Google, there should be two eating options here. I navigate to mye first on the list: Σαϊσανα Χρυσάνθη. Luckily that is open. I open the door and walk in. A few people in the restaurtant. All of them drinking beers. All men. (For a second I wanted to be one of them; but I cannot do that now. I have only 70 kilometers in my legs and have plenty more to go. To early for me now to go into the path of beer)

I am surprised with the relaxing feeling. The whole place is so calm, quiet and has a good atmosphere. Ordered a Greek salad, fries and Souvlaki. And a few Coca Cola.

Time went by. I was eating, drinking and relaxing. (OK; the meat and bread did not work out; but the Greek Salad and the fries were perfect). And suddenly I was the only one left. The owner came to me and told me that there are about to close. Time is just before 16:30, and I have been here for more than 1 hour. I paid my bills and moved on.

Next town Malantreni is more than 15 kilometers away. The plan is to reach Nestani, which is more than 44 kilometers away — but I am afraid that I will not reach that village today. Need to look into alternative options.

The sun goes down at around 9:00 pm; so this can be really hectic. I do not want to do the mountain pass in the dark. We will see how this goes.

16:30 Leaving

I getting used to this scenario. When leaving a town after lunch (ref. the right section in the screenshot), there will be issues with dogs that will block roads, and which I will not pass.

19:33 Malantreni

I am in trouble. This has been a very rough day, and I see that I am not able to get to Nestani today. What to do? I am now at Malantreni, which is 15 kilomereters away from my last stop. I am not feeling good. Tired and sad. Sad for not being able to reach todays destination. (Will all this fall now. Maybe I will not be able to reach my sub six days goal). Sitting at the a cafe in Malantreni, I am calling a few people to get their advice. I need get some advice. I am not able to make good descisions anymore.

After having a video chat with my norwegian friends Magnus Thorud and Jeanette Vika, in addition to my greek friend Nick Papageorge — we agree that I should not do the mouintain pass today, but instead try to get to Lyrkeia (which is 8 kilometes away) and call that the day. (I will then be 21 kilometres off todays goal, but I see now that I do not have a choice. Passing that mountain in the dark and with my current low energy level — could be dangerous.

I order a Coca Cola and an alcohol free beer and continued for my last lap.

20:38 Heavenly close to God

Half past nine I enter into the the smal village called Lyrkeia. Valori Papadopoulou (a friend of Nick Papageorge) have contacted the major in the town, and asked for the village to help me out with food and a bed.

Lyrkeia is a smal village with no hotels or sleeping options.

As I walk up the hill to the church, I see a place with a lot of life. Several kids in the street playing soccer. Noise, dogs, a few bars and actually a quite vibrant feeling. After some additional phone calls to Nick, I managed to find the people that was expecting me. I sat down at that bar, and got food and drinks. The meal was great. Potato omelette with fries. (I did not order. They just served me)

I borrowed electricity and charged up all my gear. Changed my clothes into dry ones, and took on my long pant and jacket (as I felt a bit cold).

As I was sitting there. facing the church — I got a bit religios. I am now done with day 2 of my challenge, and this has been a lot more difficult than expected. But this is life, and it gives me fuel to live.

My bed for the night turned out to be an madrass outside. I went early to bed. I did not sleep “anything” that night. I was afraid of animals attacking me, and with the church bells ringing every 30 minutes and the kids where playing outside until very late — it was hard to get deep sleep. I decided to leave very early the next day. I was in a hurry.

Day 3: To Sparti

04:30 Time to leave

After a night with no sleep, I “woke” up at 04:30 and left Lyrkeia at 05:00. I am behind my schedule and had to speed up.

It is dark outside and the lights from the graveyard was a perfect scenario for this nightmare. My head was heavy after spending the night outside. I put on my jacket and my smal head lamp.

I am now running in the dark. There are no civilisation here. Just a smal road with olive trees on each side. It is dark now. And I am tired and a bit nervous after no sleep. The area I am running through is known for wild boar. It is intense to be running like this; at high alert. Using all the senses you got. Listening for animals, watching for red eyes in the dark.

And then suddenly I hear something at the right side of the road. In the bushes. Just in front om me. Like a grunt. For a second I got panic, but then the sound moves away from me. If this was a dog, or several dogs, they would have made some noise and ran to me — and not the other way around. From the sounds of it, it could have been wild boars. I relax and move on.

It was getting morning, and there, a few hundred meters in front of me, several dogs where blocking the street. As they noticed me, they started to growl and move towards me. I quickly turn around and move slowly back again. My heart beat jumps up and I try to listen if they were approaching me or had stopped. After a few minutes I was OK. I felt safe. The dogs had stopped following me. But what now?

06:21 Back into safe zone

No way I can pass these dogs. I have to find an alternative route. I opened my map and see that the only option is to climb up to the E65 highway. So I did.

The climb up to the E65 is heavy but is my only option. I am losing many kilometers and hours at this detour, but this is part of the game — and I am not making this a negative thing.

It took me a while before I was done. I stop for a while and just look out in the open landscape. What a morning.

