News & Screenings


If you would like to host a screening of The Road to Sparta either as a club fundraiser or as a charity event please contact Barney Spender at

“Don’t worry about blisters. They keep you awake at night.”


the road to sparta_music_cover90The award-winning music and poetry which was written especially for The Road to Sparta has been released on the streaming/download service Bandcamp.

The music was writted and performed by Tryfon Lazos, Andreas Venetantes and Jago Furnas who, at the time of filming were based in Manchester and working as Old House Playground. Clive Martin, whose previous filmwork includes The Last Emperor and Wings of Desire recorded and engineered the music in Manchester, Paris and Athens.


“When I conceived the idea of the The Road to Sparta, the first phone call I made was to Tryfon. I could hear the film before I could see it,” said Barney Spender, producer of The Road to Sparta.

“I could sense his enthusiasm from the start. I said: ‘Give me a Greek Paris, Texas’. And they exceeded my expectations. The music is astonishing. I know I am biased but I am convinced that The Road to Sparta is the greatest Greek film music since Zorba.”

You can download each of the 11 music tracks individually or you can buy the album for just 8 euros.

A purchase includes an amazing bonus – a 35-minute single-track of all the music AND the poetry which was written by AE Stallings for the film and voiced by Greek actors Malamatenia Gotzi and Renos Haralambides.

The music was feted at the Out of the Can film festival in Derby in 2018 while Stalling’s work was recognised with the Best Poetry award at the 2018 Motion Pictures Film Festival in Lagos.

Here, Alicia talks about the process of writing the poetry for the film in Literary Matters.

The soundtrack will not be released on Spotify while it continues its punitive payment campaign against artists.

Please support artists.



(Photo: Magda Gouma)

Greek-American runner Dean Karnazes has hailed The Road to Sparta as an “amazing” film but revealed for the first time his concern about getting involved in the making of the award-winning documentary, saying he was worried about being in a “shitty film”.

The UltraMarathon Man, who operates out of San Francisco, was one of four runners followed by filmmakers Barney Spender and Roddy Gibson as they attempted to complete the 246 kilometre (153 miles) Spartathlon between Athens and Sparta.

“When Barney contacted me I was a little hesitant to get involved because I get contacted by a lot of people,” Karnazes told interviewer George Stephanopoulos on a podcast to coincide with last month’s Hellenic Film Society USA film festival.

“Obviously I had never met Barney, I didn’t know anything about his back story, I did what research I could. But even at Spartathlon at the pre-race and post-race interviews I was really concerned,” says Karnazes.

“I thought, ‘I don’t want to be a part of a shitty film’. I was so afraid that I was going to spend time with this guy and he was going to put out this ridiculous film (and) it’s going to have my name associated with it. I didn’t want to be part of this.”

“When Barney sent me the finished product to watch, my parents happened to be in town with me, so I said ‘do you want to watch this? I am not going to promise anything’.

“And from the opening note, literally the opening chord of that music, we were spellbound. I still get the chills when I think of sitting on the couch and watching the movie. It was brilliant.

“And after that I just wanted to fly over to Paris and hug Barney because it was so far beyond my expectations. You nailed it. It was amazing.”

During the 60-minute interview, which also includes Spender talking about the making of the film, Karnazes, whose latest book A Runner’s High has just been published, also talks about Pheidippides, the joy of running and reveals the problems of trying to run an ultramarathon on a bellyfull of figs.

“Figs over 24 hours are not such a good idea,” he laughs. “When you want to be ‘regular’ you eat figs but what you don’t want to be when you are running an ultramarathon is ‘regular'”.

The full conversation is available on YouTube:


RTS avatarOn March 25, 1821, Bishop Germanos of Patras raised the flag of revolution over the Monastery of Agia Lavra in the Peloponnese. That action sparked the revolt that finally overthrew Ottoman rule and concluded with the Treaty of Constantinople in July 1832.

To mark the bicentenary of that first act of defiance in Patras, the Hellenic Film Society USA has selected a number of films, including The Road to Sparta, for an online festival from March 19-28 that reflects the centuries of Greek struggle for freedom and autonomy.

Buy a ticket for the online screening of The Road to Sparta

The Road to Sparta is currently available on DVD (see home page for details) and has screened at numerous festivals and in cinemas but has not until now been available to a wider audience online.

“It’s an immense honour to be selected for a festival that marks such a propitious date in Greek history,” said the film’s producer Barney Spender who also figures in a one-hour podcast with Dean Karnazes, one of the four runners that the film tracks as they attempt to complete the 246-kilometre Spartathlon between Athens and Sparta which echoes the run made by Pheidippides before the Battle of Marathon in 490BC.

“For so many centuries the Greeks have had to battle against invasion and threat and menace and somehow they keep coming through. I admire that tenacity hugely. It is something that is well-reflected across the entire programme.

“I am also delighted that people across the world who have not been able to view the film in a cinema will finally get the chance to see it. So a big Ευχαριστώ πολύ to George Stephanopoulos and everyone at the Hellenic Film Society USA.”

Seven films and an original Netflix episode, all inspired by Greek history, from the Persian Wars to the present will be on offer, including what we like to think of as the sequel to The Road to Sparta, namely Zach Snyder’s 300 as well as Elia Kazan’s 1963 film America America while Yannis Smaragdis will introduce his 2012 film God Loves Caviar.

The Hellenic Film Society USA is dedicated to promoting Greek cinema throughout the United States. Its mission it “to share the richness of Greek films with a wider American audience, to showcase Greek movies, and to preserve the film heritage of Greece”.


The Road To Sparta 3D DVD Skew (1)First of all Happy New Year to all of you who have been following the fortunes of The Road to Sparta over the last few years. Last year was a difficult one for us so here’s hoping that 2020 will give us fresh legs.

The year ended with a flurry of screenings. Dean Karnazes presented the film in Costa Navarino in November around the same time that it had its South American premiere at the Buenos Aires Running Film Festival.

The film screened to great acclaim in Buenos Aires and Mendoza. Festival organiser Veronica Segura took on the task of translating the film for the sub-titles and we are now planning a limited edition publication of the sonnets that Alicia Stallings wrote for the film with Veronica’s translations in Spanish and those of Orfeas Apergis in Greek.

The film was also selected to screen at the Norwegian International Seagull Shortfilm Festival in January. However, that festival has since been cancelled.

Second, we want to extend humble apologies to those of you who ordered copies of the DVD and are still waiting for delivery. I am afraid that our distributors Tribal Film suffered a severe illness  towards the end of the year which, sadly, ended with a bereavement.

All of us at Ragged Rock and The Road to Sparta would like to extend our condolences to Neil Ouzman and the team at Tribal Film.  As I said at the start, 2019 was a bad year for us.

The knock-on effect has been the delay in distribution of the DVD. It is obviously frustrating for all of us but I hope you will understand the circumstances.

The good news, although under the circumstances it seems odd to describe anything as good, is that production is underway again and DVDs should be winging their way to you by the end of the month.

The DVD, which is compatible for European and US players, comes with the option of those Greek and Spanish subtitles and includes interviews with directors Barney Spender and Roddy Gibson as well as a roadside music clip of Old House Playground.

It is available exclusively via the Tribal Film website

Thank you so much for your patience. We hope you enjoy the film.

Keep on running.


The Road To Sparta 3D DVD Skew (1)It gives us great pleasure to announce that the DVD of The Road to Sparta will be released on October 11, although it is currently available to order here via our dedicated sales website.

The DVD, which has been produced in association with Tribal Films in the UK, includes the 60-minute award-winning documentary and a number of bonus features including interviews with the two directors Barney Spender and Roddy Gibson and a music clip of Old House Playground.

It also includes sub-titled versions of the film in Greek and Spanish.

“We are absolutely thrilled that finally, five years after we filmed this great race, we are able to put the film in front of the world,” said Spender who also produced the film.

“It is one thing taking the film to festivals where a few people in the area can get to see it, it is another to make it available for runners all over the globe.

