Imagine having to run 155 miles in 1 1/2 days with no sleep. Chris Chatzis, a Salt Lake City electrical contractor, completed this challenge posed by Greece's Spartathlon, a 250K race from Sparta to Athens, finishing in 70th place in little more than 33 hours. Chatzis began running in 2006 and, in May, started training with Karl Meltzer, a local ultrarunner who is considered one of the best in the country. Chatzis went on to complete races such as Snowbird's Speed Goats (50K) and the Brazos Bend 100-mile, which he had to run in under 21 hours to qualify for the Spartathlon. Chatzis, who has dual American-Greek citizenship, represented Greece in the race because he felt being an American running as a Greek participant would honor both countries.
What was it about the Spartathlon that caught your interest?
The history, heritage of Greece and difficulty of the race caught my interest. That seemed like the ultimate race to run, as it combined difficulty and history, and it took place in Greece. It honors Pheidippides, the historical runner who asked the Spartans to help Athens fight the Persian invasion in what would be known as the Battle of Marathon.
Were you concerned about the endurance needed to complete it?
Absolutely. One small thing can go wrong on that specific day and can hinder your success. The cutoffs for this race are very strict—385 people started and 174 finished the race because of each qualifying stage.
How did your family deal with it?
My family was very supportive and sacrificed a lot for me to train long hours. My wife and I have two small kids who couldn't be at the finish line, but they were following the race online and on the live-stream from the Spartathlon website. Two great friends, Tyler Lamprecht and Lex Curtis, traveled from Utah to Greece to assist me and played the important role of being my crew. I did have many family members and friends at the race and at the finish line, including my parents and father in-law, as well as uncles, aunts, cousins who live in Greece and a friend from the Greek army.
Did you ever think of giving up during the race?
Giving up was never an option. The one challenge that stands out is a stomach issue around Mile 75 as a result of overhydrating. I was not able to consume calories at this point, and I ended up finishing up the race on lemon-lime soda for 100 miles.
You've finished one of the most grueling races on the planet. What's next?
When I finished the race, I told my wife, "I never want to do this race again." However, as my body has recovered, I look forward to doing this race again one day. The support that the people of Sparta give the runners is incomparable to any other event I know. The Spartans honor all entrants, including runners who attempt, but do not finish, the race.