As I jumped into the E65, I fell on the rolling rocks and hurt my arm and leg. Painful, but OK. And finally in safe zone, and back to the highway. (This is not allowed, and I must run as invisible as possible). This is charm. You never know what is happning.

08:07 At the top

After running at the E65 for five kilometers, I reached the foot of the mountain pass and started the climb. (This mountain top is 1060 meters high and you start the climb from 770 meters).

Ofcourse there were some dogs that I had to walk around, making me do an alternative route for the start (as indicated with blue)

08:30 Sagkas

I has been a fantastic day. I walked down and into the village at the foot of the mountain. Suddenly an old lady approcahes me. She was saying something I do not know what. But she was smiling, so I assumed everything was OK. I took a picture and moved on.

09:34 … and finally Nestani

Sagkas was empty, with no grocery store or any place to eat. I was able to fill up my water bottles from a fountain — but other than that, nothing. I am now very hungry. Have not eaten in 4,5 hours and need to relax.

I found a place called Coffee Nestani and ordered water with icecubes, two sandwiches with cheese and ham, two alcohol free beers, double epresso and ice cream. Stayed there for about 20 minutes.

Fanstatic place. No tourist. Old people playing chess. Quiet. Another one of these slow cities. This is definitely a village I want to go back to and stay for a night.

Makes me wonder. Running for seveal hours. And then sit down. Everything you have is in your backpack. Easy living. This is life.

My goal today is to reach Sparta. To have a real shower and brush my teeths.

From this point I have around 80 kilometers to Sparta. Can be late tonight. Lets hope for not to many dog issues and the need for detour.

10:58 Pulled over

I was running out from Nestani with good spirit. I had refuelled and was generally in good shape and form.

A few kilometers after Nestani I got a bit panic. I felt that there was something a few hundred meters in front of me, so I rushed into the bushes at the left side, in panic mode, and headed for the E65 highway. Climbed over the high fences again and into the motorway. Into safe zone.

Maybe I was just dreaming? Maybe not? Could it be the night with no sleep or the exhaustion that is messing up my mind? No I do not think so. I will good. But maybe I am just faking it.

I was running for a few kilometers until a yellow car pulled me over. Someone had reported me, and called for a car. He told med that I was not allowed to run at the highway, and asked me to leave. I did not bother to explain to him the reason why. I just took the exit and continuted.

11:52 Eat as much as you want

There is a rule in Greece, that says that you can eat as much fruit, from trees growing alongside the roads, that you can hold in your two hands.

So I did. The cherries tested delicious.

12:24 Zevgolatio and Neochori, no where to eat!

It is getting hot, and I am really thirsty for a cold drink. (Water is never an issue to find; you can always knock on a door or find a fountain or something…. but I really wanted a ice cold drink.) According to my planing there should have been two places in Zevgolatio where I could fuel up.

The first one I tried in Zevgolatio was closed, and the second one was closed. I knocked at the door, and a guy showed up. I asked for a bottle of water, and he gave it to me. For free. I sat down outside, took off my shirt and just relaxed for a few minutes.

Then I moved on; maybe Neochori, a few kilomters away, would give me better luck? Again; according to Google there should be one cafe open. But that turned out to not exist.

Nevermind. That is life. And so I headed for Tegea. That was 8 hot kilomteres from here.

13:42 Food!

Finally I arrived at Tegea. For some reason I was very hungry and very thirsty. More than expected. I blame this on the hot weather. From my plan it should have been plenty of food options in Tegea, but that turned out to not be the case. At the end I managed to find a nice bakery, took of my shirt and sat down.

My head was empty and I did not have much own opinions. I just went the the counter and asked for the same as the guy in front of me. I turned up with two cans with Coca Cola, a sandwich with ham, a bottle of water, ice cream (with banana flavour) and a Freddo Espresso with two shots of espresso and some suger.

As expected, that pastry did not work out for me. I tried, but no way I could handle this butterdough with ham, cheese and some tomato souce. Had only two bites.

I miss real food; a soup or Spaghetti Bolognese or something. So far, it has been a lot of junk food.

15:25 Nose bleed

As I was running in the heat on the road from Tegea I realized that my nose start bleeding. I tried to stop it while running, but that did not work out. After the village of Manthyrea I had to take break. (At Sparthathlon pitstop 62) I had to lay myself down at the wooden house try to stop the bleeding. (Made a phone call to my coach and also messaged my physical terapist, and they both said that this i most likely due to the heat. Try to calm down the nose and head, and do not lay down but sit up). So I did. After 15 minutes or so I continued. But after this happening; this sudden nose bleed forced me to plenty stops along the way.

I had to use part of my t-shirt to stop my nose bleeding.

15:52 Back to life

Suddenly my 10 year old son calls me. I have not talked with him since I left for Greece four days ago, and he had issues: “Dad, I am not able to use any of the apps on my iPhone!”. He was not happy. OK. This melted my heart. This is so cool. You have beem running out in nowhere for days. Chased by dogs, hunger and heat, and just now — with blood runing from your nose because of the heat — and the only thing he cares about is that he is not able to use his favourite iPhone apps. “Well, you need to restart the phone”, I replied. After sending him a picture with how to do that, he replied after a few minutes that it was all working ok now. And then that conversation ended. (Even if I am running far far away, I am still a dad.)

