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The Road to Sparta : Retracing the Ancient Battle and Epic Run That Inspired the World's Greatest Foot Race
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Archive: Other Books > The Road to Sparta by Dean Karnazes - 2 stars

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Charlotte | 1663 comments The Road to Sparta : Retracing the Ancient Battle and Epic Run That Inspired the World's Greatest Foot Race by Dean Karnazes
2 stars

I was at the library picking up a book I had on hold and decided to look around. This book caught my eye mainly because it was about the author's story of running the Spartathon. For those that don't know, the Spartathlon is a running race that is run every year from Athens to Sparta... 153 miles... without stopping, AKA an ultramarathon of epic proportions. I have a friend that has run it multiple years in a row and is running it again this year. I thought this might give me another perspective of what he goes through. Also, I've heard of Dean Karnazes but I couldn't remember where...

In talking to said friend and then in showing the book to my husband, I was reminded who Dean Karnazes is . He is an elite ultramarathoner. He has a ton of accomplishments but most notable, he ran 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days. He also ran across the US from Disneyland in CA to New York City. Some people love him for what he does, all that he inspires, and the attention that he brings to a little known sub-culture of runners. Unfortunately, my husband and friend are not his biggest fans, so I went into the book with a bit of a preconceived idea about Karnazes.

The book was just... meh. Dean Karnazes is not a writer. He is an amazing runner and a great showman. He is great at bringing attention to himself and the sport. I was first put off by his description of his life leading up to when he ran the Spartathlon, which was most of the book... over half. There were glimmers of good sprinkled here and there. Every once and a while, he would tell a story that was captivating and interesting but then it would go back to being meh.

The subtitle of the book is, "Reliving the Ancient Battle and Epic Run that Inspired the World's Greatest Footrace", but it is a telling of the history riddled with inconsistencies because Dean Karnanzes has decided to add in his own personal assumptions to romanticize the story. He even says this later in the book, "...permit me if you will, dear reader, a romantic departure from historical record to tell a concluding fictionalized version of what happened next..." At one point in the book he even criticizes historians for not hypothesizing on what our world would have been like if Pheidippides did not complete any of his runs when the Persians were attacking Greece.

The nail in the coffin for the book was during the Conclusion chapter where he briefly writes about how the modern marathon came to be. He makes assumptions on how people feel when they run a marathon. His multi-page description of what it is like makes running a marathon sound horrible and painful. It's such a pessimistic telling of what it is like. It is nothing like what it was like when I ran any of my marathons. I can not relate to much in his description of running a marathon... but that's just me. I'm sure a lot of people have had a hard time running one because it is hard. And I've had a hard time before, but I'm a really optimistic person so I generally don't have, "... a gloomy voice saying 'You can't!'."

This book felt like a love letter to himself, Greece, and Pheidippides than an actual account of history, what led to the creation of the Spartathlon, and Dean's experience during his training and running of it.

I've heard from my friend who is running the Sparthathlon again this year that the rumor is Dean is running this year as well. I'm looking forward to following along again this year and seeing how everyone does. If you've never heard of it, it's an amazing feat of human endurance. Runners from all over the world enter the race. You have to qualify to be able to sign up and there are only a select number of spots available for each country. I agree with Dean Karnazes in that the finish line ceremony is unlike and so much better than any other race. To finish, the runner enters Sparta and runs to the center of town where the bronze statue of King Leonidas stands. The runner must run to and touch the feet of the statue, at which point the mayor of Sparta places an olive branch coronet upon the head of the runner and they are handed a golden goblet of water from the Holy River of Eurotas to drink from.

I feel like now I need to find a more accurate account of Pheidippides and the battles surrounding his run to know what really happened.


message 2: by Nicole R (new)

Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7784 comments I know of a woman I went to grad school that does ultramarathons! She and I ran in the same circles, but really didn't know each other too well, but a mutual friend of ours has posted some news articles about the runner on FB and I admit that I am completely captivated by the concept.

I mean, I can't even fathom running that far, and these people do it all the time! And this author ran 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 different states?! For him, 26.2 miles probably feels like a warm up.

Blows my mind.


Charlotte | 1663 comments Nicole R wrote: "I know of a woman I went to grad school that does ultramarathons! She and I ran in the same circles, but really didn't know each other too well, but a mutual friend of ours has posted some news art..."

My husband is a runner and has worked in the industry for most of his life (actually how I met him). Because of him and being involved in various running groups, a good number of my friends are ultra-athletes. I feel like I dip my toe or have dipped my toe in as an ultra-athlete but I have one friend in particular who has taken it to the next level. He is signed up for the Spartathlon (153 miles) and 5 or 6 other ultra races just this year! One year in the past, he ran horizontally across the state of Tennessee. He is one of my favorite people and I'll definitely be cheering him on and hoping he beats the author (if the author is in fact running this year). I love following the FB posts of his races.

I plan on reading more books in this genre because I'm trying to get my motivation to train back.


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