We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Hey there, Don't forget to log in and join the conversation Log in

Ultra Race Dolichos: Delphi-Olympia

19-Apr-2019 Delphi, Greece

YOUR RATING

Image Mask
1 REVIEWS
Road Race Race Terrain
255KM / 158Miles
3 Days

DIFFICULTY Race Difficulty Advanced  

Would you like to manage this event?

If you are the organiser of this event then you can claim this listing, simply log in if you are already a member, or register as a member, and fill out a simple form to request access.

LIKE WHAT YOU READ?
SIGN UP FOR MORE

Beginner

Elevation: Very little change < 500 metres. Benign running terrain, not technical.

Suitable for: First ultra runners completing a marathon or doing regular long distance running in the last six months.

Intermediate

Elevation: Increase of up to 1000 metres

Suitable for: Runners who have completed at least one ultra distance race (or similar event) or are doing long distance running (>26 miles) regularly, with elevation shown.

Advanced

Elevation: Increase of up to 1500 metres

Suitable for: Runners who have completed several ultra distances or similar events, or are doing long distance running regularly, with elevation shown.

Expert

Elevation: Increase of up to 2000 metres with some challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity or heat) and or technical terrain

Suitable for: Experienced runners who have completed at least regular ultra distances in last 12 months, or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races may be subject to evidence of recent qualifying race participation and recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements.

Brutal

Elevation: Increase of up to 2000 metres with very challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity, heat or at high altitude) and or technical terrain.

Suitable for: Very experienced long distance ultra runners (min 3 years’ experience) or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races is often subject to evidence of recent qualifying race participation and recent medical examination certificate. Purchase of specialist kit is often recommended for these races.

Endurance - Multi-activity

Type: An ultra distance race including at least two of the following activities such as running, swimming, cycling, kayaking, skiing and climbing. It may also include different climatic conditions (eg ice, snow, humidity, cold water, mud or heat).

Suitable for: Experienced multi-skilled athletes who have trained for the different activities included in this event. Admission to these races may be subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements and any specialist equipment required such as a wetsuit, skis or a mountain bike.

Global - Virtual

Type: A virtual race which can be run at any time shown on the dates shown, on any type of terrain in any country.

Suitable for: For runners from beginners to experienced as you choose your own course and challenge based on the guidelines and options set by the virtual race organiser.

Review Ultra Race Dolichos: Delphi-Olympia

You must be logged in to add your review, click here to login or register

Comment Arrow

Martinilott39

01:11 02-08-17

The Doliho. A race report. April 28-29 2017,
Martin Ilott, United Kingdom
The Doliho, derived from Dolichos a long-race of approximately 4800 m introduced into the ancient Olympic Games in 720 BC, is an epic ultra race from Delphi to Olympia covering a distance of 255 Km with a 48 hour cut-off. The race was established by the Olympians Athletic Club and Dolicho Organising Committee. For those runners more familiar with another Greek ultra race, the Spartathlon, for which a similar distance must be completed in 36 hours, the Doliho time allocation might appear a little generous. However, with a total ascent of 5 400M and descent of 5 930 M, with 60% of the course on trails with some sections technically challenging compounded by two nights’ sleep deprivation, the race will push experienced ultra runners to their physical and mental limits.
The inaugural race in 2012 recorded a finish percentage of only 12.5%, which has subsequently seen higher finish rates to 64% in 2015 and 49% in 2016.
The race was originally selected to lift the spirits after the disappointment of being rejected form the Spartathlon lottery after 12 years continuous participation. I searched for an event that captured many of the elements of the Spartathlon that I’d come to cherish. The Doliho exceeded all my expectations and is one of the most memorable races I’ve been lucky enough to complete over the past 20 years. I attended the event with an old school friend and running partner Laurence Chownsmith, who was looking to use the event to prepare for the Spartathlon having 3 DNFs in recent years.
We arrived in Athens Thursday lunchtime missing the organised coach to Delphi, travelling independently to the event hotel, the luxurious Amalia. Locating the correct bust station in Athens was the first challenge, taking the X93 from the airport we missed our stop arriving in the wrong depot (Kifisos station, serving the Peloponnese). The bus station to Delphi is the KTEL station B located on 260 Liossion St, tucked away from any major landmark and requiring luck, good navigational skills, bus 420 or a taxi from Kifisos. The X93 does stop very close to KTEL B, four stops before Kifisos but we failed to alight, so take care. Buses run regularly, approx. every couple of hours to Delph with a journey time of 3 hr costing approx. 16 euros. On arrival in Delphi we met by Michael, one of the race officials. Surprised by his presence we enquired as to how he knew we were on the bus; “I know everything” he said ominously “we have eyes everywhere”.
The Amalia is a perfect location for runners and officials assembling for the race with comfortable rooms, spacious dining room and a terrace with stunning views to the sea and only a few minutes’ walk to the archaeological site. The briefing took place in Greek, English and French in the spacious lounge and we gained a good insight into the running and drop bag strategy from runners who’d participated in previous events. There we met with Peter Kirk, a Grecophile, mountaineer and ultra-runner who had completed the Olympian ultra-race with us the previous year. Michael from Germany, who had competed in the Doliho on two previous occasions and an experienced Spartathlon runner (12 finishes from 15) provided useful advice on race tactics and location and content of critical drop bags and Jan his compatriot and a fast ultra runner. Ursula from Switzerland a remarkable V60 veteran of many ultras had researched the course in detail and had crafted a detailed race strategy based on predetermined pace goals for each section that was also useful in designing our own race plan.

