ATHENS, Sept. 30 (Xinhua) -- The 41st edition of the Spartathlon ultramarathon race kicked off on Saturday at the foot of the Athens Acropolis, as 380 runners from 50 countries and regions aim to finish the 245-kilometer event from Athens to Sparta in southern Greece.
Following the footsteps of the ancient Greek soldier Pheidippides, their common goal is to cross the finish line on Sunday.
According to ancient Greek historians, in 490 BC, ahead of the battle of Marathon against the Persian forces, Pheidippides ran from Athens to Sparta to request support. He reached his destination on foot nonstop within two days.
In 1982, three British runners set off to test whether the references were correct, leading to the establishment of the event.
Runners will cross olive groves next to archaeological sites, rough tracks, climb steep hillsides and mountains to reach the statue of ancient King Leonidas in Sparta within the 36-hour time limit. There they will be awarded an olive wreath and drink a sip of water from the Evrotas river.
Dietmar Goebel, a 58-year-old orthopedic surgeon from Germany, has made it nine times and is confident of celebrating his 10th finish.
"All throughout the year I live for this race, so when I come here, it is like a homecoming," he told Xinhua.
"In 2014 I did my personal best, 26 hours. In 2016 I finished with my son, the first father-son finish in the history [of Spartathlon]," he added.
This year he is running next to his friend, Thomas Kornexl, a notary who is running the Spartathlon for the first time.
"It was my dream [to participate]. I searched info on the internet five years ago and since then I did not stop thinking about how I could make it to stand here one day, running next to champions. I am only a beginner," Kornexl told Xinhua, speaking in Greek that he had learned from a colleague.
"If you want (to achieve something), you can. The question is what do you want," he said.