Call them enterprising or simply runners with a zest for taking on the impossible: they are the 16 Puneites who successfully completed the 2017 Comrades Marathon, an iconic ultimate human race held for the 92nd time on June 4 at KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. On what made him take on the extremely challenging race, 43-year-old Kishore Dhankude, who finished the race in 11 hours and 55 minutes, said, “I don’t know what compelled me, but I just did it”.
“To train for this, I climbed Mount Everest,” added Dhankude, who had scaled the world’s tallest peak on May 20 this year. Dr Neelam Vaid, a 53-year-old ENT surgeon from Pune, said she had decided to keep pushing herself to achieve the impossible. “Comrades Marathon is an approximately 87-km annual run held at KwaZulu-Natal… the route is hilly and tremendously tough. It just seemed so impossible. I wanted to prove to myself that it was possible and yes, I did it,” said Vaid, who completed the race in 11 hours and 48 minutes.
The run takes place between Durban and Pietermaritzburg ever year, with the starting point alternating between the two cities. This year, it was the ‘up’ run, and the theme of the race was ‘It Takes All of You- Zinikele’. Those who participated in the world’s oldest ultra marathon had to cross five hills within a time limit of 12 hours.
Athletes across the world combine physical and mental strength to conquer the distance between the two cities. The marathon, started by World War I veteran Vic Clapham, today attracts nearly 20,000 athletes. Bongmusa Mthembu of South Africa won the 2017 Comrades Marathon, completing the ‘up’ run from Durban to Pietermaritzburg in five hours and 35 minutes. This year, India had sent the largest contingent of 119 runners. Of the 17 runners who participated from Pune, 16 completed the race. According to Sanjay Rao and
Mahesh Narkar from Pune Running, a group which motivates and trains people in long-distance running, two women from Pune, Dr Vaid and Vineeta Jadhav, completed the race. Others included Amod Bhate, Vishwas Suryawanshi, Sameer Wagle, Sameer Chitre, Krishna Sirothia, Mangesh Shinde, Siddhesh Gandhi, Jayanta, Ashish Kasodekar and Avinash Mane.
When contacted in South Africa, Vaid admitted that the experience was “most painful”, but also “extremely fulfiling” when she finished the race. In Pune, avid runners closely tracked the race on the official Comrades Marathon App, which had the latest updates. “The App allowed us to track the runners live for the duration of the race… so, we were clued in to what the enterprising group from Pune was doing, “ said Rao.