Figure 1. View from the Amalia hotel, with the coast route of the Doliho visible in the distance.
The principle race team were Dimitra (Race Organiser), Yiannis (Race Director) and Michael (Technical Director) with additional support from Papadimitriou Kostis (Spartathlon Association), but not forgetting the legion of helpers, feed station crews and supporters that ensured a smooth and successful running of the event.
Friday morning provided an opportunity to visit Delphi’s famed sanctuary. The area was inhabited since Mycenaean times (14C BC) and became an important cultural and religious centre during the Classical Greek period. “Centre of the Earth” and famed for the oracle Pythia and the Pythian games that matched those in Olympia. The museum contains some fascinating artefacts excavated in the 19th and 20th Century, with the prized exhibited, discovered in 1896, a life-size bronze statue of a chariot rider.

Figure 2. The Stadium at Delphi. High above the sacred monuments the original stadium dates to the fifth century BC and was the athletic centre for the Pythian games, accommodating 6 500 spectators.

Friday afternoon was spent meticulously packing drop bags for the 29 feed stations. Laurence and I spent hours fine-tuning our complex drop-bag strategy watched by a bemused Peter who prefers a minimalist strategy, carrying only a head torch and a light top for the night. We on the other hand prevaricated over the benefits of orange or blackcurrant Capri-Sun and whether or not a GU-energy gel, Starbucks tinned expresso or a piece of homemade lemon cake at one of the 29 aid stations would be critical to our success or failure. Night clothing and equipment, changes of shirts and shorts for the day, medical supplies, nutritional and electrolyte supplements were meticulously packed, labelled and allocated to the appropriate drop box before putting on our running attire for the afternoon start. Further deliberations on the propriety of sharing a toothbrush, tube of E45 cream and Andrex wipelets signified a worrying trend in the friendship.
Figure 3. Start of the 2017 Doliho outside the archaeological site at Delphi

The race started at 17:00 Friday 28 April and followed the scenic coast road between Delphi and the Rio-Antirrio Bridge. The runners descended through picturesque countryside dotted with olive groves and meadows the course was on good asphalt road, undulating between coastal villages were feed stations were well stocked and staffed approximately every 10 Km.
Figure 4. A shepherd tends a flock of sheep in the olive groves surrounding Delphi.

Conversations with various runners helped passed the time and enabled us both to become more familiar with the challenges ahead.
Spirits were high with beautiful views across the Gulf of Corinth and welcoming faces greeting us at each and every checkpoint dotted in the many coastal villages heading to Antirrio.
Figure 5. Laurence on the trail descent from Delphi
Night fell around 21:00 and we arrived at Eratni (checkpoint 5) at 49 Km to collect some night clothing and supplies well within the cut-off. It was at Eratni where Laurence and I became separated. Laurence prefers a fast-pit stop pushing ahead seeking a time cushion, whilst I take a more leisurely approach to each and every feed-station running a little harder to make up for any lost time between stations.