16:16 Time to eat

I am now at the Skiríths restaurant. Today I have been dreaming about Spaghetti Bolognese the whole day, but now they are saying that they just had an incident in the kitchen and that the electricity is down. A long story short; this means that they are not able to serve me my long wanted Spaghetti Bolognese. The only option they have is Greek Salad.

OK. So I ordered another Greek Salad, and alcohol free beer and lemon ice tea.

The Greek salad tastes fantastic. These tomatoes, red onion, feta cheese (with oregano) tastes like nothing we have at home. This one even had yellow pepper and olives. I also had a bowl with fries. (Even if I miss real food, this works out ok). Still bread is not working.

Yes, it is extremely hot, and I walk when needed and eat a lot of salt. Himalaya salt. I am never in real danger (I think) even if I am really afraid, and have a lot of panic now and then. I have a good team down here (Nick, a Greek guy at messenger) that calls me now and then. And I do feel safe.

I sit here and close my eayes. And yes, I am really looking forward to get into Sparta. To have a shower.

At the Spartathlon race, this is checkpoint 64. And from this point, it is less han 40 kilometers to Sparti. All downhill.

17:51 Good pace!

From the Skiríths resturant and all the way to Sparta, it feels like downhill- of course that is not really the case — but right now, it feels fantastic. This is exactly what I love. Asphalt, traffic, no dogs, and good music from my air pods. (Anyone running Spartathlon; remember that. After checkpoint 64, you should have enough energy to just let you flow down. On this stretch, you can easily have a good pace! Good luck!)

20:26 Last stop

It is getting late, but I do not care about time now. Time is irrelevant. For the past half hour, I have tried to find a cafe small village called Voutiani (which was a bit outside of the route). But there was no cafe. I have now routed myself back to the Spartathlon route, and are sitting down at Shell gas station. (This is checkpoint 72, and is 10 kilometers before finish).

I sit down and order an alcohol free beer. The glass is frozen. Perfect. I take off my socks and shoes. Look at my feets. Not too bad.

There are several guys sitting here. Doing nothing. One is wathcing something on the televison, no idea what that actually is, the other guys are just relaxing. Not talking to much. The sun is about to go down. They have plenty of time.

We do not experience this at home. This low tempo, this feeling of complete happiness. (I might be wrong her, but I sense some good vibrations).

The owner asks me a few questions, and of course he know about Sparathlon. They feel honoured to have a Spartathlete like me sitting there.

21:33 … and finally Spaghetti Bolognese

Running into Sparta is strange. Where are all the kids on their bicycles following me? Like last time. Where are all the old ladies from the terraces applauding me? The Police motorcycle following me? The people? The Norwegian flags?

Yes, I felt a bit sad. In some way I have messed up my dream of Sparta. I have now redefined and deteriorated my Sparti. I approched the King Leonidas statue, did not feel much, took a picture (and I could not bother to kiss his foot), and went to the first restaurant.

And finally I got my Spaghetti Bolognese. Now I was finally happy. Ordered a normal beer. The Spaghetti worked out perfectly, but the beer did not function for me (normally not a good sign).

After a few minutes I got company from Noora Honkala, Maria-Stella and Ioannis Dimopoulos. Happy to have company. Tomorrow we are going to run 50 kilometers together from Sparta. Noora gave me a new shirt as she had noticed that my old shirt was messed up (Yes, I used part of that shirt to stop my nose bleeding).

We split up, and I went into a Apotek to buy a wash lotion for my scars (my coach was pushing me to clean this up, he was afraid of a potential infection). So I did. I then went to the Maniatis hotel and checked in.

Took a shower and ordered some room service. I ordered a fruit smootie, a big bootle of water, and alcohol free beer and a big bowl of Spaghetti Carbonara. (Half of the Carbonara I had that night, and the rest as breakfast the day after).

I was a strange feeling going to bed that night. Now I just had to return and run back.

That day ended with 106 kilomters and a total time of 12 hours and 18 minutes.

Day 4 : … and back again

Today Noora and Maria-Stella were going to join me for 50 kilometers starting from the King Leonidas statue.

Maria-Stella and Noora Honkala

We started at 06:00 and had a good flow uphill. Running from Sparta is quite challenging with “all” uphill for the first 40 kilometres. Company was good and we had a steady flow.

10:21 Finally Spaghetti Bolognese at Ardamis

After 25 kilomters we had our first real break, and finally I was able to try out the Spaghetti Bolognese from Ardamis restaurant. Several people have told me about this famous Bolognes from Ardamis, and it turned out to be one of the better ones. The spaghetti was perfectly cooked with a thin layer of Parmasan cheese, and the Bolognese was just according to the books. (There are something with the tomatoes in Greece. They have a lot more flavour than what I am used to.) I added some extra salt and eat it all. Perfect sized portion for a smal running lunch dish.