“I need to thank a whole lot of people for making this happen but a special mention must go to Manos Arvanitis who worked overtime on all of the artwork, my big brother Henry who did some great editing on the bonus features and to the great teams at the Peloponnese International Documentary Festival and the Buenos Aires Running Film Festival (BARFF) who made their subtitles available for us to use on the DVD.

“Thanks also to Neil Ouzmann and Jay Smith at Tribal Films for their hard work in getting the film out there.

“My biggest thanks, though, go to the many supporters of Spartathlon and The Road to Sparta who have been so patient over the last few years. I have had so many inquiries about how people can watch the film, I am so glad that you will now all have that chance.

“I have given it a big build-up over the years so I just hope you like it!”

October is a busy month for The Road to Sparta which will screen twice at the BARFF and there will be a charity screening at Costa Navarino, where Dean Karnazes will be on site, as part of the Navarino Challenge.


2019 BARUNFF OFSEL 2 BLACKRunners in the heat of Argentina and the cool of Norway will get their first look at The Road to Sparta on the big screen when the documentary screens at the Buenos Aires Running Film Festival in October and the Norwegian International Seagull Shortfilm Festival in January.

Both nations have long provided runners for the Spartathlon. As yet no one from Argentina has featured on the podium in either the men’s or women’s editions. The only South American success came in the shape of the Brazilian great Valmir Nunez who won the men’s event in 2001 – his time of 23:18.05 is the 18th fastest of all time. Nunez also finished second in 2003 and third in 2007.

OFFICIAL SELECTION - The Norwegian International Seagull Shortfilm Festival - 2020Norway’s best result came from Jon Harald Berge who finished third in the rainswept 2009 edition.

“It is very exciting to be able to take the film to these two great sporting countries,” said producer Barney Spender.

“I seem to recall you catch a glimpse of the Argentine flag during the film as a runner makes his way along the coast to the Corinth Canal and there are always Norwegians. They have a such a tradition of running dating back to the great Mensen Ernst in the early 19th century.

“And these are two really well-organised festivals so it will be fun to team up with them.”

The precise dates of the two screenings have not yet been released.

We are hoping to announce details soon of further screenings in Sao Paolo, Costa Navarino, York and London as well as a distribution deal that will bring the film into your homes. Watch this space and keep on running.


Jac 2It is with great sadness that we have to announce the death last month of Jacqueline Jones, wife of The Road to Sparta producer Barney Spender and backing singer on the soundtrack of the film.

Jacqueline was diagnosed with a brain tumour on April 10 and passed away on May 28, a day before she was due to start radiotherapy treatment. She was 50.

Jacqueline was a fundamental force behind the making of the film. In early 2014, when Barney spent too long telling her for the umpteenth time about the possibilities and potential of the film, she offered some curt but pertinent advice.

“You have two choices,” she told him. “Either you make the film or you shut the f*** up about it!”

When Barney protested, saying he didn’t have the funds to finance the film she was equally to the point.

“If you spend your life waiting for money you will never do anything. There is plenty of money out there. Just get on with it and the money will come to you.”

Barney followed her advice and The Road to Sparta was born.

Jacqueline grew up in Pembrokeshire, Wales but left school at 16 to pursue an acting career. She took on a number of roles in television and, while living in New Zealand, featured in the Ian Richardson film Savage Play about the first Maori rugby team to tour Britain.

Her heart, though, lay in music; she was a fine singer and songwriter. She also gave great encouragement to Tryfon Lazos and Andreas Venetantes of Old House Playground and joined them in the studio to back some of the RTS soundtrack.

“I am very grateful I sang with Jacqueline for The Road To Sparta,” said Tryfon who also put music to Jacqueline’s song Insomnia Cafe. “I am very privileged she sings on one of my songs. My heart has cracked.”

The poet AE Stallings, who wrote a series of sonnets for The Road to Sparta, wrote a poem especially for Jacqueline which was read at her funeral.

Song for Jacqueline

“When she was stressed she would tuck herself away and sing. I always knew when she had been singing because she would emerge from the cellar where she had privacy absolutely beaming”—Barney Spender

She went to song when she was stressed
The room where she was host and guest,
And when the world was highly strung,
The song was where she went to rest.

Though song is disembodied, sung,
An air that’s made of air, among
The other breaths, the sigh, the rose,
And melts like silence on the tongue,

Yet song is where the singer goes
Down scales and up arpeggios,
The tall shelf where she puts her pain,
And takes down radiance and repose.

Does singer or does song contain
The tears that rain down right as rain,
The bridge and hook, the blue note bent,
The burden that is song’s refrain?

The song had need of her—her scent,
Her warmth, her body’s instrument,
And now we must take up the song
Because the song is where she went.

AE Stallings

Jacqueline is survived by her husband Barney, whom she married in 2001, and their two children Sydney and Nathaniel.

The family has set up a Just Giving page to raise money for Brain Tumour Research.

Jac 5 (2)


Plymouth Arts CinemaThe Road to Sparta is travelling down to the south-west of England later this month for its first public screening in Plymouth.

The 60-minute documentary will screen at the prestigious Plymouth Arts Cinema on May 16, just three days before the city stages its annual half-marathon.

“When you are getting stressed about completing your first half-marathon and wondering whether you will tick off those 21 kilometres, it is quite sobering to see people taking on 246 kilometres,'” says producer Barney Spender. “It is inspirational and calming at the same time.”

The screening in Plymouth is an important personal moment for Spender whose family has strong connections with the naval port.

“I don’t know the city that well as I grew up in Somerset but for the last three generations it has been a major deal. My great-grandfather Edward Spender founded the Western Morning News here in 1860 and I am delighted to see it is still going strong and about to celebrate 160 years of journalism.

My grandfather AE was also involved in the WMN and served a year as Mayor of Plymouth back in 1909. And my dad Tony Spender was born in Plympton almost 100 years ago, on May 8, 1920.

“So in a way this is a chance for me to doff my forelock in their direction.”


Wilma Dierx

Wilma Dierx: always smiling (Photo: B Spender)

The Road to Sparta enjoyed its first screening in the Netherlands when it played for runners gathered in Den Burg for Die Zestig van Texel at the weekend.

Among those gathered on the largest of the West Frisian Islands was the Dutch runner Wilma Dierx (right), running in the 120 kilometre race, who was finally presented with her medal from the 2018 Spartathlon.

It was Wilma’s fifth Spartathlon finish following successes in 2013, 2014  – when The Road to Sparta was filmed – 2016 and 2017 when she had her best finish time of 31 hours 25 minutes.


Wilma Dierx with her 2018 Spartathlon medal and fellow Spartathlete Tobias Lundgren (Phot: B Spender)

“I didn’t make it in 2012, my first time,” says Wilma. “That was the very hot year, it was 38 degrees by ten in the morning. I only made it to 70k.

“I went back though because I knew I had to finish this race. I enjoyed 2014. I ran a part of the way with Dean Karnazes…but I am not in the film.”

Sorry Wilma. Cutting room floor and all that.


Other Spartathletes present included three-time finisher Tobias Lundgren of Sweden and 64 year-old Dutchman Dik Jagersma, the oldest person to finish the storm-swept 2018 edition of the race.

And then there was Joeri…the Belgian runner Joeri Schepers whose encounter with a hotel sofa in Sparta in 2017 is now the stuff of legend.

The story is that young Joeri was going well and nailed on to complete the Spartathlon with a couple of hours to spare when all of a sudden, just as he entered the finishing straight, he came over all confused.

With just 400 metres to go to reach the statue of Leonidas, Joeri spotted his hotel and, believing that he had already finished the race, went in to find his room.


Joeri Schepers (left) with Bjorn Paree, Hinke Schokker (and dog) and Paul van Snick in Texel (Photo: B Spender)

“It was actually my hotel from the previous year and they explained that the Belgian team wasn’t staying there,” says Joeri. “I was a bit confused so I sat down on a sofa in the lobby. And fell asleep. I was very tired.”