Figure 6. Runners greeted at Eratni.
The agreement to share the wearing of the Ultimate Direction race vest appeared to evaporate as fast Laurence disappeared into the night whilst I attempted a change of socks, consume a sandwich and down a shot of Starbucks double expresso. I had hoped to catch up in the early hours. However, a slight medical discomfort slowed progress to a crawl as the night wore on, not helped by the disappearance of the orange Capri-Suns from the shared drop bags.
Episodes of haematuria forced frequent painful and prolonged stops. A strategy of consuming large quantities of water gradually improved the situation. I reached the 100Km timing mat 8 km before the bridge in approximately 14 hr and was aware that the day would be spent battling the cut-offs.
The Rio-Antirrio Bridge (officially the Charilaos Trikoupis Bridge, named after the Prime Minster who conceived the idea of such a crossing) stretches 3 km across the Gulf of Corinth near Patras and is one of longest multi-span cable-stayed bridges in the world. Completed in 2004 at a cost of more than 600 Million Euros, it is magnificent engineering structure as well as aesthetically pleasing to the eye with superb views of the coast of the Peloponnese and the menacing mountains dominating the horizon that would break the hopes of many runners in their quest to reach Olympia.

Figure 7. The Rio-Antirrio bridge viewed from the 100 Km timing point near Antirrio.

At Rio there was only a 30 minute cushion but I was fortunate that Laurence had waited, concerned for my welfare. The 11th feed station at the Apolon Hotel was well stocked with hot and cold food and there was an opportunity to freshen up and unload unnecessary equipment and clothing before the major ascents that lay in wait for runners departing the coastal town on the eastern edge of the Peloponnese. The friendly face of Papadimitriou Kostis “Kostis”, from the International Spartathlon Association could be found encouraging runners and congratulating those completing the shorter 111 Km event the “Pame Rio”.
Figure 8. Laurence in fine spirits in Rio with Kostis ready for the first ascent of the day.
Leaving Rio, the asphalt road rises steeply for about 8 km to the next feed station. With the sun’s heat beginning to test the runner’s the cool waters from the village spring was a welcome respite before moving upwards onto steep trails towards the Panahaiko mountain reaching an altitude of 1000 M (the mountain peak is 1926 M) before descending 5 km to the next checkpoint at which another cool spring quenched the thirst of dehydrated runners. The views across to the Gulf of Corinth and the Rio-Antirrio Bridge were superb.
During the ascent I lost contact with Laurence again and it would be another 12 hrs before the next rendezvous that included probably the toughest sections of the race.
Figure 9 & 10. The steep ascent towards Checkpoint 13 at Pournarokastro

I was on the edge of the cut-offs at this stage of the race, struggling to maintain a reasonable forward momentum in the face of steep ascents and precarious descents. After a steep quad-burning ascent to checkpoint 15 in Latseika (145 Km) the trail became even more difficult following a dry riverbed of boulders and rocks for more than a kilometre. Clambering upstream I feared even more time loss not helped by further ascents after exiting the riverbed. I sat beneath an olive tree contemplating dropping out, content with viewing the surrounding meadow of rich greens punctuated with colours of wildflowers. The Peloponnese is one of the most beautiful and abundant region in Europe with over 2000 species of flowers, many unique to the area and it is such images that make the Doliho such a wonderful race to be a part of.
I decided to continue with a sense of foreboding, the clock ticking towards the next cut-off. I passed two runners sat by the roadside, both having reached the decision that the next check point 2.5 km further on was not attainable with 12 minutes of I to it closed. I ran on with some urgency.
Figure 11. A friendly greeting at Mirali (155 Km).
As the trail descended steeply to the village of Mirali (155 Km) and as the check-point came into view, I cried out “I’m here, I’m here” in the hope that any loss of time would be forgotten. A friendly family of volunteers waited patiently for the last runner in the field. Full of smiles with perfect English they welcomed my arrival, enquired where I was from and provided further encouragement for my onward and mostly downhill section was mostly downhill.
Figure 12. A delay on the trail as a herd of goats obstruct the route.
I ran on, temporarily delayed by a flock of sheep being herded down the trail by a shepherd seated a little donkey such that his feet virtually touched the ground. The route descend further to the Valmantura (162 Km, Checkpoint 17) where I managed to secure an ice cream. The next section was extremely steep and dusk fell for a second time. Without a head torch until the following checkpoint I was fortunate to catch a Greek runner and chemist, Nikolaos from Athens who was well equipped to ascend to Kalousi (170 km) having attempted the Doliho before without success. We exchanged views on Brexit and the impact of 10 years of austerity on the Greek economy and job prospects for the young. Although a well-qualified graduate, it had taken four years for Nkolaos to secure a permanent job as a formulation chemist in a Cosmetics firm. We arrived at Kalousi (Checkpoint 18, 170 Km) just within the cut-off and the location of a head torch and some additional supplies. Having spent most of the day drinking Coke and electrolyse there was a need to consume some solid food.
It was at Kalousi where I was reunited with Laurence attired in thermal running gear equipped for the early morning chill of the mountains. It was good to see him but I was surprised he had waited in anticipation of my arrival having no information on my whereabouts during the day.
Figure 13. Olive groves on the climb to Kalousi.
Needing some hot refreshment I staggered over to the café opposite. Yiannis, the race director appeared a little concerned with our progress given the closing time, but was generous in his support and the procurement of much needed caffeine boost after 30 continuous hours on our feet. It was here was saw Ursula and Jan a little both having taken the decision to drop from the race. Sadly, it would not long before our Greek friend would also make the same decision to retire after dragging himself to Drosia (Checkpoint 21, 187 Km). Another year another DNF but with the optimism for another attempt in 2018 having progressed much further this year.
Figure 14. Yiannis, Race Director and my Guardian Angel buys me a coffee in the Kalousi café and is confident I can make it to Olympia despite being the last runner left in the field.
Laurence and I pushed on together, exchanging places to lead as episodes of fatigue took their toll. The beanpole became a useful prop during episodes of drowsiness during the early-hours trough of the body clock. We ran, walked and shuffled in silence with the realisation we were nearly 30 minutes behind the cut-offs and placed last of those runners remaining. The trail undulated with some technically difficult sections before we approached the next checkpoint at Alpochori (179 Km). Morale was low and Laurence was in need of some medical attention for blisters and appeared overheated, dripping in sweat due to the earlier decision to run in thermals. In hindsight this was a significant factor in his DNF.
It was at Kalentzi (Checkpoint 20), 187 Km where Laurence decided to retire, after crossing the timing point into the shelter, more due to his low morale than any physical limitation. We sat a little despondent contemplating the relative merits of continuing given that we were now more than 40 minutes over the cut off and with the race officials advising us that the probability of making it to Olympia was remote.

