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The Road to Sparta
By: Dean Karnazes
Publisher: Rodale Books, 2016
Sports, History, Wellness
The Road to Sparta is a thunderous Greek epic told in parallel narratives from the perspective of a modern ultramarathoner and an ancient hemerodromoi (daylong runner). Dean Karnazes explores his own Greek ancestry while consulting with the foremost scholars on Ancient Greece to tell the story of the world's first marathon, all while recreating the historic 153-mile run from Athens to Sparta in one of the world's most impossible feats: the Spartathlon. - Synopsis from the Author’s Page
“If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon. If you want to talk to God, run an ultra.” Page 227
Dean Karnazes wanted to run in the footsteps of his Hero: Pheidippides, the father of the marathon. Inspired by the memory of Dean’s grandfather and his Greek heritage Road to Sparta is equal parts autobiographical and historical.
The first half of story brings us from Dean’s childhood, in the arms of his Grandfather Gus through an adolescence of wanderlust in suburban California, weaves the tale of how he became “the fittest man on the planet” and eventually leaves us exhausted but victorious at the feet of Leonidas - King of Sparta – 153 miles from Athens on a sunny afternoon.
Pheidippides is the famed Greek “all day runner” who history remembers as announcing the victory at Marathon and promptly falling dead of exhaustion after running the 25+ miles from the battlefield to the center of Athens. And thus the modern marathon was born…sot of…as always, truth is more than fiction.
What Pheidippides actually accomplished was so much more: After running the 150 miles to Sparta as a herald, Phei turned around ran another 130 miles to Marathon with his news, promptly picking up a shield and helping drive the Persians back into the sea. When victory was at hand he completed one last run into Athens yelling “Nike, nike!” <<Victory, victory!>> and fell into the history books.
“Life is at its most extraordinary during the struggle, not during times of idle contentment.” Page 208
Three big take-aways from Road to Sparta:
1. Find your passion and commit. Dean regained his passion on the night of his 30th birthday. He had been a successful exec with a big paycheck but was missing something. Out with his colleagues after a steady night of drinking in celebration, Dean stripped down to his boxers, ran 30 miles and never looked back.
2. Blend fitness into your everyday routine. Dean made his living as a runner but being a celebrity takes time. “My shoes have logged tens of thousands of airline miles…I also developed a body-weight training program that I could whip out during any brief period of downtime.”
3. Let your Heroes guide you. The larger-than-life memory of his Grandfather and the epic example set by Pheidippides helped Dean overcome his obstacles on The Road to Sparta.
“I have always held that life is essentially a series of setbacks and obstacles. Living is overcoming them.” Page 124
Hero Tenets on the run:
Be a person of Action: Dean laces up every day. Twice. His advice for marathon success is running every morning and evening for at least 45 mins each.
Be Excellent: Dean has set himself to be a perfect runner. Among numerous achievements he has won the 135 mile Badwater desert Ultra, raced 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days and run across America.
Live by a code: Dean’s ethos: To thine own self be true. His code: Hard work, no excuses; Failure is giving less than your best; live life to its fullest.
Champion: Dean used his love of running to lend his celebrity to Greece at a time of great economic strife in that country. That effort culminated in his running the Spartathlon.
Find Balance: “The Athenians came to believe that only when mind, body, and spirit were aligned in perfect harmony could true human potential be realized and arête (excellence and virtue) be achieved.” 
Be fit: Within the Academy “Students spent their time practicing running, jumping, throwing and wrestling while philosophy and mathematics professors sauntered about … always ready to engage in an enlightened conversation….” 
Wander: “Later, Aristotle [student of Plato and mentor of Alexander the Great] would move outside the walls of the gymnasium and conduct his classes while walking around. His pupils became known as the Peripatetics, wanderers.” [46, a big page]
For more on Pheidippides, Greek runners and the Battle of Marathon try these:
Herodotus, Histories, Book VI “Erato”
Christopher McDougall’s Natural Born Heroes
Sir Edward Creasy’s The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World
#read and #run with @wanderlosttoday #Lost Library's #review of Road to #Sparta by @DeanKarnazes on www.wanderlost.today
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