Alarm bells were ringing in the Belgian camp when he failed to turn up at the finish as he had checked through the final checkpoint some time before. They sent out a search party, the police were alerted.

Eventually, the sleeping Joeri was located in the hotel and woken up. He staggered up the last stretch and kissed the feet of Leonidas … but he was 20 minutes outside the cut-off time of 36 hours.

His medal is going to have to wait.


The 120k race on Texel is organised by Henri Thunnissen and Martien Baars but they are quick to pay tribute to the late Jan Knippenberg who got the ball rolling back in 1991.

Knippenberg was running ultras in the 1970s and when he moved to the island in 1984 he began doing the 60k loop of the island as a training run. Then came the idea of the organised ultras. The 60k event is only in the odd years and Knippenberg added the 120k in 1993. He competed himself in the

Knippenberg competed three times, finishing third in the 120k of 1993 but had to withdraw at 80k in 1995. Six months later he died from cancer, aged just 47.

“Jan was a very special person, a great runner and a wonderful man,” says Martien. “We still miss him.”

The day before the race, a group of runners went to visit Knippenberg’s grave just outside Den Burg to pay their respects.


Irene Kinnegim shaved 44 minutes off the course record as she won the women’s 120 kilometre race in ten hours and three minutes, beating the previous record set in 2015 by Léonie van den Haak. Kinnegim was less than 13 minutes behind the fastest man Geert Ceuppens, a Belgian Spartathlete.

There was another record in the 60 kilometre race with Wouter Decock, another Belgian, finishing in three hours and 55 minutes, edging the previous record of 3.57.16 set by Gerrit van Rotterdam in 1995.

Hinke Schokker, who is toying with the idea of entering the Spartathlon in 2020, was the fastest woman in the 60, her time of four hours 36 minutes, just 37 seconds outside the record. She was accompanied by her husband (and dog) on the bike but had forbidden him to give any information on pace and record as she wanted to run free and relaxed ….


The Road To Sparta Poster 35x50

A new trailer has been released to coincide with the premiers in Netherlands on April 5 and France on April 9.

Shorter than the original trailer, it draws on the poetry of AE Stallings and the music of Old House Playground to launch the viewer into the feel of the film.

The Road to Sparta will screen twice at Texel Island at the 15th edition of De Zestig van Texel ultramarathon and then at the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris.

Anyone wishing to go to the Paris screening should reserve a seat – proceeds will go to the Marie Curie Foundation.


CurieRunners preparing for the Paris Marathon will get the chance for some last minute inspiration as The Road to Sparta makes its French premiere at the Irish Cultural Centre on April 9, just five days before the 42.2 kilometre run in the capital. 

The screening will take place at the ICC on rue des Irlandais, close to the Panthéon at 7.30pm. It will be followed by a Q&A with producer and co-director Barney Spender. Tickets priced at 5 euros should be bought in advance through the centre’s website with proceeds going to the Institut Curie.

“A very big merci beaucoup to the Irish Cultural Centre,” said Spender.

“Given that (co-director) Roddy Gibson and I first met and formed a lifelong friendship in the Players Theatre at Trinity, Dublin it is entirely appropriate that we should screen at rue des Irlandais.”

Jean O'Sullivan (2)

Jean O’Sullivan performing in the annual Bloomsbury celebrations at the Irish Cultural Centre

The screening is dedicated to Jean O’Sullivan, a long-standing Irishwoman in Paris and friend to many at the Irish Cultural Centre, who died from cancer in 2017.

The 60-minute documentary follows the fortunes of four runners, including  as they attempt to complete the epic 246-kilometre Spartathlon between Athens and Sparta.

The award-winning film also tells the story of the ancient runner Pheidippides who made the same run before the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC using specially-commissioned poetry from AE Stallings and a vibrant new score from Greek band Old House Playground.

Around 50,000 people will run the Paris Marathon on April 14, many of whom may find inspiration in the story of one of the world’s greatest races.

“It is great timing,” says Spender. “We did the same thing in Dublin in 2017, screening just before the city marathon, and there was plenty of interest from runners, especially first-timers. I did hear one or two admit that they were never going to complain about those 20k training runs ever again!”

That screening in Dublin, which raised over 700 euros for the Irish Heart Foundation, prompted a warm response from Irish Times film critic Donald Clarke.

“The heat boils off the screen,” he wrote. “The discomfort twists the subjects’ ill-used features. It’s a classy piece.”

The one downside for French viewers is that the film is being screened in its original English-format, without sub-titles.

“I am genuinely sorry about that but it is all about budgets,” said Spender.



Zestig_van_TexelThe Road to Sparta will have its first screening in the Netherlands when it features not once but twice at the 15th edition of De Zestig van Texel ultramarathon at the start of April.

The 60-minute documentary about the Spartathlon will screen on Friday April 5 and again the following evening to ensure that all the runners coming to Texel for the races on Sunday April 7 get a chance to see it. The screenings (in English with no Dutch sub-titles) will be followed by a Q&A with producer Barney Spender.

The Road to Sparta makes up a part of a busy cultural programme which will also feature a Running Script show by The Runners Literary Society while psychiatrist Bram Bakker will present his new book Ultra.

De Zestig – which features races of 60k and 120k – is a key event for athletes in the Low Countries preparing to head to Greece for Spartathlon in September.


Over 500 runners will take on the Texel challenge in April

“Around 80 percent of the Dutch runners in the past ran De Zestig van Texel in preparation for the Spartathlon,” says race organiser Henri Thunnissen. “For Belgium this number is about 40 percent of the Spartathlon participants.”

Of this year’s succesful entries for Spartathlon, 13 will be at Texel including a nine-strong Dutch contingent of Rombout Breedveld, Wilma Dierx, Frank van der Gulik, Albert Heikens, Endymion Kasanardjo,  Edward de Leng, Sameena van der Mijden, Arie van der Steen and Leonie Ton.

dezestigvantexel2017_00They will be joined by Tamas Bodis (Hungary),  Tobias Lundgren (Sweden),  Tomas Prysmantas (Lithuania) and Werner Roels (Belgium).

Another four Texel runners – Vincent Kalkman, Jonathan Koutstaal, Gerben Oevermans and Joeri Schepers (Belgium) are on the Spartathlon waiting list.

Around 40 runners are expected to start the 120k race with 500 lining up for the 60k race.

Texel is the largest and most populated island of the West Frisian Islands in the Wadden Sea, north of Den Helder. About one-third of the island is a protected nature reserve.


Peloponnese doc festThe Road to Sparta was given a wonderful reception in Sparta when it screened during the 5th Peloponnese International Documentary Film Festival on January 26.

An audience of around 60 people, including two Spartathletes, gathered at the Olive Museum and gave a rousing round of applause at the end of the screening which was followed by a half-hour Q&A with producer Barney Spender.

Barney Spender and Tryfon Lazos

Barney Spender and Tryfon Lazos before the screening in Kalamata

Earlier in the day Spender had toured the archaeological site at Sparta and, on behalf of his crew, kissed the feet of the statue of Leonidas.

“It has taken over four years to get here. But tonight we screen in Sparta. We have earned this,” he said.

The following day, composer and musician Tryfon Lazos was in the near-full Theodoros Angelopoulos cinema in Kalamata when The Road to Sparta closed the festival.

Lazos’ first solo album will be released in Greece in the spring. The music soundtrack from The Road to Sparta will be available on CD and download in September.


kalamata,_peloponnese,_greeceThe Road to Sparta has been given the honour of closing the Peloponnese International Documentary Film Festival in Kalamata at the end of the month.

The film will take centre stage at the Auditorium Theodoros Angelopoulos at 8.30pm on January 27, the last film to screen before the closing ceremony and awards.

“It is an honour to be selected for the festival full stop. It is a double honour to be given what is always a treasured slot at film festivals,” said producer Barney Spender.

“I am sure there are many people in the Peloponnese who have witnessed Spartathlon close up at first hand so I hope they will be inspired to come and see how it shapes up on the big screen. ”

The Kalamata screening will be preceded on January 26 by a screening in Sparta, where the race ends every year at the feet of the statue of Leonidas. The screening takes place at the Amphitheatre at the Museum of Olive Oil at 7.15 pm.