Figure 15. Laurence and I at Kalentzi (187 Km, Checkpoint 20), where Laurence retired from the Doliho.
I pleaded to be permitted to continue feeling a little stronger and in the knowledge that daylight was a few hours away. Yiannis appeared willing, against advice to the contrary, to grant me another opportunity but stressed I must run quickly to make up time. I looked at Kostis and declare that as a Spartathlete I would complete the journey to Olympia. I said my farewells to Laurence as he was taken to Olympia for rest and recuperation. The disappointment of DNF was tempered a little by the distance covered (almost 200 Km) without injury and a further step of progress towards the objective of a Spartathlon finish in the autumn.
Leaving Kalenzi I tried to move swiftly with the aim of recovering some time, the route followed a good gently undulating asphalt road. I passed the French runner, Laurence who had decided to quit at Drosia. Between Drosia and the next village, Skiadas (204 km) the Petzl REACTIK head torch, which features “reactive lighting technology that automatically adapts light intensity to the needs of the user”, flickered then died. Without a spare, despite having brought various replacement head and hand torches and without a torch function on the mobile phone I feared my race was finally over. The Peloponnese countryside was in total darkness with only the sliver of a moon visible. I cursed Petzl and the complexity of the head torch (apparently there is an app to “optimise” the settings) and my foolishness in not taking the hand torch offered by Laurence when he retired. Progress was a painfully slow with only the backlight of the phone to pick out the way markers. However, I spotted a vehicle rapidly approaching up the track. It was Andreas. Yiannis’ son, who was worried about my progress to the next station. I was fortunate that he was carrying a spare head torch in his pocket and I was able to commence running again, forcing the pace on the downhill section to the village.
After leaving Skiadas the route became technically very challenging. It was still dark (5 am), another night without sleep dampened the senses and we were required to navigate olive grows and meadows without paths, with only fluorescent markers to indicate the direction of travel. It was here I was reunited with Peter, moving in the wrong direction of travel. He seen confused and a little disorientated and was walking slowly but we moved together across the olive grow where he fell into gorse bush. Crying for assistance, I reluctantly retraced my footsteps to pull him up and then pushed on across a meadow with long grass informing him that we had no time to spare. I subsequently discovered that a thorn had penetrated deep into Peter’s arm and would result in severe pain and discomfit more than a week later.
It was difficult to identify the correct route but after reaching the road I looked back to see Peter a long way back and meandering in various directions. I waved my head torch signifying the route to take. It was the last I saw of Peter who retired at the river crossing (Potami, 209 Km) a few hundred metres from the meadow apparently haunted by hallucinations of mythical creatures floating towards him.
After the river crossing there was a steep climb across meadows before the route took a diversion through one of the most beautiful and unexpected sections of the race, the Foloi (Pholóē) oak forest. This enchanting area is an ecological protected area of the EU’s consisting of an extensive natural forest of broadleaf oaks where in Classical times one could find Centaurs and fairies from where the forest derived its name (chief of the Centaur “Phólos”. The trees are relatively small, 15–20 m but with and interlacing canopies that dominate an area for 40 Km2 with ferns carpeting the forest floor. It is a wonderful and unique area of which I had never seen anything comparable. The compensation of being the last and slowest runner remaining in the Doliho was seeing the habitat during daylight hours (the lead runner, Eusabio, would have passed through the forest the previous night). Andreas and Yiannis drove past on one of the forest tracks offering further encouragement. I was now only marginally behind schedule and with sun coming up on day 3 felt reasonably confident that Olympia was within my grasp. I was also spurred on in the knowledge that wolves and wild boar inhabit the forest.