12:36 alone again

Suddenly we reached Tegea and 50 kilometers were done, and my company had reached their destination. This has been the best part of the journey so far. These 5,5 hours was over like that. After a few drinks at the same bakery I used last time, I said good-bye and moved on.

Now I am back to myself again. Took some pictures of some Almonds trees and then moved on.

14:37 Zevgolatio

I love running with people, but is also a good feeling when they leave and you are left with yourself. I was now back to Zevgolatio (Spartathlon checkpoint 57). The town was still empty like a ghost town, but now — the cafe that was closed last time — was open. I sat down, ordered a Coca Cola, potato chips, and a ice cream. Then I did a live facebook session. But after five minutes the phone due to “overheating“.

16:40 Me a shepherd

I was now running in the in direction to Nestani, in the area where I last time had some near dog experience which caused me to hide at the highway. This time I took the chance. Found a big stick and moved through the area slowly and with every nerve in my body in alert mode. As a Shepard traveling through a nightmare.

16:49 I need suncream

The sun was burning, and I was running out of my protection factor 50 suncream. Fortunately I was now in back in Nestani. Had a fuel stop and god my stuff sorted out.

Thank you to Valori Papadopoulou for showing up. Thanks for the mental support and thank you for all the suncream and the good advice. It was great to finally met you in real life. Next time I will eat the real resturant and not at the pub I was at. And I will also find time to visit the temple at the top of the mountain pass.

Nestani is another one of these smal villages with a lot of charm.

I got my new suncream, relaxed and refueld.

I am in a hurry. The next stop is Lyrkeia after mountain pass, and I need to be there before sunset.

17:54 Call from my son

As I was trying to manoeuvre down the Staircase of Pafsanias my son called me again. “Dad, can you ask Grandpa to pick me up?” (He was at a friends house). And so I did, I called my dad — and asked him to pick up my son. And still he did not ask where I was and how I was doing. Kids are fantastic. He did not care if dad just at that moment in time was on a big journey passing a historical mountain pass. But why should he? He is used to my expeditions. This is normal for him. I am a normal dad.

19:43 trying to avoid the dogs

The clock is ticking and I am in a hurry. I do not want to go down into the same route with the dogs that were chasing me last time, and I am not allowed to run at the motorway (at this moment I cannot risk to be taken out . I get a feeling that they, the traffic police, are more aware of me, and will not tolerate another run at the highway if they see me).

I started to run at the right side of the motorway fence. Far away from the dogs, with a very steep hill on the right side. At the left I had the fence and the safe zone in case of trouble.

It was difficult and dangerous to run like this. If my foot slip, and will rush down the hill side to the right and get into trouble.

I walk now.

21:03 Happy kids

I managed it. Around nine in the evening, I reached the village of Lyrkeia. Had a few drinks at the first bar — and then continued on my way. From this village I only had 8 kilomters left to Malantreni, which was my destination for today. Could be less than one hour in the dark with poor headlights. That is manageable.

As I was leaving the town, several kids where running after me. Some of them at the age of my son. Acting like my son.

22:13 finally at the destination

The stretch from Lyrkeia was difficult. It was getting dark. I heard a lot of animals in the bushes.

After 4 kilometers I got into the smal village of Sterna. Dogs running around everywhere, like in every Greek village. I slowed down, and acted cool. I went into the only available cafe and bought a bottle of water. Several dogs where walking around me. “They are not dangerous”.

As I walked, I could not run through this place, to avoid stressing the dogs, one dog followed after me. No barking or shouting — but just following me. A bit to close. I had to walk back again to the cafe, and explained the situation to the owner. That the dog was following after me. She districted the dog and I was able to move out without any dogs after me

I was getting closer to Malantreni and close to my appointment. There are no hotels (or sleeping options) in this village, but I have pre-arranged with someone to help me out. We have had contact via Messenger.

Suddenly I see the lights from a motorcycle, it was a friend of my contact — and he was going to show me to the place I was going to stay for the night. I was safe, he escorted me into the village. Showed me the room, and told me where to eat. “Eat as much as you want! Is is all free”, he said. “I am owning that place”. I did not know what to say. “When you leave tomorrow, just leave the key in the door”. “And no pay”.

No shower, but toilet and wash basin — and a bench to sleep at.

After all, I was so happy to even get a place to stay for the night!

Day 4 done with 110 kilometers.

Day 5: The rough day

It is going to be fantastic day. My plan today is to reach Megara hotel, 96 kilometers away, but I know that this day will be very challenging for many reasons. I am now moving back into areas with a lot more stray dogs, the forecast looks very hot and the traffic roads at the end will be dangerous.

Running here on the countryside I am calm. I am not afraid, and I am not stressed out with anything. I can handle any situation. And when it comes to dogs, they are not really after you. Normally they just want to protect their territory. And out here, there are not territory or any buildings to protect. A good start.

Lets hope for an easy day. I am a bit tired and have not had a good sleep for since I left for Greece.

Next stop is Ancient Nemea.

