Athens 1000 miles – a brief summary

Well folks, after 16 long days it is finally all over…

The Chinese have a saying (attributed to the Taoist master Lao Tsu) –


usually translated into English as

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.

This, like most of the world’s greatest philosophical thoughts, is both literally “true” and also deeply metaphoric.

But of course, a journey of a thousand miles not only begins with a single step, it also ends with one…

I’ll briefly summarise the positions at the end of the race.

1st          #19   Schwerk Wolfgang – GER – FINISHER, 11d 23h 18m 32s     1000 miles

Schwerk Wolfgang – GER - 1000 miles : 287hrs, 18mins, 32 secs / 11d 23h 18m 32s

Wolfgang Schwerk won the race by a very impressive margin, managing to finish the distance in under 12 days. The congratulations and respects of us all go to Wolfgang.

2nd         #18   Sichel William – UK- FINISHER, 13d 20h 08m 01s               1000 miles

William came 2nd overall, despite being forced to spend unplanned time off track when race doctors were concerned over his health and insisted he rest. William becomes the oldest Briton ever to compete the 1000 miles. On the way to the finish he set a new age group world record (M55) for 6 Day Road  with a distance of 800km / 497.09 miles (by breaking his own record!), he followed this up with a new M55 1000 km World Record with a time of 7 days: 23 hours: 45 mins: 43 secs, and topped this off with a new M55 1000 mile World Record 13 days:  20 hours:  08 mins:  1 sec, breaking the previous record by more than a day. No amount of praise for such achievements could ever really overstate things but knowing William he won’t be resting on his laurels and will soon be back in training for his next challenge (which also means I’ll have to get my thinking cap on, to work out ways of making his training even harder…).

3rd          #8     Bazzana Lucio – ITA – FINISHER, 14d 07h 23m 08s             1000 miles

Lucio Bazzana came in third, and really his performance deserves a huge amount of respect and admiration. At one point during the closing stages of the race, Lucio was less than one third of a kilometre (about one fifth of a mile) behind William, and I know that William had to pull out all the stops to keep his 2nd place. If William hadn’t have been running in the event, not only would Lucio have been second, he would also be the new M55 World Record holder – Lucio’s finishing time was more than 13hrs inside the previous M55 World Record for the 1000 miles – a really impressive achievement from the Italian veteran.

4th          #16   Dvoracek Vlastimil – CZE – FINISHER, 14d 16h 55m 13s     1000 miles

In many races people simply stop paying any attention after the first three finishers. Perhaps in most races this is understandable, as what impresses people is the minimum times achieved for the distance. But in  the 1000 mile race, I feel it would be really be both unreasonable and even “missing the point” not to mention all of the runners involved. Realistically not one single runner will have started this event actually knowing that they would even finish the race. All the training and preparation coupled with all the determination and self-belief in the world is still not enough to allow ANY runner to feel certain that they could undoubtedly complete the distance within the time – so much could potentially go wrong during such a vast distance and huge time-span that everyone will have had to face their doubts –  and conquer them – over and again. And again.

Vlastimil Dvoracek’s 4th place is something that any runner should be truly proud of.

5th          #6     Okiyama Hiroko – JPN – FINISHER, 14d 20h 54m 10s         1000 miles

5th place overall, but more importantly – 1st in the Women’s race – Hiroko Okiyama’s finishing time of under 15 days will surely have impressed us all. For most of the race Hiroko trailed Martina Hausmann, but the Japanese runner managed to increase her pace in the later stages to take, and hold on to, the lead. An outstanding performance.

6th          #10   Hausmann Martina – GER- FINISHER, 15d 9h 37m 07s        1000 miles

Martina during the 5th night

Martina Hausmann managed to complete her 2nd 1000 mile race in Athens, and was the 2nd woman to finish. Leading the Women’s race for most of the event, while she was eventually overtaken by Hiroko, Martina nevertheless sets a new World Record for her age group. This would have been the case regardless of her finishing time, as no woman of her age has ever before completed the 1000 miles. It is likely that Martina will retain this World Record for a very long time to come…

7th          #9     Tahkavuori Maria – FIN – FINISHER, 15d 16h 54m 07s        1000 miles

Maria of Finland

Maria Tahkavuori took 3rd place in the Women’s race with a very creditable time. While Maria never quite managed to challenge for the top position, it was very close for most of the race and she maintained a good pace throughout – I’m sure we will see (more) amazing things from the Finnish runner in times to come

8th          #7     Lo Wei Ming – TPE – FINISHER, 15d 21h 18m 03s              1000 miles

5th place in the Men’s race goes to Lo Wei Ming, finishing the 1000 miles with less than 3 hours to spare – a performance that was honestly quite exceptional.

