The Road to Sparta

The Road to Sparta

The Road to Sparta, the first feature-length documentary from Barney Spender and Roddy Gibson, tracks four runners, including ‘UltraMarathon Man” Dean Karnazes as they take on the ultimate footrace: the Spartathlon.


Two years in the making, The Road to Sparta is a love letter to an extraordinary race and an equally remarkable band of human beings.


Taking place between Athens and Sparta, a distance of 246 kilometres (153 miles) in the searing heat of Greece, teacher Mark Woolley, project manager Rob Pinnington and Athens nurse Angela Terzi take on this gruelling challenge alongside Dean Karnazes. Finishing the race is no certainty for any of them.


The fifth runner in the story is Pheidippides, the man sent by the Greeks in 490 BC to ask the Spartans for military help against the Persians. It is that run that is celebrated and replicated every year with the Spartathlon.


His story is told through the verse of the acclaimed American poet AE Stallings and the vibrant specially-written score from Greek band Old House Playground.


The backdrop to The Road to Sparta is crisis and fear, today’s threat of austerity echoed by the threat of the Persians as they invaded Greek shores two and a half thousand years ago.





What they say:


"The Road to Sparta brilliantly captures the essence of a race that has no equal on the planet, with stirring intensity.”
Dean Karnazes, Runner and Author

The Road to Sparta makes for highly entertaining and engaging viewing. The music sets the tone and the story lets you in. A beautifully told account of the human will to succeed against all odds."
Gillies Mackinnon, Film director (Hideous Kinky, A Simple Twist of Fate)

The Road to Sparta is due to be premiered at the Athens Action Film Festival on Sunday, October 23.


For further information or to interview the cast or production team, please contact Barney Spender 00 33 6 70299570 or email

The main theme of the soundtrack can be heard at

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The Competitors:

Mark Woolley: a seasoned climber and runner with the scars to prove it who has already completed Spartathlon three times

Rob Pinnington: a man desperately searching for his first finish at Spartathlon after his previous two bids ended in failure.

Angela Terzi: an Athens nurse heading into the unknown of the Spartathlon for the first time.

Dean Karnazes: perhaps the most famous ultra-runner in the world, who is looking to run the race using the same diet as Pheidippidis used in 490 BC.



The Directors:

Barney Spender and Roddy Gibson met at university in Ireland and worked on numerous projects together in theatre and film. Their last collaboration, though, was back in 1987. Since then Barney moved into journalism, working around the world for various major news organisations, including five years in Greece. Roddy stayed in documentary film-making and is now an academic lecturing at Middlesex University.



AE Stallings is an American poet who lives and works in Athens. She has published numerous books of poetry and in 2011 won a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.

Her poems are voiced by the leading Greek actors Renos Haralambidis and Malamatenia Gotsi.



When Barney first came up with the idea of doing the film, he already had Old House Playground in mind to write the music. They had been guests on his radio show in Athens. Not just one track but an entire score. Tryfon Lazos (guitar, bazouki, vocals) and Andreas Venetantes (drums, percussion) are Greek but live in Manchester where they teamed up with Englishman Jago Furnas (bass) to create a unique sound of Greek blues.

The music is produced by Clive Martin whose previous film experience included helping David Byrne win an Oscar for The Last Emperor.