Ireland-based Filipino runner Rolando Espina will face his biggest challenge when he see action in the 247-kilometer Spartathlon Ultra Race on September 30 in Athens, Greece.
The 42-year-old native of Negros Occidental is the first Filipino to compete in the world’s most grueling race.
Over 390 runners from around the world will test the limit of their stamina by running the 247-kilometer course from Athens to Sparta, in 36 hours, beginning September 30 and ending October 1.
“There is a lot of pressure but that pressure motivates me as well. I am hoping to fly the Philippine flag in Sparta,” Espina told The Manila Times. “I am pressured and challenged to finish the race. I just need to stick with my game plan which is to keep my pace,” he added.
Espina, a nurse by profession, said that part of his game plan is to run slowly and comfortably keeping himself hydrated plus efficient time management.
With only 40 percent on average reaching the finish line, Espina’s primary goal is simply to finish the race.
“It’s all about the prestige of finishing it,” he said.
In 2015, he qualified for Spartathlon after finishing the 100km Portumna Forest Ultra Marathon in nine hours and 47 minutes, which is below the 10-hour qualifying time for a hundred-meter race.
A year later, he improved his time in the same race posting eight hours and 46 minutes giving him another chance at Spartathlon.
Before racing in Athens, Espina will participate in the 161-km Connemara Hundred Miles on August 6 on the West Coast of Ireland.
Spartathlon formally started as a contest in 1982 but its historical roots can be traced back to 490BC when Pheidippides, an Athenian messenger, was sent to Sparta to seek help against the invading Persians. The Athenian messenger, then, was able to reached Sparta a day and a half after he left Athens.