Both screening are free and entry will be allowed on a first come first served basis. 


Angela Terzi will be back in Sparta for the January screening (M.Ulevicius/The Road to Sparta)

Spender will be at both screenings and in Sparta will be joined by a number of people involved in the production including Angela Terzi, one of the four runners featured in the film.

“I am so looking forward to viewing the film once again,” said Terzi. “And I wouldn’t miss the chance to visit the statue of King Leonidas, this time not as a runner but as a friend bringing him a gift…a piece of art.”

Others who appear in the film that are expected to attend are Angie’s crew Vicki Karpouza and Dean Karnazes’ crew Dimitris Troupis along with musicians Tryfon Lazos and Andreas Venetantes, poet AE Stallings and actor Renos Haralambides who voices three of the poems.

“I hope we get a full house because we really want this to be a celebration of this amazing race,” says Spender. “After the screening, I think we will make the feast, as they say in Greece.

“Perhaps not the fest of Carneian Apollo, our ancient horned god of flock and field, but a feast nonetheless. With some music. And dancing. Someone finally has to teach me how to Greek dance!”

For more information on the festival and for a complete programme click here


sat eyeThe Road to Sparta showed it could go the distance by sweeping the field to collect its first winner’s award for Best Documentary at the inaugural Satisfield Eye International Film Festival in Epsom on Ochi Day on Sunday.

The 60-minute documentary screened to an audience, which included 2018 Spartathlon finishers Cat Simpson and John Melbourne, at the Epsom Playhouse with producer Barney Spender then fielding a lengthy question and answer session.

“I loved the film,” said Simpson (below) who was the third Briton home in the 2018 race. “I missed quite a lot of the background to the history when I was running so it filled in a few gaps for me.”

At a glitzy awards ceremony at Epsom Racecourse later that evening, Spender collected the award on behalf of the team that had made the film happen.

sat eye 4

Barney Spender and Spartathlon 2018 finisher Cat Simpson (Photo: Nigel Bristow)

Efharisto,” said Spender. “Not just for inviting us to screen here in Epsom but also for allowing us to do it on such a special day for all Greeks.

“October 28 is the day that the Greeks told Mussolini to stick it where the sun don’t shine and it is great to be able to honour them for that.”

Festival director Chris Hastings was rich in his applause for the The Road to Sparta.

“It’s a real heart-pumping lesson in near-flawless documentary filmmaking,” he said.

“I could feel the pain and pleasure. It’s a truly excellent, uplifting, fascinating and genuinely dramatic story, expertly told, about the perseverance of the human spirit.  I was desperate to see the success of the main players.

“When it finished I immediately wanted to book a trip to Greece and take up running!  And I hate running!  But now I’m thinking I want to enter the Spartathlon!  That’s a great film and anybody wanting to know how to make a documentary should watch it!”

Hastings and his team deserve immense credit for putting together an outstanding first-time festival.

“It was very impressive; not just the quality of the films which was terrific but also in the detail like the programmes and the awards ceremony,” said Spender.

“As one of the other filmmakers Charley Garrad said, it is nice to win at the inaugural edition of a festival. When they are celebrating their 50th edition perhaps they will remember those first winners.”


Stallings4The poems written by AE Stallings for The Road to Sparta have been published in full for the first time in the latest issue of the American online journal Literary Matters.

Athens-based Stallings wrote four sonnets and a mirrored double sonnet for the film, drawing on the original Herodotus account of the run, providing a voice for Pheidippides, Pan, the Spartans and the populace of an Athens under threat.

The poems were voiced for the film by the Greek actors Malamatenia Gotsi and Renos Haralambides. The Road to Sparta was rewarded in August with the Best Poetry award at the Motion Picture Film Festival in Lagos.

MOPIFF_Winner_LaurelThe spread in Literary Matterswhich you can read here – features articles by Stallings and producer Barney Spender about how the collaboration came together over the course of a year as well as the poems.

“When Barney first proposed the idea of my writing some poems for the film, I was flattered and intrigued, but wary,” writes Stallings in the article. “I have not had great luck in the past with writing poems for projects.”


Renos Haralambides grappling with the rythms and stresses of Stallings’ sonnets (Photo: Barney Spender)

“As it happens, only one of the poems – the mirrored double sonnet – is in the voice of Pheidippides, and, perhaps, simultaneously in the voice of the modern runners in his footsteps.”

As Spender and Stallings collaborated so the problems of contemporary Athens also came under the spotlight.

“I realised that I could put the troubles of modern Greece and Athens in the poems, that the poems need not be merely a commission or exercise,” writes Stallings.

“When I attended the premier and saw the images on the big screen, and first heard the words from Threat, the hair on my arm stood up.

“And yet I didn’t even recognize immediately that they were my own words. Spoken in Malamatenia Gotsi’s voice against the Greek landscape, they felt older, ancient even, in some modern translation. Maybe that is what I had been going for.”

The poems will be available in Greek in 2019.



Sport Film FestivalThe Road to Sparta has been selected on the long-list for the 39th Sport Film Festival in Palermo in December.

It is the oldest sports film festival in the world, dating back to 1979 when Tom Gries was posthumously awarded for The Greatest, his biography of Mohammad Ali.

The festival received more than 1.600 different films from all over the world in 38 different languages.

The Road to Sparta is one of 400 films to have made the long-list but still wait until mid-October before hearing whether it will be one of the 44 films nominated in the awards and thus chosen to screen in Palermo. We are keeping our fingers crossed.

(Article updated October 9, 2018 to clarify that at this point The Road to Sparta has been chosen on the long-list and not for the festival itself. BS.)


Yoshihiko 2018

Spartathlon 2018 winner Ishikawa Yoshihiko (Photo: Sparta Photography Club)

Ishikawa Yoshihiko produced one of the great Spartathlon runs to defy the wind and the rain as well as a 400 strong field to win the 2018 Spartathlon on Saturday.

The 30 year-old arrived in Sparta to win the 246 kilometre race in 22:55:19, the 10th fastest time ever. He is the third Japanese runner to win the race following Masayuki Ohtaki (2000) and Ryōichi Sekiya (2002 and 2009).

Yoshihiko finished 48 minutes ahead of Brunner Radek who had to settle for second place for the second consecutive year. Indeed, it is Radek’s third year on the podium as he also finished third in 2016.

All the while, Cyclone Zorba was whipping up the wind reportedly reaching 100 kph, fog and rain, making conditions difficult and at times dangerous. It made the finishing total of 238 out of 401 all the more impressive.

You can check all of the finishers here

Yoshihiko, who clocked 23:20:56 when he finished fourth in his previous appearance in 2017, arrived at the Corinth checkpoint (CP22) six minutes behind leader Simanovics Edgars. By CP 23 he was level with the Latvian and then moved out into the lead.

He reached Nemea (CP 35) 14 minutes ahead of 2013 winner Joao Oliveira, Edgars dropping back into fourth.

Brunner came into contention by CP60 but Yoshihiko was still able to hold on to a 20-minute gap. On the run in to Sparta he then opened the throttle to come home 48 minutes ahead of the Czech Brunner.

Oliveira finished third almost an hour behind.

Zsuzsanna Maraz was the first woman home in 27:05:28 to finish 17th overall. The Hungarian was followed 42 minutes later by the Czech Katerina Kasparova.


  1. Yiannis Kouros           (Greece)                   20:25:00     1984
  2. Yiannis Kouros           (Greece)                   20:29:04     1983
  3. Yiannis Kouros           (Greece)                   21:51:00      1986
  4. Yiannis Kouros           (Greece)                   21:57:00      1990
  5. Aleksandr Sorokin     (Lithuania)              22:04:04     2017
  6. Scott Jurek                   (USA)                        22:20:01     2008
  7. Ivan Cudin                   (Italy)                       22:29:29     2014
  8. Radek Brunner            (Czech Republic)     22:49:37      2017
  9. Scott Jurek                   (USA)                         22:52:18     2006
  10. Ishikawa Yoshihiko  (Japan)                    22:55:19     2018


US Sparta 2018

Dean Karnazes with the US team (Photo: US Spartathlon)

One of those who failed to make it all the way to Sparta under their own steam was Dean Karnazes whose last attempt in 2014 was featured in The Road to Sparta.

