Review of Dean Karnazes’s “The Road to Sparta”
Dean Karnazes’s The Road to Sparta is equal parts history lesson, philosophy essay, and memoir. The book tells two stories. Dean Karnazes’s own journey back to the homeland of his forebears – Greece. And the tale of Pheidippides, the messenger who ran more than 300 miles to effectively save Western Civilization, when the Athenians dispatched Pheidippides to Sparta (approximately 140 miles away) in order to secure Spartan aid in defending against Persian invaders at Marathon.
Pheidippides’s run from Athens to Sparta is the catalyst that is memorialized in the modern-day Spartathalon. In The Road to Sparta, Karnazes recounts not only his experience running this particular ultramarathon but also his greater experience in physically, emotionally, and spiritually connecting with the land from which his grandfather emigrated. He embraced a Greek country and people that welcomed as though he were returning home, rather than as a stranger in a strange land.
The Road to Sparta is compelling and inspiring, although (to my taste) some of the language is overly emotional and dramatic. Perhaps this is a better way to express it – Karnazes feels and writes more passionately than I, which is possibly the difference between a Greek (his) and Anglo-Germanic (mine) heritage. The work is strewn with pearls of wisdom, both practical and abstract. Whether or not you are a runner, philosopher, or student of history, I recommend this book because it is a story of human connection and endurance, for both Dean Karnazes and Pheidippides.
You can purchase The Road to Sparta on Amazon.
Rating (out of 4 gavels):