The past and present of an ancient race dating back to 490BC is the subject of a new short film whose makers are seeking €15,000 in crowdfunding to get from the road to the silver screen.
Today’s Spartathlon runners are following in the path of Pheidippides, the runner sent by the Athenians to Sparta in 490BC in a bid to raise reinforcements to fight the mighty Persian army in what was to be the Battle of Marathon.
According to the historian Herodotus, he arrived in Sparta “the next day”. In 1982, an RAF officer, John Foden, set out to see if that was possible. After he and two colleagues succeeded, the Spartathlon was born the following year.
The race starts at 7am at the foot of the Acropolis and passes through Elefsina, Megara, Kineta and Corinth, on its way towards the most historic of destinations in Sparta: the feet of the statue of Leonidas, the Spartan leader who found immortality with the 300 at Thermopylae ten years after the Battle of Marathon.
The brainchild of journalist Barney Spender, the 30-minute film will not be a straightforward sports documentary “but more of an artumentary where sport meets history meets music, a film of brain, brawn and beauty”.
Greek Olympic legend Ioannis Melissanidis, now an actor, has also thrown his weight behind the film. He will be the voice of Herodotus. The film will also come with an original score, by Greek band Old House Playground.
An entirely independent film, Spender and his director of photography, Roddy Gibson, have worked out a budget of €15,000 to complete the film from the shooting to the editing to making sure that the band get into a decent studio to make the soundtrack.
“To make the best possible film, we need your help,” says Spender, who has set up a crowdfunding page for the project on Indiegogo. With 17 days to go before the funding campaign ends, the film has already raised 16% of the money it needs.
This budget covers the logistical practicalities of flights, sustenance, car hire, petrol, hotels, phones, camera hire in Athens, Go-Pro cameras for the runners, drones for aerial filming, editing, music and initial marketing.
As the film will follow four runners who will be strung out along the road over the course of 36 hours, a minimum of four crews are needed on the go at any one time.
Everyone involved in the making in the film is working on an expenses only basis.
A love of sports
A sports journalist since 1988, Spender has covered plenty of major events, none bigger than the Olympic Games which took him to Greece in 2004.
“I was meant to be there for three months: I stayed for five years. During that time, I discovered the Spartathlon and rediscovered my love for elite sport in its purest sense,” says Spender, who also presented a popular show on Athens International Radio and covered sports for the Athens News.
“There is no financial reward for winning or competing in the Spartathlon. The runners are motivated instead by the desire to push themselves beyond the safe parameters that most of us tend to build around ourselves,” he points out.
“Some will see them as completely mad; they see themselves as explorers, seeking to find what lies beyond their own perceived physical and mental limitations.
“I want to examine those men and women, by watching them through the race and interviewing them before, during and after the race, to see how their minds and bodies react to the intense pressure of attempting to complete the course within the 36-hour time limit.”