The American began comfortably but was clipped by a car near CP 11. He continued until 186 kilometres into the race when he withdrew.

“There is never any certainty in finishing an Ultramarathon, especially a race as difficult as the 246km Spartathlon,” said Karnazes.

“This year‘s race was especially challenging. The weather was usually rainy and blustery, and unfortunately I was struck in the side by a passing motorist at the 40km near Megara. Ultimately, I succumbed to the weather and the pain and was unable to reach the finish line.

“Still, I am pleased to have participated in this legendary event and enjoyed meeting the Greek runners and the other athletics from around the world. There is no other race on earth like the Spartathlon. If you are a long-distance runner, this is where it all began and I look forward to returning to the Spartathlon for many years to come.”



Seventh time lucky for Stuart Shipley (Photo: Chris Mills)

When The Road to Sparta screened at the Out of the Can Film Festival in Derby in August, Stuart Shipley told the audience that he had tried and failed to complete Spartathlon on six previous occasions but he was hoping to put that right this year.

“I have just turned 60 and I think this is going to be my final attempt,” he said. “If I don’t do it then I have to accept defeat.”

Not surprisingly, we were following Stuart every step of the way and fretting for his dreams as Cyclone Zorba shifted through the gears. He wasn’t quick but he was steady and he finally came into Sparta in a time of 35:36:42, just 23 minutes inside the cut-off.

2018-09-30“I’ve often wondered whether the life lesson it was trying to tell me was ‘accept your limitations and don’t waste your life on things you can’t do’ or ‘ persistence pays off in the end’,” Stuart wrote on Facebook.

“Anyway, now it can be told. Today’s race was my 7th attempt. Chuffed is an understatement.

“It’s been a long journey but I can finally call myself a Spartathlete,” said Stuart before heading off to find a tattooist to mark his achievement.

Many congratulations. Others please note: good things happen to you when you come to see The Road to Sparta!

Rain Sparta 2018

Brits take on Zorba (Photo: Chris Mills)


OFFICIALSELECTION-PeloponnisosInternationaldocumentaryFestival-2019With the 2018 Spartathlon about to get underway later this week, we are thrilled to announce that The Road to Sparta will be heading to its spiritual homeland in the Peloponnese in January.

The 60-minute documentary about the Spartathlon is an Official Selection for the 4th International Documentary Film Festival of the Peloponnese which runs January 18-28, 2019.

The Road to Sparta will screen twice during the festival, first in Sparta and then in Kalamata. Dates, times and ticket information will be announced later.

The Crew

The Road to Sparta crew at the feet of Leonidas (pic: Marius Ulevicius)

“It’s wonderful news,” said RTS producer Barney Spender who will also be doing an audience Q&A at the festival.

“I haven’t been this excited since Angelos Charisteas scored against Portugal. And that was in 2004!

“The first public screening of the film was in Athens, the starting point of the race, and it has taken us over two years to get it down to Sparta, the city where it ends. I am thrilled.

“Perhaps this is the moment when I can truly say that the team that made the film completed their own Spartathlon. Maybe I will kiss the feet of Leonidas.”

The Festival is organised by the Creative Document Centre of Kalamata, an artistic
non-profit organisation founded to promote documentary art, to organise documentary festivals, educational programmes, artistic exchanges and the operation of a documentary production workshop.

The Creative Document Centre has a continuous annual presence, organising a
variety of other events in relation to this cinematic genre.


AwardGreeks in the south-east of England will get a chance to commemorate Ochi Day at the screening of The Road to Sparta at the Satisfied Eye Film Festival in Epsom, Surrey on October 28.

The film has been scheduled to start at 12 noon at Myers Studio, Epsom Playhouse and will feature a Q&A with the producer Barney Spender.

“Thank you so much to Chris Hastings and the organising committee for putting us on October 28,” said Spender.

“It is a day with great significance for all Greeks, marking as it does the moment when they said No to Mussolini and effectively entered the Second World War.

Spartathlon signpost (Photo: Barney Spender)“Last year we had a screening in Dublin on Ochi Day and the Greeks in the audience found it incredibly moving.

“In 1940, Athens was under threat just as it had been in 490BC when Pheidippides made his epic run to Sparta and just as it has been over the last decade when the misery of the economic situation really hit hard. So I think it really strikes a chord.”

The Road to Sparta has been nominated for two awards at SEIFF: Best Documentary and Best British Feature.

Tickets only cost £5 and are available here.

(For anyone wanting to know more about Greece’s activity in World War 2, start here : Hence they will say that Heroes fight like Greeks)


MOPIFF_Winner_LaurelThe Road to Sparta enjoyed a triumphant African premiere in August, picking up the award for Best Poetry at the Motion Pictures Film Festival in Lagos, Nigeria.

The documentary was one of six nominees for the poetry prize but the collection of sonnets especially written for the film by the American poet AE Stallings emerged at the jury’s favourite.

It is the second time that the poetry in the film has been recognised. The documentary also received a runner-up award for Best Writing at the Enginuity Awards in the US.

Athens-based Stallings was surprised and delighted by the MOPIFF award. “Well this is very nifty!” she tweeted.

Stallings tweet

Meanwhile, the film will receive another screening in the UK at the end of October after being officially selected for the inaugural Satisfied Eye Film Festival in Epsom.

“It is very exciting to be in at the ground level of a new festival especially when the organisers have such ambitious plans for the future,” said producer Barney Spender. “From what I can make out it is very well put together and is being very imaginative in the way it is pushing itself.

SEIFF-Website-Banner“From a screening point of view it is great that our followers in London and the south-east of England will get another chance to see the film in a top quality cinema.

“I love the fact that it will take place over the Oxi Day (Oct 28) weekend so it is a chance for everyone to share a day that is incredibly important for all Greeks.”

Spender is also hoping to add to the awards that the film has already picked up.

“I am not a big gambler but some years ago I was advised to put a few quid on a horse called Dr Devious in the Derby. He romped home at 14-1. It was a good evening as I recall. So I am keeping fingers crossed for another slice of good fortune in Epsom.”


Out of the Can FF

Tryfon Lazos (right) joins producer Barney Spender (centre) and Out of the Can festival organiser Mark Busby on stage in Derby (Photo: Sydney Spender)

The Road to Sparta picked up two awards at the Out of the Can Film Festival which took place in Derby on August 4-5.

The 60-minute documentary, which tracks four runners as they attempt to complete the 246 kilometre Spartathlon, was runner-up in the Best Documentary category as well as Best Original Score.

“This is amazing,” said Tryfon Lazos, one part of the Greek band Old House Playground which created the score.

“I am so happy for the film that it has been recognised in this way and of course I am excited that we got an award for the music,” said the Naoussa-born musician.

“It was a fantastic experience to be involved in the film and to be on the shoot. I think we made something pretty memorable.”

Earlier this year, The Road to Sparta also picked up awards at the London Greek Film Festival and at the Enginuity Film Festival in the US.

MDFF 2018 Roddy

Co-director Roddy Gibson (right) was down under for the festival in Melbourne

The film also featured at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival in July where the screening fee of 150 Australian dollars was passed directly to the McGrath Foundation.

“Thanks to your help, we’re able to make life just that little bit easier for individuals and families experiencing breast cancer, by providing access to a McGrath Breast Care Nurse,” wrote the foundation’s CEO Holly Masters.

“Our nurses provide physical, psychological and emotional support to individuals across Australia, from the time of diagnosis and throughout treatment – for free.

“Unfortunately, breast cancer remains the most common cancer affecting women in Australia.  More than 18,235 women and 148 men are diagnosed every year.  That’s 50 people each day.”

