Late last night the Spartathlon organizing committee released the official field for this year's race. I know most ultra-running fans in the U.S. care much more about trail races (and follow stars like Geoff Roes, Karl Meltzer, Killian Jornet, etc), but the other side of ultra-running (road stuff) is waaaaaay more popular internationally. Personally I find both sides of this coin equally rewarding to both run and follow as a fan. Last month's UTMB had most of us excited to follow the superstars of mountain running, and lucky me is even more excited for the chance to line up with a field of international road ultra stars in Athens later this month!
First off, I can't wait to see what Japan's Shingo Inoue can run in relation to the legendary course record of Yiannis Kouros (an incomprehensible 20:25). For those of you who don't know Shingo, when Scott Jurek broke the American 24-Hour Record at the World Championships last year with 165+ miles, Shingo was the guy who beat him by 5 miles for the win. The guy is a machine. I can't wait to see what he does out there (or, rather, hear about how he did when I finish a few hours after him). As always, Shingo's Japanese team leads the field in terms of total entrants with 61 runners toeing the line this year. It's no wonder they've won the 24 Hour World Championship 6 years in a row, they are a people who truly love and respect the road ultra world and its history.
I won't bore you by naming a bunch of other guys you've never heard of, but I will mention last year's winner, Ivan Cudin of Italy will be back to defend his title, and two other former champs will also be returning to the field. All told, there will be 39 countries represented, with the usual large contingents (after Japan's 62) from Germany (44), Greece (43), France (22), and Italy (18)...all countries who have produced winners in the past.
On the U.S. side, we'll be proudly lining up 8 countrymen atop the Acropolis. In addition to myself, we have two speedsters from NYC in Oz Pearlman and Michael Arnstein ready to set the roads a'blaze (both can crank out a 2:2X marathon). Oz has done some ridiculous things at the 50 mile distance (5:25 at Chicago Lakefront in '09!!), and Michael recently won the Vermont 100 in a smokin' time of 15:26. I'm not sure either guy has ever gone over 100 miles before, but they certainly have the talent to make a big splash in their debut.
While those two will certainly go out faster than me, they'll probably have some company with US 100k National Team member Chad Ricklefs. Chad has won the Leadville 100 a couple times, and finished 14th in the 100k World Championships last year. It will be great to see what he can do with his versatile talent out there.
Joining the team with some oh-so valuable 100+ mile experience and talent is Chicago's Adrian Belitu. Adrian has multiple Badwater finishes among his many other achievements, not the least of which is being a great guy too!
California is contributing two veterans to the squad as well with Rajeev Patel (many many many 100 mile finishes) and Christian Burke (100+ mile experience with a 24 Hour win under his belt). I've yet to meet these two gentlemen, but am looking forward to toasting some Ouzo with them in Sparta!
Last but not the least bit least, all-around great guy Chisholm Deupree from Oklahoma is hopping across the pond to join in the adventure as well. I've met Chisholm a couple times while running 24 hour races, and I recall his stride looking way better than mine on both occasions. The nerve of some people! Chisholm has multiple Badwater finishes, 72 Hour experience, and tons of solid 24 Hour results on his resume. I know he'll run a successful race plan to reach Sparta in style.
Sure, we might not have the most (or any!) experience as some of the other countries out on the course, but we do have some talent, and I know we'll do our best to represent the Red, White, and Blue to the best of our abilities!