[Advendure]: It was your first attempt to run the Spartathlon ultra-race, just some days after your win at Run Rabbit Run 100 miler in the US, but you managed to win the third position overall and also to break the women’s record by 37 minutes despite the extreme heat and humidity during the race. We actually believe that your race was a top-performance in such conditions but tell us about your feelings. Are you satisfied with your effort and your finishing time? Do you think - as an athlete living in cooler climates than Greece - that hot weather deteriorated your performance worse than others in the race?
[Lizzy]: ah, yes the perennial question! Are we ever satisfied with our efforts? I think that whatever challenge we give ourselves (not only the running goals!) we are never quite 'satisfied' because while we can appreciate our achievement, we know there is always more to learn, and therefore room to improve … In fact, I didn't feel I had an outstanding race at Spartathlon. I hope I have significantly more potential, so I would love the opportunity to return another year! For sure I 'felt' the heat, but those conditions were something that we all faced, and we had to deal with in the best way that we could. In an ultra you have to deal with whatever the race throws at you, the environment, the weather, your own body, your own mind ….
[Advendure]: Tell us about your low and high points during the race? I think that after Nemea (km-128), and as you were getting into the night - with much lower temperatures than before - the conditions started to be more “friendly” for you. At least this is what we felt from your expression and spirit as you moved from station to station. The race seemed to become more “comfortable” for you from that point, especially in terms of weather conditions.
[Lizzy]: In running, as in life, you have to learn to take the rough with the smooth, the ups with the downs. Nothing lasts … in sport you have to find a deep equanimity within yourself that allows you to 'flow' through both the good and the not so good. The worlds of Kiplings poem 'If' come to mind. The Buddhist doctrine of impermanence is an important one to keep in mind - nothing lasts. During the race then yes, in some ways things became easier with the cooler temperatures of the night, but it also then became a fight against the lack of sleep over the previous few days (I sleep lightly, so having a hotel room on the dual carriageway wasn't so easy). It's interesting how sometimes what you are feeling and experiencing within yourself is so different to what supporters and spectators 'see'.
[Advendure]: Spartathlon is considered one of the toughest ultra-races worldwide. Many athletes consider this race harder even from Badwater! Taking into consideration your vast ultra-racing experience and after the completion of your first Spartathlon race, do you think that really Spartathlon is one of the toughest -or better one of the “cruelest”- road footraces on planet and for what reason?
[Lizzy]: It is very hard to compare between races or to 'label' them … every race has its own unique challenges, be it 166km in the mountains or 10km on the road. For me, the special thing is to have found the world of endurance sport, and to have this opportunity to explore my limits. It is not only about the victory or the competition. In the end it isn't just about the race. For me the motivation is very much within myself - to try to do the best I can in each moment. It is about the journey - physical, mental and spiritual - the preparation - the in between - the looking for the 'edge'.
[Advendure]: Pizza and chocolate milk for refueling at the aid-stations during the night! It was quite interesting because milk is not something that ultra-runners use to consume due to possible stomach problems. However, it seems that is working for you! Tell us a few things about your refueling strategy during such a long and hard race…
[Lizzy]: I often find milk helps in a long ultra as it is an easily digestible food. This was the first time to try pizza though. What I eat during the race itself depends on the length and duration, but it is important to strike a good balance to maintain sufficient energy for the race you are doing. I prefer real food to gels when possible, but easily digestible food is key. It is hard to have a 'strategy' in advance, so I just try to prepare a selection, to make sure there is some variety, in the hope that something will work!
[Advendure]: You learned that you are on-time for breaking the course women’s record just before the long uphill of Parthenion Mountain (around km-220). It seemed that you put some pressure after you became aware of that, chasing Dr. Thalman and the record with more intensity. Tell us a few things about this great battle during the last part of the race.
[Lizzy]: My race strategy for every race is very simply to run the very best that I can at each moment of the race. Of course I did already know what the course record was, so it was in the back of my mind during the race, not only after the 220km mark. But to be honest, even after that 220km mark I was more focused on just running as well as I knew I was able to at that point. It was soon after dawn if I remember rightly, and of course with the new light coming into the sky you get a huge boost of energy, so it is easy to pick up the pace at that point.
[Advendure]: You finally arrived in Sparta - with the crowd cheering for you - and you finally touched the King Leonidas statue…What were your first thoughts? I believe it was a very emotional moment, even for a runner of your experience and number of victories!
[Lizzy]: The finish of every race is an emotional moment, because a race demands your mental and emotional commitment as well as physical effort! And the finish of each race is special for its own reason. Running in to Sparta surrounded by the children on their bicycles, with so many people out in support, was very moving. Just to realise what my achievement and effort meant to so many people.
[Advendure]: Japanese Spartathloners say “I’m lucky that I didn’t win Spartathlon because then I wouldn’t have any reason to come back next year!” What about you? And if this really happens for you, is more the thrill than the challenge that inspires you to come back again?
[Lizzy]: It isn't only about winning, it is about knowing you have given the best of yourself that you can. I think I there are still challenges for me within the Spartathlon, I still have more potential to explore … so yes the race will pull me back.
[Advendure]: We all have now the critical question in our minds: Do Lizzy will break her own women’s standing record next time? To me the answer is “yes” but how much? Can a woman break 24 hours in Spartathlon?
[Lizzy]: I'm sure some woman will break 24 hours in time! I have no idea if it would be possible for me. I don't know what I will be capable of, but I hope for the opportunity to return one day (perhaps with a little kinder weather conditions) and simply to try to do the very best I can, and to enjoy sharing the journey - physical, mental and spiritual.