Sparta-to-Athens runners honored by township council

Sparta. The Spartathlon takes place in Greece every September but was cancelled this year because of COVID-19. New Jersey runners Otto Lam and Chris Calimano decided to run from Athens, Pa., to Sparta, N.J., instead.

03 Nov 2020 | 04:08

Two New Jersey athletes who attempted to run from Athens, Pa., to Sparta, N.J., to simulate the canceled 2020 Spartathlon in Greece, were honored for their effort.

The proclamation was read by Sparta Mayor Jerard Murphy at the township council’s Oct. 20 meeting. It was accepted by retired director of recreation Marianne Dilworth on behalf of Otto Lam and Chris Calimano.

“It was very exciting,” Dilworth said. “The township all came together to put the lights on and welcome them. We had a nice group of people to welcome to them, but it didn’t work out for them.”

The Spartathlon takes place in Greece every September. It follows the footsteps of Pheidippides before the Battle of Marathon, as he ran from Athens to Sparta to seek help in the war against the Persians. According to the Greek historian Herodotus, Pheidippides arrived in Sparta the day after leaving Athens, after traveling about 130 miles.

When the runners learned the Spartathlon in Greece was canceled because of COVID-19, they decided to run in Pennsylvania and New Jersey instead.

“I want to say thank you so much for your warm welcome,” Lam said. “Definitely next year, we’re going to try and run through Sparta again.”

Athens, Pa., is about 150 miles away from the township, but the runners were stopped about 80 miles into the run. Again, COVID-19 restrictions halted their progress.

“I really sincerely thank the entire township of Sparta,” Calimano said. “Mrs. Dilworth, who is family to me, was extremely supportive to me. It’s flattering and it’s an honor, and we look forward to representing Sparta and the USA next year, and we’ll make everyone proud.”

Murphy applauded their effort

“I thank both of you for at least trying,” he said. “That’s the Sparta spirit. You were defeated by something other than your talents.”

“That’s the Sparta spirit. You were defeated by something other than your talents.” Mayor Jerard Murphy