Yiannis – Part 3 – The Ghost & Beyond

By Sami Vaskola. 

There was the “ghost”, an undeniable crown for ultras, that the whole global running community believed that 300km in 24hours is an impossible peak to conquer.

Thus, it came to pass, that on the early morning hours of October 4th, 1997, ten men and two females stood at the starting line for what became a one of the most monumental days in running.

Shin slowly going down, eyes glazing into his worn shoes, and again, isolating himself away from everything and everyone, just like his first Spartathlon a lifetime ago…

One could argue, this was the perfect run. The first 100 miles completed in 11:57:59, 200km at 15:10:27, and finally 24 hours at staggering 303,5km – a new World Record. Yiannis was the first human being ever to pass 300km in 24 hours!

Beyond

As he was trying constantly to improve himself, it took 21 years to break his own 6-day World Record.

“My goal for that race was too high. I could not run at all on the 6th day because of a hurricane and a torn hamstring on the 5th å day – well, not until the last two hours, and that surprised me!”

Over two decades Yiannis has dominated the ultra-running world, like nothing we have ever witnessed before. He had this extraordinary mind that could control pain and think positively when it was the darkest of times.

“During every one of my races, I wasn’t happy with any of them, because I never had that perfect run or ideal conditions, but in my mind, I kept overcoming the challenges.”

Fading away

Hero became an icon, an icon to a legend, a legend to a myth, and eventually, his image was reduced to dust of time when there were just faint whispered stories of this extraordinary person, who ran on the hills of Greece.

One day I came across this evenly tanned humble but smiling gentleman. We sat down for a cup of coffee to look at people walking and running by. I could tell in his eyes and face, that he has seen the world and taken in distant horizons.

Shortly after this first meeting, he started to tell me his story – a story of how he is chiselling and polishing marble outside of his tiny house on the island. Writing a book about a soldier and how he has discovered the end and beginning, but the journey and reaching the end is what makes it complete.

I instantly knew who he was…

The Present

Now there are more people involved, more races and more knowledge about ultra-running. Perhaps now is the time to start to appreciate and reward athletes of their efforts.

Yiannis fought for the rights of those small individuals, whose dream is to become a professional ultra-runner.

Nowadays many of us rely on the technology and how to improve our physical fitness. He showed us that there is more than physical fitness inside every person. He’s legacy lives in those ultra-runners and runners alike, who are go beyond their physical limitations. Like Yiannis says “there is not one level, there are multiple levels.”

His Legacy

There has never been any runner or athlete in the history of sport who has come close to his achievements. He has over 160 World Records, many of which still stand today. He is considered as the best ultra-runner ever by fellow runners.

He is the greatest of all time – Yiannis Kouros.

Yiannis was nominated to the Ultra-Running Hall of Fame in Australia, but never got any credits from IAU (International Ultra Running Federation), World Athletics or Greece.

He has a quiet life in a tiny house outside Athens and writes books and songs.

Photo: The young apprentice, Noora Honkala, taking tips for her upcoming races from Yuannis.

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