The 2023 Spartathlon turned into an all-time women’s series thriller that started at dawn on Saturday morning on the last day of September. Many of the best ultra runners in the world started from the foot of the Acropolis in Athens, such as; Satu Lipiäinen FIN (12h ME result holder), Camille Herron USA (24h ME and 48h ME), Diana Dzaviza LAT (two-time Spartathlon winner), Noora Honkala FIN (6x Spartathlon visitor, 2021 Spartathlon third), and many other world’s toughest ultra runners.
The first marathon was led by the Norwegian Line Caliskaner in just over three hours. Noora, Camille, Satu and Diana all in the wake of the tip. The absurd hardness of the pace is reflected, for example, at 100km, the women came in under 8h and at 12h, when Noora Honkala had moved to the top, a whopping 144km skyrocketed (this would be the top 10 result of a 12h run of all time in the world).
The weather was most optimal starting partly cloudy and around 20°C – but then the mercury later reached 32°C in ancient Corinth with the sun was burning from a cloudless sky. As the night wore on, around Tripoli all the way to Sparta, it was 6-8°C – it was cold and too challenging for many to face.
The race turned into a thriller after 12 hours, when Camille Herron got to challenge herself to the next level and Noora went through slightly more challenging stages on the hardest uphill of the day. At the mountain and crossing it, Noora, Satu and Camille were all almost at the same level and the epic battle of the end was covered. In Nestani (just over 70km to go), all the top women were together, and all had only one goal, Victory!
The next 10 km were covered by stray dogs and random street-lamps. At around 182 km Camille decided to put everything on the line, breaking away from Noora and Satu. Coming to Tegea (at 194km), Camille had already managed to break away from Noora, who came second, by almost 9 minutes. The legendary Spartan Road known to all top competitors is a route where anything can happen, and where everything has to be given.
Camille was able to keep the charm to the end and increase the lead in the last long climb of about 30 km. The final deciding point of the race took place only at 220km, where Satu was about 400m from Noora, closing the distance constantly. Noora was able to gather her strength and decided to leave everything on the road. During the last 25km, Noora’s strong finish took Noora to second place. Camille finished in 22:35:30, Noora in 23:23.02 and Satu in 23:48.36.
History was made in this race, which can be preserved for a long time. The previous women’s record in 2017 by Patrycja Bereznowska (24:48:18), which was believed to be unbreakable, was actually smashed by these incredible women.
And in the entire history of Spartathlon, there are only about 10 men who have ever run harder than these times. The women’s amazing competition was also historic in the overall statistics; Camille was third in the overall competition (including a man), Noora was fourth and Satu was sixth.
Text and photos: Sami Vaskola