07:05 Easy dirt roads

Area I am running through now is full of wine grapes. What a perfect way to start this day. When I get home, I will see if I can buy a wine from the Nemea district.

07:30 Dog issue 1: Running up that hills

After about 10 kilometers I get into some issues. Running at the left side of the road, approaching a company called Bassaniotis, B. A., “Alfa Products”, I saw two dogs on the left side. One was behind the fence and the other one was at the road (highlighted in red). Normally I feel that that would be safe, but this time I was unsure. The dog could easily run against me and I had nowhere to hide. The dogs which was out on the street was acting very unfriendly.

I decided to do a hard right, and run up the hill.

First obstacle for today done. Maybe it is just me — and maybe I am acting to safe — but I really try to avoid any confrontation.

08:00 Detour

As I continued for Ancient Nemea, I had to take several detours as shown below. The blue line is the normal route, but with watch dogs at the streets I could not pass through that area (or maybe I could just walk through them and act cool, and not showing fear — but no, I cannot handle that. Then I easily rather run several kilometres around these obstacles).

08:30 Greek coffee

Finally I reached Ancient Nemea and headed straight to the same cafe that I had my Greek Salad and fries a few days ago. Luckily that place was open. I sat down outside and joined a guy on his table. He was well informed about Spartathlon, and he actually had a Spartathlon shirt. He told med that the owner was out on “something” but should be here in five minutes. I went inside and grabbed a bottle of water and a bag of potato chips. Chatted with my new friend and waited.

About ten minutes later, the owner arrived — and I order a Greek coffee with sugar. Todays first coffee. After more than 3,5 hours. Just about time. I am not a big fan of Greek coffee — but this was perfect.

Moments like this is something to remember.

And to you, my new friend. Sorry, but I do not remember your name, but if you read this — thanks for the chat and hope to see you again in September.

09:44 Chalkeio is closed

It was getting hot, and I took the 1 kilometre detour to have stop at the tavern in Chalkeio.

But that turned out to be closed. (Note to self; do not always trust open hours from Google maps, especially not when you are on the Greek countryside).

I sit down on a bench. Takes off my shoes and socks. Putting down my bag. And takes off my t-shirt. I sit like this for a while and just take in the silence. Here I sit in an unknown city. There are no cars, no people. The only thing I hear is the chirping of birds and my own hunger. Suddenly a car comes driving and pulls me out of the silence. He looks at me and drives on. I feel hungry and thirsty. Picks up the phone, starts Facebook and starts a live broadcast (I do that sometimes when I’m feeling a little lonely. Good to
knowing that with just a “click” there are many people out there who get an insight into what I do and where I am). Feels good, feels safe and puts me in a good mood. Friends and acquaintances wish me luck. Let it “buzz and go” while I apply another layer of sun protection factor 50. And then I leave this place as untouched as when I arrived.

No one will miss me here, and no one has noticed that I have been here. I continue on.

Closed!

11:00 The rescue

It’s starting to get really hot and I can feel myself struggling. Not primarily from hunger or thirst, but that the head boils. Suddenly I feel that blood is flowing from my left nostril. Been struggling with this sudden bleeding for the past few days. Won’t stop. Stops running. Finds a shadow, takes out some paper and stuffs it into my nose. Bending forward, pressing over the nose and holding it like that for a few minutes. After a few minutes I think it has stopped and I continue.

I knew that I am not far from Zevgolateio. And I know it’s a city that definitely has open restaurants. And there I see the sign. Recognize me. Down to the left and under the bridge. Will be so happy that I will post a picture on Instagram. An image of the sign, and the text “Finally, now it’s time for food”.

But I also remember another thing from Zevgolateio. Which is not as pleasant. When I ran here a few days ago, it had gathered a bunch of dogs in a parking lot on my left, now my right, near the bridge that goes over the railroad. A group of just under ten dogs who just lay and listened. I thought about this now as I approached. I stay far to the left. Walked calmly and listened. Was scared. My fear of being “discovered” and attacked by a bunch of quadrupeds pushed away hunger, thirst and my general exhaustion.

I slowly walked forward. But to my astonishment, to my delight — there were no dogs gathered there today. I felt free. And continued across the bridge.
Now running. But the unrest did not completely go away. Maybe they have moved? Maybe they are now on the left side, where the bridge ends?

With each step I got closer to the core of the city. I see shops and I see people. Now I am saved.

Went into a pharmacy to buy sunscreen. Everyone had a mask. And there was a group outside. I just walked in. (In hindsight I understood that was actually a queue. That only one “cohort” is allowed in the room at a time, and that masks are required). They looked at me strangely. Was a female clerk behind the glass mounted. “Wait a minute”, she said. “Can I wash you?”, she asked. She put on gloves, found some kind of liquid — and started washing my face.
Wash away the blood. (I hadn’t seen myself in the face, but I obviously had so much blood — that they felt they had to do something. It was good to be touched. It was good to be washed.) Bought my sunscreen, and asked for suggestions for a restaurant. And left.