The Road to Sparta is also due to make its US premiere at the AOF/Enginuity festival in Las Vegas some time between August 16 and 25 (screening dates and times are still not available) and its African premiere at the Motion in Pictures festival in Lagos at the end of the month.


Old House Playground in Sparta

Old House Playground’s Tryfon Lazos (left) and Andreas Venetantes (right) in Sparta at the end of the race (Photo: Vasilios Alexandrou/The Road to Sparta)

Manchester-based band Old House Playground have been included on the shortlist for Best Original Soundtrack at the Out of the Can Film Festival which takes place in Derby (UK) in early August.

It is one of two nominations for The Road to Sparta which was also nominated for Best Documentary.

“It is brilliant news for all of us,” said producer Barney Spender who co-directed the 60-minute film with Roddy Gibson.

“We are especially pleased for the boys at OHP who have been integral to the whole process.

“When I had the idea of making the film, Tryfon (Lazos) was the first person I called. He and Andreas (Venetantes) were the first people to join the team.

“I told Tryfon that I wanted a Greek version of Ry Cooder’s music for Paris, Texas. I got what I wanted.”


Andreas (left) and Tryfon were joined by English bass player Jago Furnas on The Road to Sparta (Photo: Old House Playground)

Old House Playground formed over a decade ago in Athens but have been based in Manchester since 2009. There have been a number of different line-ups with Lazos (strings, vocals) and Venetantes (percussion) at the core. Londoner Jago Furnas (bass) joined the duo after the shoot but in time to work on the soundtrack.

Listen to Old House Playground here

“They came with us on the shoot and actually started composing the main theme in the back of the van while we were filming. We had to send them off to the olive groves a couple of times when they got too noisy,” said Spender.

“That close involvement in the making of the film though meant they were totally in tune with what Roddy and I were trying to do with the film. Consequently they have come up with a soundtrack that is very vibrant and which reflects not just the mood of the race but each of the different runners.”

Clive Martin

Music producer Clive Martin at the operating table (Photo: Barney Spender)

It is also a reward for experienced music producer Clive Martin who worked with the band in Manchester, Paris and Athens to deliver the masters.

“It was so good to have Clive’s experience,” said Spender. “We hope he is a bringer of good luck as well. The last time he worked on a soundtrack, David Byrne won an Oscar for The Last Emperor! We will be happy with a Can. At least for now.”

The screening in Derby takes place on Saturday August 4. One-day and two-day festival tickets are still available.

The music from The Road to Sparta will be available on CD and as a download in the autumn.

out of the can


Vol cave

John Volanthen (right) with fellow rescuers Richard Stanton (left) Robert Harper. (Getty/AFP)

The Spartathlon received an unexpected shot of global publicity on Monday when pictures emerged of the British trio that had successfully reached the group of trapped schoolboys in a cave in northern Thailand.

John Volanthen, who was the first person to greet the football team of twelve boys and their coach who became trapped when waters rose while they were inside the cave. was photographed after the mission wearing a British Spartathlon Team shirt.

“How many of you?” he is heard to ask on the footage of the incident that has now had over 14 million hits.

The 47-year-old IT worker, who completed the Spartathlon in 2016, was called up by Thai authorities along with Richard Stanton and another British caving expert, Robert Harper.

The trio arrived in Thailand three days after boys and their coach went missing.

For more on the story of the Thai rescue click here

Volanthen, who is based in Bristol, and Stanton are part of the South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team and have taken part in previous rescue attempts.

In 2010 they were involved in the attempted rescue of a French cave diver in Dragonnière de Gaud in the Ardèche Gorge. Sadly, on that occasion, although they reached the diver, they were too late to save him.

They were both awarded a bronze medal by the Royal Humane Society.

Vol Sparta 2

John Volanthen on his way to a finish at the 2016 Spartathlon (Photo: Chris Mills)

According to an interview on the British Spartathlon Team website, Volanthen took up ultra-running in 2011 when he ran the Likeys Beacons Ultra “because I was curious”.

He has since gone on to compete in numerous races across Britain and in Greece. His race record is here.

His record in Spartathlon has been mixed. In 2015 he “got to 90 kilometres and then ran out of steam”. But the following year he succeeded in reaching the statue of Leonidas in a time of 34 hours 32 minutes and 23 seconds. He marks it as his greatest ultra achievement even though it hurt.

“I suffered greatly through the greater part of the night and had to march it in to Sparta,” he says.

Volanthen is due to return to Greece to run the 2018 Spartathlon when he will doubtless be answering a few more questions about life underground.

Fingers crossed, the 13 still trapped in the Thai cave will be above ground and safely back at school.


McGrath-Foundation-new-logoThe award-winning running film The Road to Sparta will join the battle against breast cancer when it makes its Australasian premiere at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival on July 10.

The film’s production team decided to join up with the festival organisers to donate all proceeds from the screening on to the McGrath Foundation, one of Australia’s most prominent cancer charities.

“We are delighted to team up with the festival and with the McGrath Foundation to make a contribution to a struggle that is taking place not just in Australia but across the world,” said The Road to Sparta producer and co-director Barney Spender.

“Cancer affects all of us these days so if we can help even in a small way to fund another McGrath Breast Care Nurse then that is a win-win.”

The McGrath Foundation was set up in 2005 by former Australian cricketer Glenn McGrath and his late wife Jane. The foundation has supported over 60,000 families and funds 119 care nurses right across Australia.

The Road to Sparta, the first film collaboration of Spender and Roddy Gibson, screens at Loop on July 10 on a programme which includes another sports documentary, Amy Pysden and Daniel Clarke’s New Island Home, as well as four Australian short documentaries.

“The Melbourne Documentary Film Festival is proud to support this great cause,” said festival director Lyndon Stone.

A total of 66 documentary films will be screened during the festival which runs from 8-14 July.

The Road to Sparta raised over 700 euros for the Irish Heart Foundation when it screened in Dublin last October.


MIDFF 2018 Selection 3Australian runners will have their first chance to see the award-winning The Road to Sparta when it screens at the prestigious Melbourne Documentary Film Festival in July.

The Road to Sparta, the first film collaboration of directors Barney Spender and Roddy Gibson, features in the Sports section of the festival.

The premiere will take place at Loop (23 Meyers Place) on July 10 with the programme starting at 7pm. Tickets are available here.

“It is fantastic for the film to have been selected to screen in a city which is not only mad about its sport but is also packed with Aussies of Greek heritage,” says Spender.

“The Melbourne Documentary Film Festival is one of the top festivals in the world so we are rubbing shoulders with a lot of great films and terrific filmmakers. It’s very exciting.”

The selection to screen in Melbourne closes a magnificent May for The Road to Sparta which picked up a number of awards at the Enginuity Festival in the US, including Best Director, and at the London Greek Film Festival.


Renos JC1The theatre critics in Athens have been taking stock after a whirlwind run by Renos Haralambidis as Julius Caesar in Natasha Triantafylis’ production at the Theatro Technis.

In fact, Haralambidis, who voices three of AE Stallings’ sonnets in The Road to Sparta, hasn’t just been playing Caesar; he also took on the roles of his assassins, Brutus and Cassius as well as Mark Antony in one of Shakespeare’s best-known plays.

Based on the translation by Klearchos Karthaios, it made for a riveting tour de force which earned praise from the critics.

“Renos Haralambidis takes the risk of completing the complex task of rendering all the roles on his own – and comes out a great winner,” said Nikos Roubis.

Sylvia Bisti, meanwhile, described it as an “inventive theatrical monoplane”.

“It was one of the most fascinating projects I have ever been involved in,” he told The Road to Sparta.

“This production began with two artistic shocks. From the very beginning the whole project attracted the interest of the artistic community in Greece. First of all how it is going to happen? How can one actor play all the main roles of this Shakespeare masterpiece? And I think people were also wondering how I was going to do it because I am mainly known as a comic actor.”

“The great challenge was exploring the different intentions and dynamics of each role within the same scene. It was extremely demanding, trying to combine and build a monologue performance but I feel very lucky to have found the different characters so quickly!”