In context, before Athens –

No male runner completed the 1000 miles within the time limit on the last occasion that the 1000 mile race was held.

And no runner completed the distance the time before that either!

Had Lo Wei Ming achieved the same time in either of those races, he would have been standing on top of the podium. As it is, I believe Lo Wei Ming  is the first Taiwanese runner ever to run 1000 miles.

The 1000 mile race is a event where, to put things very mildly, simply finishing the race may be the highlight of a runner’s career.

On another day any of the above runners may well have won the race outright, and all deserve the most profound respect for their truly amazing achievements.

9th          #13   Thanos Nikos – GRE                                                               1465 km / 910.5

Nikos Thanos gained 6th place in the Men’s race. While not quite managing to complete the 1000 miles, Nikos nevertheless ran well over 900 miles in the time allowed – gaining both the admiration and commiseration of everyone who followed the race. On the one hand his distance was an outstanding achievement, and on the other hand we can only imagine how it must feel to have come within 90 miles of the distance and yet be denied be the speeding hands of the clock.  In many ways Nikos’ performance deserves a special mention because he proved beyond an shadow of a doubt that he simply wasn’t prepared to quit. It must have been obvious several days before the 16 day mark that it would be virtually impossible to reach the 1000 miles in the time allowed. Many runners would have shrugged their shoulders and retired at that point – but not Mr. Thanos. This deserves just as much respect as any other performance in the race.

10th        #14   Istvan Sipos – HUN – 1068 km 10d 5h 36m 45s                     DNF

11th        #12   Nomikos Nikitas – GRE – 1050 Km in 10d 23h 04m 02s        DNF

12th        #1     Sherrington Abichal – UK- 1000 Km in 11d 13h 26m 58s       DNF

Abichal Watkins from Wales - Britain's other entrant in the 1000 mile race

13th        #5     Schlotter Hans Jurgen – GER – 757 Km in 6d 6h 03m 21s       DNF

14th        #4     Baxevanis Costas – GRE – 542 Km in 4d 18h 04m 39s           DNF

15th        #2     Katsaros Achilleas – GRE – 525 Km in 6d 15h 15m 03s          DNF

16th        #17   Zimmermann Walter – GER – 161 Km in 1d 7h 16m 18s         DNF

Seven other runners started the race, and for one reason or another were forced to retire before the 16 day mark. Their performances in the race will, in time, for most people be consigned to dry statistics – but I am sure this won’t be the case for the runner’s themselves….  They may not have managed the 1000 miles, but they can honestly be proud to have been a part of one of the world’s toughest ever competitions and each must be considered an elite athlete in their own right.

Regardless of their finishing position or distance – how many people in the world can say they have ever entered a 1000 mile race?

Many seasoned ultra-runners would not even consider attempting such a distance. All the runners in this event are worthy of the very deepest respect.

In Britain there is an old saying, “It matters not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game”.

Perhaps a suitable way of putting things in the context of 1000 mile race  may be

“It matters not how far or fast you run – what matters is what you set out to achieve”.

If a runner sets out to achieve a distance of a thousand miles, but does not do so by the end of the race – this is not a defeat. Defeat would only come by not attempting the challenge.

The goal may or may not be achieved, but each step toward it is in itself a victory, both for the individual runner on their personal journey, and for the spirit of humanity as a whole.

If the 1000 mile race teaches us anything it should be that the definition of what is “impossible” is largely a matter of our own perception.

The 1000 mile race and the performances of all those involved shows us that through determination, time, effort, sacrifice and the focus of  will, a human being can achieve more than they might think or dream possible…

And that is a lesson we should all try to learn…