Finds the restaurant and sits down. The waiter does not know English, and makes some signs that I interpret as “wait a bit…”. Just across the hall is a language school for children. To learn English. The waitress disappears into that building and suddenly she and another person return. She speaks perfect English, goes through the menu and I get my order. I really just need food. And drink. No matter what.

I eat a meal that I will remember until I die. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so tired, so scared, so hungry, so thirsty. Eating pasta with chicken in a good tomato sauce. Lots of Parmesan. A good loaf of bread, olives and a Greek cheese in mixed chilli. And Coca Cola and many bottles of water. As a desert I had a greek cake, not sure about the name.

While I was sitting there getting my energy back, NRK Radio (Norwegian broadcasting company) called and I did a short radio interview on the live broadcast. (This is my local radio station at home in Stavanger, and they have followed me closely the whole way. I gave my status report and answered some questions).

12:30 Out of town

After Zevgolateio, it is 10 kilometers to next town which is Archaia Korinthos. There will be an opportunity to sit down and fill up on nutrition. I leave the city in good spirits, and with a lot of energy. But I feel it’s hot. Very hot. The time is now 12:30. and it is about 34 degrees Celsius. Going up to 36 during the day. For some strange reason, these 35 degrees feel much more intense than the 38 degrees I had a few days ago when I ran closer to the coast. It feels heavy. Maybe because I’m tired. Now on the fifth day. The body begins to feel the drive. Before I leave the city completely, I have to stop by a cafe and buy an iced coffee. And some extra water I can take with me on the trip.

13:00 Everything goes to hell

I’m starting to move out of town. Starting from the “safe” zone, and will now run on paths with danger for dogs. Running, and it’s going well. Have run here a few days ago, and know that on this stretch, there were — at least not the last time — any dogs that were not behind walls. But this time it’s different. This is a narrow road, and there — on the right hand side there is a house with the gate open, and with two dogs coming out. They are far away from me, but they say clearly from where they stand on the road, that here you can just forget to pass by. I know I can’t take that fight, and pulls me away.

Pulls away and runs back. I feel like I have to go to the bathroom. Now! It bubbles in the stomach. Trying to find a place. Is the first to visit one petrol station, but they don’t have a toilet, so I just decide to sit down in a side street. Nobody sees me. Quickly done.

So back to the route. Takes the map and finds an alternative route. Runs in and feels that this is good. But what the hell? A solid horse stands right in front of me on the path. After dogs, it is horses that I am most afraid of in life. He looks at me stupidly. I sprint what I’m good at. Back where I came from.

Now it’s boiling. Dogs, spontaneous stomach trouble, a horse. What will be next? And of course. Now the nose begins to drip blood. It almost cascades down. I know I need to take a time out. Finds a bus shelter along the main road, and sits down. Trying to stop the blood, but his head is trying to clear his mind. I’m dull. Just became a hell of a lot of stuff at once now.

After a short break, I have collected myself — and am ready again. Finding my original route after another necessary detour.

Will probably be a spontaneous trip to the bathroom. Now I just give up and leave it at that. Am on a quiet forest road and no one but me. Is out of toilet paper, but has a buff in the bag. Uses the buff. And the journey continues. Finds an orange tree, peels the peel and washes myself in the juices from the orange. Soon I will be in Archaia Korinthos.

15:00 Now it’s slow

You know. Sometimes you get to the point where you just give a damn. I was a bit like that now. I just wanted to sit down, eat and stay put until the next day. With a lot of beer, and just being unreasonable.

On the horizon I saw the pillars. Now I was there. In the tourist town of Archaia Korinthos. Hear Americans around me. Many. I do not care. Just hungry, thirsty and tired. Sits me down in exactly the same place as last time. Buy many bottles of water, and a small portion of Moussaka (after all, it’s been less than two hours since I ate a proper dinner). Sits down, talks to some people. Buy me ice cream and pretend I’m a tourist. Finally, I put on my running sandals, buy an ice cream and say goodbye.

16:52 Examilia

The next city was Examilia. Bought two bottles of water, toilet paper and chewing gum. Drank both bottles and continued.

17:00 Trouble trouble

I know that there are a lot of stray dogs in the area by the Corinth canal. Dogs just roaming around. And is mad. Or sick? After crossing under the freeway, I experience one like this. I come running and am going up a gentle hill. Suddenly a dog comes out from the right a little ahead of me. I stop. Turns around, and slowly moves out of the situation. (Just as the textbook says). Hear it bark, and come closer and closer. The pulse is high. Really scared. Takes out my “Dog Defense Spray” and keeps my finger on the trigger. Is ready. But then suddenly, when I feel that it is only a few meters away from me, it stops. And let me go. Don’t you dare turn on me. Just going and going. And suddenly I run.

I now stay close to the motorway before I cross into the Corinth canal. It’s busy here. But a lot of people. And not least a lot of dogs. But in such situations I am not afraid. The dogs won’t take me there. These crazy dogs on the bridge are only interested in people riding bicycles or people on mopeds.

I sit down in a cafe by the bridge and collect my thoughts.

