Sometime after finishing the Comrades Marathon, a friend remarked “I never thought you would finish the Comrades;” I cheekily replied “Neither did I.” Truth, to be told, finishing the Comrades has always been about one’s mental strength and a strong belief that one can. I couldn’t have imagined doing something like that years back when I finished my first marathon in 6 hours 45 minutes. A lot have changed in my running since then. It has changed from an individual pursuit to a collective effort, be it running a marathon under 5 hours or being a pacer for a 5 hour bus in a marathon. There were runners who always believed and instilled the belief in me. They inspired me to register for the Comrades; There was someone to help me train for the Comrades, be it running a marathon with me in Chennai or traveling to a remote place for training in the hills; They kept my belief alive when the visa was getting delayed until the last minute. During the run, as the clock was ticking towards the 12 hour mark, there were people back home refreshing their browsers and wishing that my name appears soon; Some of them glued to the internet broadcast looking out for me; And there was Ram and his family spending more time praying for me to finish than brooding over his misfortune. It was each one of them who helped me to run the Comrades and it was they finished the run through me… YES WE RAN!
Soon after finishing the run, I spotted Amit and Neepa ahead and we congratulated each other. I collected my medal which I first thought was a ‘sample piece’ and a much bigger one awaited me at the Tent; Only to realise it was all that you get for running for 12 hours! All the eyes in the stadium were glued to the big screen as the countdown for the 12th hour began. There were a few dramatic scenes like a lady collapsing a few metres before the finish with another runner picking her and dragging her to the finish line. It looked to me that it was some kind of a sadistic pleasure that most audience gets in watching the first person who misses the cut-off. I slowly walked into the ‘International Tent’ to pick up my belongings and meet others. Raghav had already spotted me before the finish line and has announced my finish to everyone.
The medal was destined for Ram but he politely refused it and asked me to keep it. The next two days were spent in the company of Ram, Sita, Raghav and Meera. I was lucky to have some excellent ‘Indian food’ in Durban, thanks to the efforts of Sita. Our neighbour and saviour, Gideon was extremely dejected with his performance finishing Comrades in 7 hours and 20 minutes! The following day, we invited him for our ‘South Indian’ lunch, during which we discussed many interesting facets, about his running as well as South Africa. Some of his responses to our questions really impressed us. For instance, when we attempted to bring the topic of Apartheid, he stated his firm belief in Mandela’s vision of looking into the future and never look back at the past.
The following day, Ram and Raghav dropped me back at the airport.
Some of the other blogs I strongly recommend reading,
Vineeta’s story of Ultra Insanity
Roshni’s moving tribute to all Gorkha Soldiers