Virendra Ojha among medal winners at South African ultra marathon

Comrades, first held in 1921, is among South Africa's biggest sporting events and has a fearsome reputation thanks to over 1,000 metres of ascent

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: June 7, 2017 1:39 pm
south africa ultra marathon, indian marathon runners, 2017 comrades marathon, indian express news Virendra Ojha covered the 89.5km race in 10 hours and 38 minutes.

Virendra Ojha, on Sunday, bagged a breathtaking accolade of completing the Comrades Marathon in South Africa, winning a bronze at the world’s oldest ultra marathon race. Ojha, a 1993-batch IRS officer presently posted as Commissioner of Income Tax in Mumbai, covered the 89.5km and the ‘Big Five’ hills between Durban and Pietermaritzburg in 10 hours and 38 minutes.

Comrades, first held in 1921, is among South Africa’s biggest sporting events and has a fearsome reputation thanks to over 1,000 metres of ascent. To become eligible for the race, a runner is required to complete a recognised marathon of 42.2 km within 5 hours. Ojha learnt about the race two years ago and began preparation.

“I got qualified to run last year but could not participate due to a last minute injury,” Ojha told The Indian Express over the phone from South Africa.

South Africa’s Bongmusa Mthembu won the race, completing it in 5:35:34. Ojha bagged the bronze, given to runners who complete the race between 9-11 hours. Of the nearly 17,000 participants, 13,485 completed the race and Ojha finished with the ranking of 5,667.

A veteran of many marathons, Ojha took up running shoes in 2005, and since then has completed 21 half marathons, three full marathons and the 54-km Endurathon. He has also taken part in several city-marathons including Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Vadodara and Delhi.

However, as the Comrades drew near, Ojha constantly wrote about the struggles on his blog. “The comrade training is very grueling. It changes your whole lifestyle. You don’t need (an) alarm clock to get up in the morning, you don’t need any device to measure your speed and distance. It trains your mind in a way that without any technological support you started knowing these units,” he wrote on May 19.

A month out, he was gripped by “injury anxiety”.

“There is no comparison between a traditional 42-km marathon and a 87-km ultramarathon. You require a whole new set of physical training and mental preparation. The extrapolation of my existing timings was not easy as so far I had run on a flat or semi-elevated route so far, but this route had five monstrous hills,” added Ojha, whose wife Ity Pandey, also a runner, is an IRTS officer of 1995 batch.

So what propelled him across the five hills?

“It is only the search of happiness that is deriving so many, across the globe, to witness and experience…(the) ultimate human race,” reads the blog.

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  1. A
    Jun 8, 2017 at 7:43 am
    Indian Express you have to apologize each and every comrades runner in India. You insulted others
  2. A
    Jun 8, 2017 at 7:41 am
    Dusre runners kya hai, bc kuch bhi likhne se pehle research karliya Karo
  3. S
    Souvik Mukherjee
    Jun 8, 2017 at 12:24 am
    With all due respect to the athlete and his finish timings. The article is highly misleading in the way it has been presented ,not researched, biased with distorted facts. Comrades Medal Classification 1.Gold medals: The first 10 men and women. 2.Wally Hayward medals (silver-centred circled by gold ring): 11th position to sub 6hrs 00min 3.Silver medals: 6hrs 00min 01sec to sub 7hrs 30min. 4.Bill Rowan medals (bronze-centred circled by silver ring): 7hrs 30min to sub 9hrs 00min. 5.Bronze medals: 9hrs 00min to sub 11hrs 00min. 6. Vic Clapham medals (copper): 11hrs 00min to sub 12hrs 00min. A few Indians who got bronze medals this year(not an exhaustive list)- Pintoo Mandal (9:22), Amod Bhate (9:38), Avinash Mane (9:48), Krishna Sirothia (10:24), Vishwas Suryawanshi(10:24).
  4. A
    Avinash Mane
    Jun 7, 2017 at 1:16 pm
    Irresponsible journalism when facts are distorted in several ways... Distance.. First..
  5. A
    Jun 7, 2017 at 1:04 pm
    Amit Seth is a first Indian who completed comrades marathon in 2010. After that there are so many other people's from india complete the race. First do some research and put it here instead of writing bull .
  6. U
    Umesh Kumar Dash
    Jun 7, 2017 at 11:08 am
    The news cannot be more distorted than this. Amit Sheth is first Indian to complete Comrades many years ago and quickest to do is Ashok Nath, which was little over 8 hours
  7. D
    Jun 7, 2017 at 10:48 am
    Please get few facts right in your article I don't think he is the first Indian to get Bronze medal and many Indians have got bronze medal in the past. Bronze medal does not mean coming 3rd... Everyone who completes within 11 hours gets bronze medal The distance for uphill run is 87.5 kms and 89.5 kms This year 85 Indians completed this Ultra Marathon within the time limit of 12 hours
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