19:00 More trouble

And there I sat. At the cafe by the Corinth canal and thought. The sun was shining. It was fantastic weather. Early evening. Thought that now it’s just a matter of getting into it. Now I come to one of the most difficult areas with a lot of stray dogs. Thought that “hell rather” just pull himself out of it. I can’t run on the highway like last time, but I can run on the old road which is located right next to the motorway. And if I keep to the far left, I can climb over the fence if some dogs come running. Then I have a safe zone An escape route. This is how I sat and thought.

It went well for the first part, but then the “old” road turned down from the motorway, and I lost control. Had to enter on original route. And there was chaos like no other. Dogs everywhere, lots of trying alternative routes around. (These are not dogs that you can just run or move past). Time passed and I started to get scared. Afraid of the dark. Would rather not be in this unknown landscape with a hell of dogs without being able to see properly.

20:13 Apricot

I made it all the way to Agioi Theodoroi and bought myself an apricot. Darkness would come in just over an hour, and I was starting to worry
if I were to reach the planned hotel. Megara hotel now more than 23 kilometers away. And I have bad headlamps. And the traffic is crazy.
Here I have to tread carefully and be focused.

22:00 Enough is enough

It’s getting dark. The cars whiz past on winding roads. I have reflecting vest and two headlamps. One that glows white in front and a flashing red behind. But the headlamp in front is of poor quality and this is becoming dangerous (it was a mistake on my part not to bring a proper headlamp, but the plan was never to run in the dark).

I am at a loss. But I decide to check into the first hotel I see. I can’t go on like this. The cars cut me, and I am clearly not visible enough. Thinking of them at home. On Isak and Ingeborg. My kids. I can’t take any risks here. Dog bite (or horse bite) I can handle it, but to be hit on the first week of vacation — would be very unfortunate.

After just under an hour and a half of running, I see at hotel at the right side. Hotel Cokkinis. And it has one room available. The time is now 22:00. Takes a quick shower. Begins to charge all equipment, and goes down to the restaurant.

A wonderfully nice evening. It is hot. A wonderful atmosphere. It is completely dark, but can hear the water down there on the right. It sure is beautiful. Or, I know it’s beautiful. It was exactly in this place that I sat on the first day and ate Moussaka and drank beer. The waiters recognize me, and we have a good laugh.

This time I’m not ready for beer with alcohol. Order a large bottle of water, a non-alcoholic beer and a fruit smoothie. And then I order various food.

Think. I survived this day too. 97 kilometers. Through dog hell!

Day 6 — 7: The final

05:45 Alone

Last night I slept absolutely wonderful. As expected. The body turns to this life. The constant quest to move forward. The constant reason to be attacked, to be caught. On learning to use the senses. Hearing, smell, sight.

I feel like a primitive man. Lovely. Love this!

08:00 Running away

I won’t bore you with more stories about dogs and my escape. But from early morning until I arrived at the town of Neo Peramos hours later, it was an eternal toil. An eternal fear that I will not give to anyone. At some point I had gotten so far that I had dogs on all fronts (at least that’s how I felt). That it was starting to look like hell. Don’t want to write too much about it here. But there were times when I was as scared as I have never been before.

08:40 Nea Peramos

I love seafood. When I ran past the stalls with the day’s catch, I just had to stop and smell. Hope I get time to come back sometime. To sit down and just enjoy. But I have to go, I’m starting to hurry if I’m going to meet the goal of coming in under six days. Starting to feel the pressure.

The roads are nice and I have good speed.

09:54 First round with nosebleed

Is in the city of Eleusina. As I run past stacks of watermelons, my nose begins to bleed again. This has really become a problem on this trip. The challenge is that the heat dries out the mucous membranes in the nose, and it does not have time to recover. Set me down on the side of the road. Head forward and stop the bleeding. Finds the first possible coffee and buys me something cold to drink.

11:05 Road from hell

The road out of Eleusina and into Aspropyrgos is both dangerous and ugly. It’s animal carcasses on the side of the road, and heavy traffic rushes past. In some places I choose to run on the right side of the road, in the midle, instead of the left — to keep away from dogs. (In that way, I had cars on left as a safety shield.)

11:14 Blood

But this is life. I love this. Even if it stinks strongly of dead animals, you feel the fear of being bitten and you are baking under the sun — there is something about this that attracts me. It makes me feel alive. If you understand.

I sit down at a coffee shop by the side of the road and order a lot of food and drink. I really need to cool down. Looks like it’s going to be a very hot day.

As I take a long, big swig of the ice-cold drink, the blood starts gushing out. It drips on the ground and on the food. I’m sitting there shirtless with blood on my chest. Really doesn’t look good. Those at the coffee bar are starting to get a little stressed, but luckily they don’t call an ambulance. If they had done that, I would certainly have been taken — and then I wouldn’t have been able to run in for less than six days.

They give me paper, lots of paper — and they give me a bag of ice cubes that I put to my head. It probably looks more dramatic than it is. I stay like this. Quite a long time. Eventually it calms down. I go to the bathroom and wash off all the blood.

Eating and drinking up.

