Four Hyderabad runners Gautam Pondi, Srinivas Gadde, Amit Kshirsagar and Diganta Roy recently took part in the annual Comrades Marathon in South Africa.
Known as the world’s largest, oldest and the most difficult ultra marathon race of 90 kilometres (approximately 56 miles), it is held annually in South Africa between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg in memory of all the soldiers who died for the country.
Having completed the marathon successfully, the quartet shares their memories of the exhilarating challenge. Twenty five years old Gautam, a chartered accountant, took to running in 2013 after turning obese. He has since been a part of seven marathons, which has obviously led to weight loss too. “I read and heard inspiring things about the Comrades Marathon, so I wanted to give it a go,” explains Gautam, adding that completing the Mumbai Marathon in less than five hours was their ticket to the Comrades.
To get a first-hand experience of running on such hilly terrain, all the four friends embarked on a trip to Srisailam and Ooty as a part of their preparation. “We prepared hard! Since Srisailam and Ooty have similar hilly terrains, we practiced running there. We used to wake up at 3:30 am and run on the city outskirts and all that gave us the confidence to go,” reveals Gautam, who says that the marathon experience was memorable.
Amit, who is a 44-year-old IT professional, took to running in 2015 to overcome his backache, a fall-out of being overweight.
“Long runs every Sunday motivated me to be a regular at half and full marathons,” he reveals, adding, “Although I am not a natural runner, I was able to successfully complete the marathon. So there’s a great sense of satisfaction.”
He further states that running in uneven terrains above 1400 metres was challenging. “After 42 kilometres, we came across the Valley of a thousand hills, a place completely surrounded by hills, so going through the uneven roads and hilly terrain was tough,” he recalls, adding, “We are generally used to running only 42 kilometres, but running 92 kilometres at a uniform pace for long hours was demanding.
The last 10 kilometres were especially challenging because we needed to cross flyovers, and had to be mentally strong too.”
The best part of the marathon was seeing the crowds on both sides, cheering the 21,000 runners all throughout. “That’s what kept me going because of which I never felt isolated from the marathon,” says 47-year-old Srinivas Gadde, who was earlier part of 28 full marathons and six ultra marathons.
Describing the experience as ‘amazing’, Srinivas adds, “Comrades Marathon is a major annual sporting event and the whole country waits to cheer the participants. Every serious runner should participate in it. It’s all about running and competing with yourself.”
Diganta Deb Roy shares that the whole objective of participating in the marathon was to enjoy the experience. “We are proud that we could complete the marathon successfully and it was a thrilling experience. The atmosphere was electrifying throughout, and we realised how fitness is an integral part of people’s lives there. We want more people to take up running and inculcate it in their life,” shares 40-year-old Diganta, who picked up running only last year.
While Srinivas completed the marathon in 9 hrs: 58 mts, Gautham finished in 10 hrs: 08 minutes; Amit in 11 hrs: 45 minutes and Digant in 10 hrs: 55 minutes....