Renos’ comic background didn’t stop him from raising the occasional laugh. One evening as Caesar addressed the crowd he alluded to Roma’s “glorious victory” over the barbarians of Barcelona, referring of course to the Champions League quarter-final.

Renos JC2Director Natasha Triantafyllis is no stranger to the Classics. She staged Sophocles’ Antigone at the Athens Festival 2013, a production which later travelled to Paris. Her Brothers Karamazov was a big success in 2015 and she later staged Samuel Beckett’s
Waiting for Godot at the Benaki Museum.

The Athens run is now over but Triantafillis is keeping her fingers crossed that it will be revived.

“This production is under the umbrella of “Tempo Forte” a state program that run now in 2018 between Italy and Greece,” she explains.

“We hope to make it happen and travel with Julius Caesar to other venues in Italy and across Europe.”

You can also catch Renos on screen as the hapless Panayiotis in the Greek golfing romantic comedy Swing Away.


Alicia Elsbeth

(Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images for Homefront TV)

The Road to Sparta’s poet laureate AE Stallings is on the road herself this week, flying from Athens to Oxford to give a reading of her work at Christ Church on Friday May 25.

Stallings will be giving a flavour of her new translation of Hesiod’s Works and Days (Penguin) which she launched in Athens earlier this month.

“Hesiod’s advice is largely timeless and of the common-sense variety,” Stallings told Partisan Magazine in 2015.

“Work hard, put something by little by little and it adds up (and Hesiod would probably recommend keeping something under the mattress and distrusting the banks), deal justly with your fellow men. He’s a small-c conservative.

hesiod.jpg.rendition.460.707“He believes in the benefits of competition (the good strife, as opposed to the bad strife of, say, war).  He would have been appalled at the country’s own politicians and how they got us into this mess, how nobody goes to jail.”

Stallings, who narrowly missed out on the Oxford Professor of Poetry three years ago, isn’t scheduled to dip into the series of sonnets she wrote for The Road to Sparta although if enough Spartathletes turn up perhaps she could consider an encore.

The reading will take pace in the Ioannou Centre for Classical Studies, 66 St Giles, OX1 3LU, at 17.15, and is followed by a drinks reception. Admission is free. 


Enginuity 2The Road to Sparta collected four awards at the inaugural Enginuity Film Festival on Saturday including the prestigious Best Director award for Roddy Gibson and Barney Spender.

“What a way to wake up on Sunday morning,” said Spender.

“I am thrilled that we picked up awards in all four of our categories. Surprised too. I honestly thought we had no chance with Best Director because we weren’t even nominated for Best Documentary.

“I can only tip my hat at my co-director Roddy Gibson. He was the DoP and the editor. He was the nuts and bolts man who made it all work. But it is more than just the two of us. This is a reward for the entire team.”

The film was nominated in four categories and picked up honours in each. The Road to Sparta was runner-up in Best Writing, Best Female Voiceover and Best Trailer.

Best Director (Documentary) – Winner
Best Writing (Documentary) – Runner-up
Best Female Voiceover – Runner-up
Best Trailer – Runner-up

“It is great that Alicia Stallings’ contribution has been recognised within the Best Writing award,” said Spender. “Her poetry is absolutely integral to the film. And the delivery is key as well so it is a real joy to see Malamatenia Gotsi picking up a gong for the Female Voiceover.”

The awards were announced in Charles Town, West Virgina at the end of the first part of the festival. The Road to Sparta will screen in the second part of the festival in Las Vegas in August.


Athens-based actress Malamatenia Gotsi was rewarded for her part in The Road to Sparta with the Runner-Up award in Best Female Voiceover. [Photo: Elina Giounanli. Production: Taxidi (On the Journey) by Sophia Vgenopoulos, Greek National Theatre]



Roddy Gibson with Julie Lacy whose screenplay for Potnia also received an Odysseus Award

Roddy Gibson with Julie Lacy whose screenplay for Potnia also received an Odysseus Award

The Road to Sparta screened twice at the London Greek Film last week, going on to pick up an Odysseus award at the closing ceremony.

Co-director Roddy Gibson was at Theatro Technis to collect the Odysseus for 2nd in the Best Documentary category. The announcement was greeted with plenty of cheers and there was warm applause after his acceptance speech.

“It is such an honour to receive this award from a jury that understands Greece,” said Gibson after the ceremony.

“It was important to us, especially after the austerity of recent years, that the film speaks to the Greek people and the Greek diaspora.

“This award is reward for everyone involved in the making of this film which has truly been an international collaboration and a collaboration of many different talents.”

Screenwriter Julie Lacy was among the packed auditorium who welcomed the award.

“I couldn’t help myself, I let out a little scream when it was announced,” said Lacy who also collected an award for her screenplay Potnia.

“For me, The Road to Sparta was one of the highlights of the week. Sonnets and sweaty bodies connect us to Pheidippides in 490BC and to current runners in the Spartathlon.

“The film is pacy and it has a fabulous soundtrack which runs alongside four diverse characters finely shot through an intimate lens against the backdrop of austerity. Kudos to Team RTS!”


PRISMA 2The glamour of the movie world has come calling for The Road to Sparta after it was selected to take part in two more festivals, one in Rome, the other in Derby.

The Rome International Prisma Award is a monthly competition from which the winners will go forward to a screening in the Eternal City. Annual winners will be announced in January 2019.

Consequently there is no set screening date yet for Rome.

The Road to Sparta will screen in competition, though, at the Out of the Can Festival in Derby in early August. Details have not yet been released.

“It is another busy week for our festival calendar,” said producer Barney Spender.

out of the can“We would obviously love to screen in Rome as the Italians have such a link with the Spartathlon. In the race that we follow in the film, the winner is the great Ivan Cudin so it would be good to honour him with a screening.

“As for Derby, it is a terrific place. I used to go up there a lot as a cricket reporter and spent hours on the boundary at the Racecourse Ground. It’s a lovely city with some decent pubs and, it seems, a cracking film festival. It will be great to go back there. And, of course it is a great for many of the runners based in the midlands and north of England to get to see the film.”

The Road to Sparta is also screening at the London Greek Film Festival in May and the Enginuity Film Festival in Las Vegas in August.


LGFF2018_LAUREL.jpgTickets have now gone on sale for the screening of The Road to Sparta at the Greek London Film Festival which takes place in May.

The organisers are selling two types of ticket, a week ticket at £29 which will allow you to watch any film during the festival or a day ticket of £12 (£15 on the door) to view all the films on a certain day.

The Road to Sparta is scheduled to screen at 3pm on Thursday, May 10 at the Theatro Technis, close to Camden Town.

Anyone wishing to attend the screening can buy tickets here.

The Road to Sparta is one of 18 documentaries that will feature during the Festival.


LGFF_LOGO_GEN_NEW_3The Road to Sparta will have its United Kingdom premiere in early May after it was named as an Official Selection for the 11th annual London Greek Film Festival.

The announcement comes just days after the Barney Spender/Roddy Gibson directed documentary was nominated for four awards at the Enginuity Film Festival in the US.

The film, which follows the fortunes of four runners as they attempt to complete the 246-kilometre Spartathlon in Greece, has had one private viewing for the British Spartathlon team in London in February but this will be the first time it screens to the general public.

“It has been quite a week,” said Spender, who is also the film’s producer. “We have been scrabbling around checking out flights to Las Vegas for Enginuity and then London comes along.

“Roddy lives in London as do many of our crowd-funders, friends and supporters so it is good to give them the opportunity to see the film they have backed for the last four years.

“It is so right that our UK premiere comes at a Greek film festival. That is what we wanted. I hope we can now find someone to supply the wine and olives.”

The Road to Sparta is one of 18 documentaries that will feature during the London Greek Film Festival which takes place at the Theatro Technis in Camden Town between May 7 and 13. Timings have not yet been announced.


American poet AE Stallings and Greek actress Malamatenia Gotsi have both been nominated for awards at the Enginuity Film Festival for their work on The Road to Sparta.

