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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 October 2005, 14:30 GMT 15:30 UK
German man wins ancient Greek run
Spartathlon runners pose for photos before setting off
Participants run through the night to reach the finishing line
German runner Lukas Jens has won one of the world's toughest races, retracing the steps of a legendary Greek soldier who ran from Athens to Sparta.

Jens finished the 246km (152-mile) course from Athens city to Sparta in 24 hours, 20 minutes and 39 seconds to win for a second year in a row.

Frenchman Jean-Jacques Moro came in second with a time of 25 hours, 3 minutes and 30 seconds.

More than 270 runners from some 30 nations took part in this year's race.

The race began at the foot of the Acropolis early on Friday morning.

Runners were given just 36 hours to complete the route from Athens to Sparta, which Pheidippides reputedly took in 490BC to get troop reinforcements.

The modern equivalent of the race was started in 1982 by British soldier John Foden.

It takes participants along highways and dirt tracks and over mountains.

This year I will finish - I promise
Rina Iwamoto
"I'm pretty nervous," Samuel Kilpatrick, 41, of Northern Ireland, told the Associated Press news agency before his first attempt at the course. "I'm ready, but nervous sums it up best."

Rina Iwamoto, 37, from Japan - one of 25 women in the race - took part last year, but failed to reach the finishing line.

"This year I will finish - I promise," she laughed.

Record-breaking time

One of the toughest parts of the course is the ascent up the 4,000ft (1,200m) Parthenio Mountain, three-quarters of the way into the race.

"It's really walking and climbing, not running at that point," 50-year-old Michael Brandt, of Germany, told AP.

He has run the race six times, and finished it three times.

Each finisher touches the feet of the statue of the King of Sparta, Leonidas, and is crowned with an olive wreath.

Greek runner Yiannis Kouros holds the record for the fastest time, completing the course in 1984 in 20 hours, 25 minutes.

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