A DETERMINED runner battled a Mediterranean storm as strong as a hurricane to triumph in a gruelling long-distance challenge.

John Stocker, who owns Bicester gym Evolve Health and Fitness, braved the 153-mile Spartathlon, finishing in 60th place in what has been described as the ‘world’s toughest footrace’.

As if the extreme distance and a tight 36-hour time limit were not enough to contend with during the Greece Odyssey, he also faced the effects of storm Zorba.

The 38-year-old said: “It was horrendous. It was the worst weather they’ve ever had in the history of the race.

“There was rain for almost the entire way and it wasn’t just drizzle – you were running in roads turned into rivers.”

The dad-of-three said it was the enthusiasm of the people along the route that got him through, adding: “It’s a massive event, you have children coming up to you asking for your autograph.”

In total 390 athletes from around the world tackled the Olympian feat, which sees runners journey from the Acropolis in Athens to the statue of King Leonidas in Sparta.

The challenge retraces the footsteps of Pheidippides, an ancient Athenian long-distance runner, who in 490BC, before the battle of Marathon, was sent to Sparta to seek help in the war between the Greeks and the Persians.

According to the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, Pheidippides arrived in Sparta just a day after his departure from Athens. The race has been held annually since 1984.

Mr Stocker was one 25 British runners who took part. Along the way they faced a mountain bigger than Ben Nevis at the100-mile mark as well as 75 check points in which runners had to meet cut-off times or face joining the ‘death bus’ and not being allowed to finish.

Mr Stocker said: “I was hoping for under 30 hours but once I saw the weather it was just about reaching the finish line and not letting team GB down.”

He added he was now keen to run the race again, saying: “Usually there are crowds ready to greet you at the finish line but it was so wet it was just my wife, race crew and the mayor of Sparta. I’d love to experience it properly with the sun shining.”

The fitness fanatic is no stranger to long-distance feats, having built steadily from his first marathon in 2006. He tackled the impressive Spine run last year – a 268-mile race across the Pennine Way.