And then someone comes over who wants to take a picture. There are many people who understand what I’m doing. Running the Marathon to Sparta round trip gives a big star.

13:01 Chaidari

I am getting closer and closer to Athens. The traffic becomes heavier and more violent. I am focused.

14:02 Aigaleo

Turns off in a side street and runs through small roads towards the city. Doesn’t run on the pavement but stays in the lane itself. Lovely. Flying in the the traffic. Feeling fantastic. Just hope I don’t have any more interruptions with nosebleeds.

15:06 And then finally …

I ran in the direction of Herodes Atticus. And suddenly I was there. Took a picture. But felt nothing. (This is where the start of the Spartathlon goes, and should have initially given me some emotions).

Running on.

15:49 Panathenaic Stadium

I arrive at the stadium for the second time in a few days. Takes a lap and then takes some new photos. (See you later today, I just need to run a short trip to Marathon and then come back to you.) Right now, as I stand here, it feels a bit pointless. The weather is nice, there is a summer atmosphere. Why not just say that enough is enough? And have a beer and maybe many more?

Regardless; I run on. Now I need food.

16:36 Pizza

I have been in big cities before, and know that the best food and restaurants are a little outside the main tourist attractions. Although maybe I should have eaten near the Acropolis (I’m insanely hungry, and have been for many hours), so I’ve chosen to wait until I get to a place where I know they have real food. And I’m hungry for pizza. I am now in an area called Mavili Square. Eating a fantastic pizza and a homemade lemonade. Life smiles.

18:14 Agia Paraskevi

I continue out of Athens in the direction of Marathon. The pace is very slow. I go up and down the pavement a lot and I have to watch out for cars on all sides.

20:40 Mati

When I was picked up from the airport days ago, Dimitris Pantazis, told me about the fire in Mati in 2018. 91 people lost their lives and over 190 was injured in that terrible forest fire. I was now running here, and I had to stop for a minute. It is hard to understand all this. 91 people. Today there is one single house there. As a monument.

21:11 Nea Makri

In the town of Nea Makri I was surprised by the running club Telmessos where I got a cool t-shirt from the president Vlasis Karavasilis.

Thanks for the support! And sorry that there was a slight change in the plans so that you could not attend the opening day.

A few kilometers prior to Nea Marki, my new friend Dimitri, joined me. It was fantastic to see him again. Dimitri was the one that picket me up from the airport, and he was going to run with me all the way into Marathon. That was exactly the input I needed. Thank you Dimitri!

As we approached Marathon more people where showing up and applouding. And there, I see Kostis Papadimitriou — the former International Spartathlon Association (ISA) president. I shake his hands and continue on my journey.

Telmessos running club. President Vlasis Karavasilis at my right side. In front of me Dimitris Pantazis and his partner Aggeliki Gianni. Chris Ganatsios, Marlilia Papakyriacou, Fillipos Tsapatoris.
From left: Filipos Tsapatoris, Andrew Panoutsos, Dimitris Pantazis and Vlasis Karavasilis

23:00 Marathon

I arrived at 22:15. I had a fantastic dinner with beautiful people. Thank you all for showing up! Kostis Papadimitriou, Dimitris Pantazis, Aggeliki Gianni, George Melekos and Maria Stamouli. Sorry, that I had to rush.

After eating up my pita, charging my electronics — I had to leave at 23:15. I started to run out of time. And my legs ached.

Again great to met you all! And thanks for all the mental support!

Clockwise: Maria Stamouli, Kostis Papadimitriou and Dimitris Pantazis.

01:20 Strangers in the night

There is something special about running in the middle of the night. It’s quiet, but suddenly some cars come and break the silence. There are dogs. There are red eyes in the bushes, and you notice that you are becoming a little sensitive. Takes easily to tears and you get closer to the soul.

02:30 Rain Dogs

I ran there in the direction of Kallimarmaro. In the dark. Tired and a little confused. Running around there with rocks in my right hand while listening to Tom Waits and his record called Rain Dogs (one of my favourites). A few drops of rain fell. And I felt that this is going the way. But I have to run. If I start walking then I won’t be able to do this in less than six days. I had to keep my legs moving. But now it hurts, and I’m starting to get a little cranky.

04:25 Misson accomplished

At 04:25 I arrived. I was out of emotion. Eleftheria Dimanoni, secretary of the board of the running club Telmissos, was there. Waiting for me! With food! She had followed me for hours, and now it was 04:25 and she was waited for me. Thank you very much. It was an emotional moment for me, and I was very glad that I could hug you — and that we could talk.

I did it! A wonderful adventure! Day 6 and 7 ended with 142.5 kilometers, and with a total moving time of 16,5 hours.

— —

Epilog

This adventure has been registered and accepted at fastestknowntime.com with total distance of more than 660 kilometers and with total duration of 5 days 22 hours 25 minutes 6 seconds. Route and actual GPX files can be downloaded from that site.

Last word

I do still not know what to feel!

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Planing, background, motivation. Why?

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Simen Holvik

Simen Holvik

Norwegian ultrarunner. | Next race: Spartathlon