“If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon. If you want to talk to God, run an ultra.”
I am far from an ultra runner. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ll never do one. Although, I’m a firm believer in “never say never” (thanks, Fievel! Did anyone get that? Anyone!??) but right now an ultra marathon sounds ridiculous. I have, however, always been a fan of Dean Karnazes. His story inspires me and the way he can run and push himself for hundreds of miles is beyond my comprehension. So, when I saw a new book on the front shelf of the library, I immediately picked it up and checked it out.
“The Road to Sparta” is the story of the 153-mile run from Athens to Sparta that inspired the marathon and saved democracy, as told―and experienced―by ultramarathoner and New York Times bestselling author Dean Karnazes.
“In 490 BCE, Pheidippides ran for 36 hours straight from Athens to Sparta to seek help in defending Athens from a Persian invasion in the Battle of Marathon. In doing so, he saved the development of Western civilization and inspired the birth of the marathon as we know it. Even now, some 2,500 years later, that run stands enduringly as one of greatest physical accomplishments in the history of mankind.
Karnazes personally honors Pheidippides and his own Greek heritage by recreating this ancient journey in modern times. Karnazes even abstains from contemporary endurance nutrition like sports drinks and energy gels and only eats what was available in 490 BCE, such as figs, olives, and cured meats. Through vivid details and internal dialogs, The Road to Sparta offers a rare glimpse into the mindset and motivation of an extreme athlete during his most difficult and personal challenge to date. This story is sure to captivate and inspire―whether you run great distances or not at all.”
I absolutely loved this book! I have read many of Dean’s books (all but one) and always enjoy his writing, but this was by far my favorite.
He combines his own personal journey, not only to discover his heritage but also his journey to running the Spartathlon, a 150+ mile race from Greece to Sparta. Mixed in with ancient Greek history of Pheidippides, and you’ve got a great read!
SPOILER ZONE AHEAD:
I learned a lot from reading this book. Things I had never really known before. I learned that Pheidippides’ journey of 26 miles was not even the half of what he did. Before the famous 26 miles, he had run 150 to Sparta and then again back to Greece! No wonder he collapsed and died upon delivering the great news of the Persian defeat!
Besides getting a history fix, I think what I liked the best about this book is that Dean doesn’t write about winning a race. Him doing the Spartathon isn’t about a race he has to win. It’s more about finding out where he (his family) came from and discovering what his ancestors might have gone through. He doesn’t end up winning. He pushes himself to the brink, the edge, of where his body can go to reach that finish line and says “I had set out to find Pheidippides, and in the process found myself.”
I highly recommend this book to people who love running and history. Fans of Dean Karnazes most definitely should pick up this book. It’s an easy, quick read that will satisfy any runner’s curiosity of the guy that forever changed the world of running (both Pheidippides and Karnazes).
Find it on Goodreads.