Figure 16 & 17. Images of the beautiful and unique Foloi Oak Forest
After checkpoint 24 at Zireika (219 km) I reached the small village of Pefki (227 Km) where I collected a bag of fresh clothing. I bathed my feet under a cool tap, deposited my night gear and carried only hand water bottle, bean pole and mobile for the last 30 Km. The minimalist approach soon ran into problems on the first steep climb out of the village in full sun when I realised I’d left my cap and sunglasses at the previous aid station. Once again it was not long before Yiannis and Andreas drove past checking on my progress and generously handing me a cap for the remaining sections of the race.
The route followed an asphalt road, and then descended a track to an old abandoned village of Persena (Checkpoint 26, 232 Km). I sat for a few minutes and thanked Yiannis, Andreas and the two checkpoint volunteers who had steered me through a difficult night. I was honoured to have such a dedicated personal support crew who had ensured I was given every opportunity to succeed at my first attempt at the Doliho. I was comfortably within the cut-off and there was now one runner trailing, Athanasios, having injured himself falling.
Figure 18. Stunning scenery but quad-burning climbs typify the Doliho.
There then followed an upward track and steep descent into village of Neraida where some local villagers roasting a pig provided some water and apples before the final climb to checkpoint 27 (242 Km) in the village of Krioneri. Respite from the afternoon sun was provided by the aid station situated in a small dwelling. The couple manning the station had laid on generous supply of sandwiches, fruit and range of drinks. They advised to take great care on the final descent where cables secured to rock guided runners away from a precipitous drop. After more than one Km of difficult descent the route became easier as I approached the penultimate checkpoint (28, 249 Km) in Klaedos village. Athanasios’ support crew informed me that he was making slow but steady progress and was coping with the steep descent despite his injury.
I had accumulated more than 1 hour credit during day 3 and with Olympia only 5 Km from Klaedos with a gently descent I shuffled forward at a reasonable rate. The route meandered through Olympia on good roads, finally entering the main thoroughfare where spectators enjoying the afternoon perched on café tables clapped and cheered as I approached the finish at the entrance to the archaeological site. I could see Laurence waving, and Yiannis, Andreas, Michael, Natasha and Kostis evidently delighted to see me complete the Doliho in 46 hr 20 min and possibly the first British runner to do so (to be confirmed). I was met with a kiss from Dimitra and graced with an olive wreath before collapsing into a chair.
Figure 19. Finish of the Doliho in Olympia (46 Hr 20)
Figure 20. Celebrating with the Race Director and Guardian Angel, Yiannis
A scooter arrived with the rider delivering a much needed ice coffee. It was a touching gift from Laurence in the face of his own disappointment. They were further photos and updates of the success or otherwise of various runners before heading for the hotel. Only 14 out of 38 starters had reached Olympia within 48 hr; Eusabio placed first in an incredible time of 36 hr 33 min and the final finisher Athanasios in 47 hr 35 min.
Figure 21. Ice coffee and more celebrations with Natasha and Kostis.
There were only a couple of hours to shower and rest before the prize giving and dinner. I managed to stay conscious for both before slipping into a coma. The following morning was spent exploring the tourist shops and cafes of Olympia as unfortunately the archaeological site was close because of Public Holiday. However, the central square was a scene of a cultural festival of dance and music where I sat and reflected on the events of the weekend and contemplated another attempt at the magnificent Doliho in 2018.
Figure 21. Runners arrive safely back in Athens with treasured memories of the 2017 Doliho

Martin Ilott can be contacted at martin.ilott39@hotmail.co.uk or +44 (7908) 993 997

Have you run one of these races?

Add your race review
to the race page for your
chance to win great kit
like these

Not a member?

Join Now

It takes less than
a minute