Luca Turrini is an Italian born Australian, who has qualified for automatic entry into the Spartathlon 2018, which will be hosted in Greece in September. He aims to finish within the top five positions and the fastest finishing time for an Australian (28h:12m). Luca is also producing a short film called “The Meraki Project” which will be based on Luca’s personal journey to Spartathlon and so much more.
The Spartathlon is one of the most difficult and satisfying ultra-distance races in the world because of its unique history and background, race profile, running conditions and strict cut-off times. The field is capped to 390 runners from all around the world, who meet the rigid qualifying criteria.
Luca first started running when he moved to Australia at the end of 2008. Having migrated at the peak of the GFC, it was hard to find employment. “I was very stressed and my neighbour suggested I join him for a run. In that first run I only managed to get 2km down the road, but I was immediately hooked and progressed quickly, I quit smoking and changing my lifestyle quite drastically,” Luca said. A few months later, he ran his first half marathon and stuck to shorter distances.
Late 2010, unfortunately Luca’s mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and he used running as his way of releasing his emotions and so his distances also started to extend in time. When his mother passed away in March 2011, he turned to running again to cope with the loss and to raise funds for research on prevention, running 20 marathons in 29 days across Italy “and from then on, I just kept running!” Luca recalls.
In 2017, Luca also entered into the Guinness World Record for the farthest distance run on a treadmill, which has been a highlight in his career. It was a part of an event he organised at the Sydney Fitness Expo to raise funds for Camp Quality, a children’s cancer charity. Luca remembers “alongside me running solo for 24 hours on a treadmill, there was a 12 person female team and a 12 person male team also attempting the record. And we also had a mixed team of friends on a third treadmill there for support. We aimed high for 3 world records, to raise our profile and our opportunity to fundraise. It was a fantastic experience and at the same time a huge mental challenge. Just imagine running for 24 hours on the spot, looking at a dot on a wall 10 meters away from you! The male team broke their record reaching 424.63km, the female team also broke the record with 346.24km and, with only 3 minutes to spare, I broke mine with a 261.18km run.” The breaking of the record attracted a great social engagement, with thousands of people following the live feed on Facebook and $50,000 was raised for the charity.
Coming up for Luca now is Spartathlon 2018, a unique and legendary race only a few people in the world ever get to experience. The Spartathlon traces the footsteps of Pheidippides, the legendary Athenian hemerodrome (professional-running courier) sent from Athens to Sparta in 490 BC to seek help against the Persians in the Battle of Marathon. Pheidippides, delivered his message to Sparta’s officials only to turn around and run all the way back to Athens with their response. However it was about more than just running, had Philippides failed to deliver his messages, Greece would have fallen in the hands of Persians and history would be very different.
For Luca, it’s a real honour “to have the opportunity to participate in something which has been on my ‘bucket list’ for some time. The Spartathlon is more than just a race, it’s the history behind it, it’s the place where it’s held, it’s the type of people it attracts, it’s the dedication, passion and grit of every single participant from around the globe training for years to get the opportunity to kiss the foot of King Leonida in Sparta. Ultimately, I guess running the Spartathon represents the life I want to live and the belief that ordinary people can achieve incredible things.”
Until then though, his training schedule is pretty intense as the Spartathon is a 246km course to be completed in less than 36 hours, includes a 1,000 meters climb of a mountain. To train, he will be running on average between 120 and 160 km a week from now until race day, on road, on trails, on a treadmill simulating race conditions as much as possible. This includes plenty of night running, mountain running and specific training around nutrition, hydration and gear (the race goes from scorching 30 degrees temperature during the day to howling winds and 3 degrees at night on top of the mountain).
And you can’t forget mental training, which Luca says is his area of strength. “I do a lot of visualisation and meditation. In my mind’s eye, I race the Spartathlon every single week. Every session is a simulation of an aspect of the race. I focus on having the right attitude towards training, recovery, and how I look at my progress. I also keep redefining what the race means to me, so it’s value is crystal clear in my mind so, in the moment of difficulty (and there will be plenty during the Spartathlon) I can access that and push through”.
Luca is also involved in a short film for a major international Running Film Festival and for TV broadcast, called “The Meraki Project”. The film will be based on Luca’s personal journey to Spartathlon: the physical and mental preparation, the reasons, the stakes while showcasing Greece and behind the scenes/ on the road footage.
“The Meraki Project” is also important as it highlights core messages like ‘Ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things with determination, passion and grit’ and ‘Meraki is the virtue of relentless choice to put all your heart and the best of yourself in what you do’. The film will be premiered at the 2019 Run Nation film festival, aired on Ten Australia and then distributed to media outlets worldwide.
Luca is currently looking for sponsors, corporate or individuals, who can help him and the team financially to make this project a reality and showcase Greece for the beautiful country, fascinating history and culture it has to offer.
Luca also has some advice to inspiring runners, “We are not born runners, we all become runners taking one step at the time. The key is to simply start. Get out there with a running buddy or, even better, join a running club. It is amazing how quickly you can learn from others, see improvements and remain motivated to run. Running will positively affect your general well-being and happiness, like very few things can.”