A PORTSMOUTH man is to take part in what has been billed as the world’s toughest footrace.
Russell Tullett, 56, from Cosham, is heading off to Greece to take part the 153-mile Spartathlon race in which competitors have to cover the distance in less than 36 hours.
‘I went out to watch the race with my wife Sandra and fell in love with it and since I started running it has always been a goal to take part,’ said Russell.
In order to enter the race Russell, who has worked as a builder for 25 years, had to undertake a challenging qualifying programme including running 100 miles in under 21 hours. To prepare for expected temperatures over 30C he also spent time training in a sauna.
‘As well as the heat one of the biggest challenges is the 1000-metre mountain you have to run across at the 100-mile mark. The cut-off for the check points are also really harsh. You have to get to the 100-mile point in 22 hours or you are withdrawn.
‘The ‘death bus’ follows behind and if it catches you up then you end up as a passenger and are out of the race,’ explained Russell.
Throughout Russell’s gruelling 90-mile-a-week schedule he has also faced having to support Sandra who is suffering from cancer. The couple have two children and three grandchildren. 'My children don't really understand why I want to put myself through it but I am sure they will be very proud if I complete the race,' he said.
‘I did think about whether or not to go out there but my wife has been all for me doing the race and would be the one kicking me out of the door to ensure I went training.’
The historic race follows in the footsteps of Greek legend Pheidippides who ran the distance in 490BC to ask for Spartan for help against the invading Persians.
‘The stipulated 36 hours is because he ran through two sunrises. That is why we start as the sun comes up on the Saturday morning and we finish on the Sunday evening,’ explained Russell.
Whilst Russell is aware of the difficulty of the task he believes he has a fighting chance of success.
‘There is a massive possibility I might not do it but there is also a chance I will. I know I am capable of it - I wouldn’t do it otherwise. I have so many different emotions at the moment – scared, excited, nervous. I now just can’t wait to stand on that start line.’