The film, which follows the fortunes of four runners as they attempt to complete the 246-kilometre Spartathlon in Greece, received four nominations including Best Writing (Documentary) for Stallings and Best Female Voiceover for Gotsi.

“It always feels good to be nominated for an award but there is something special when the people who have put so much into it and backed you all the way get their recognition,” said co-director Roddy Gibson.

“Alicia’s poetry was a revelation to me, the way she worked in history with today’s financial crisis in Greece is outstanding.”

Stallings (above left), a MacArthur Fellow from Decatur, Georgia and now resident in the Greek capital, wrote four sonnets for the film as well as a double sonnet, a mirrored, palindromic poem.

These are used to shed light on the historial aspect of the film, the run of the ancient runner Pheidippides as he followed the same route as the contemporary runners from Athens to Sparta in his quest to raise reinforcements to fight the invading Persians at Marathon.

“I am thrilled that the writing on The Road To Sparta has been nominated for an Enginuity Award,” said Stallings.

“The sonnets composed especially for the documentary would never have been written if (co-director) Barney Spender had not commissioned them, and the words are, I hope, as intrinsically bound up with the images, the history, and the landscape as they are lines in a rhyme scheme.

“I am grateful these poems came about and have their own life on screen, and for Barney’s vision that poetry was going to be an essential part of the telling of this story.”

Her latest work, a translation of Hesiod’s The Works and Days, will be launched in Athens on May 3.

Athens-based actor Gotsi (above right) has been nominated for Best Female Voiceover for her haunting interpretation of Stallings’ poetry.

“Malamatenia gives us those goosebump moments as she brings the poetry to the screen. It is as if the Oracle has come back to life,” said Gibson who has also been rewarded for his work on The Road to Sparta; he and co-director Barney Spender have been nominated for Best Director and also Best Trailer.

The awards take place in Charles Town, West Virginia on May 19 with a screening of The Road to Sparta in Las Vegas in August.

Best Writing (Documentary)
Best Director (Documentary)
Best Female Voiceover
Best Trailer


Enginuity AwardsIf making The Road to Sparta was a bit of a gamble, then it seems to have paid off as the film is set to screen in the city of the boat and the boxcars itself – Las Vegas.

The judges of the Enginuity Film Awards picked The Road to Sparta to screen in Vegas in August. No date, time or venue has yet been ascribed.

“Your film blew us away and we received a lot of great films this year,” the confirmation letter stated.

“The fact that your film stood out above the others is a testament to your entire team. We loved your film and look forward to screening it.”

The Road to Sparta is still in the running for several other festivals in the US this summer so we cannot confirm yet whether this will be the North American premier but it will be a great opportunity for the thousands of runners in Vegas to see the movie.

“Massive thanks to the organisers of the Enginuity Awards for showing faith in our film,” said RTS producer Barney Spender.

“I am delighted that we have finally got a toe in North America. It is frustrating that it has taken us this long to cross the pond especially as Dean Karnazes is such a big name in the States. But I hope this opens a door for us that will allow runners the length and breadth of North America to enjoy The Road to Sparta.”

Enginuity is a quarterly awards festival created by filmmakers to celebrate the engine and ingenuity that powers independent film.


James Zarei

Two-time Spartathlon winner James Zarei takes centre stage in London (Photo: Andy Nuttal)

The Road to Sparta had its first private screening in the UK in London on February 2. The audience was perhaps the toughest we could imagine: a gathering of runners past and presented who have represented the British Spartathlon team.

Two of the four runners featured in the film are British: Mark Woolley, who lives in Spain, and Rob Pinnington, who is based in Germany. Sadly Mark wasn’t able to attend the screening but Rob did attend and was given a rousing ovation for his contribution.

David Bone

Master of Ceremonies David Bone (Photo: Andy Nuttall)

Darren Strachen and David Bone were the men behind the evening, the first of its kind, which drew together around 80 people and raised over 700 pounds for the Free to Run charity.

Among those attending the event were Nathan Flear, who was the first Briton home in 2017, Dan Lawson, who came second in 2015, and the remarkable Mimi Anderson whose running career is now in doubt after she damaged knee ligaments during her unsuccessful attempt last year to break the record for running across the USA.

Guest of honour, though, was James Zarei, the last Briton to win the Spartathlon.

James was born and brought up in Iran before arriving in the UK in 1966. He took up running at the age of 39 and went on to represent Britain in many ultras.

Rob Pinnington

Rob Pinnington flew in from Germany for a quiet night on the lemonade (Photo: Andy Nuttal)

He registered five podium finishes in the Spartathlon; third in 1987 and 1997, second in 1988 and winner in 1994 and 1995. He skipped the chance to make it a hat-trick of wins in 1996 in order to help his daughter move into university.

Following the screening of The Road to Sparta, Zarei, Crawford and Anderson took part in a lively Q&A, hosted by Ultra editor Andy Nuttal.

It was a great night. Many thanks from all of us at The Road to Sparta to the organisers and, indeed, to everyone who came. We hope you enjoyed the film. Good luck to all of you running in 2018.

Zarei and friends

James Zarei flanked by co-directors Roddy Gibson and Barney Spender (Photo: Andy Nuttall)


Dub17 Panel

On stage at the LightHouse in Dublin: L-R Roddy Gibson, Anthony Lee, Barney Spender, Donald Clarke

Happy New Year everyone. We trust that the Resolutions are in place and that the excesses of the festive season have given way to a new rigourous training regime. What will 2018 hold? For some of us it may just be a 10k along the river; for others lies the tantalising prospect of the Spartathlon. Good luck to all of those who fill out the entry form in January, although that for the moment is just for the lottery.

At The Road to Sparta, we are confident that this is the year when you will finally get to see the film either on a big screen or in the comfort of your own home.

It is fair to say that 2017 was a bit frustrating for us for many reasons but it ended well with a screening and Q&A in Dublin which featured local Spartathlete Anthony “Another Day in Paradise” Lee and Irish Times film critic Donald Clarke who earlier in the week wrote this review of The Road to Sparta. The screening raised over 700 euros for the Irish Heart Foundation.

We are now working on a series of screenings for the spring of 2018 in the UK and Ireland to coincide with the release of the DVD.

Among the places we are looking at to host screenings are London, Brighton, Bristol, Salisbury, Oxford, Birmingham, York, Manchester, Newcastle, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Belfast, Dublin and Cork.

This is not a complete list and is certainly subject to changes especially if there are calls from particular areas where the ultra-running community is strong.  So by all means contact Barney Spender.

Talks are also underway for a short tour in North America with cities such as New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Montreal and Toronto on the wish list. Again, if you have a strong running community and you are interested in having the film come to you, then let us know.

In home viewing terms, we are working on setting up the video platform so that you can rent/buy the film digitally and we are also putting together a DVD. This is taking a bit of time as we want to make sure that we have a few extras for you to enjoy.

So it is a busy year ahead for all of us.


LighthouseThe Road to Sparta will make its Irish Premier in Dublin on the eve of the city marathon.

The 60-minute documentary will screen at the highly prestigious Lighthouse Cinema in Smithfield, Dublin 7. It will start at 11am. The audience will then have the chance to discuss the film with its two directors Roddy Gibson and Barney Spender. Other guests will also be there to discuss the film and the Spartathlon.

“I am thrilled that we will be in Dublin for the marathon weekend,” says Spender. “The day before a race can always be a bit boring so I hope the runners will take the chance to see the film and maybe set themselves a new target.”

Booking details will be released in the coming days.


Nothing has been signed and sealed yet but producer Barney Spender is confident that there will be a public screening of the The Road to Sparta in Dublin at the end of October.

“Roddy (Gibson) and I were students in Trinity in Dublin many many years ago so it feels right to take the film home,” says Spender.

“We are looking for a suitable cinema to stage the screening and we are also open to collaborating with potential sponsors.”

The screening is being scheduled to coincide with the weekend of the Dublin Marathon which takes place on October.