Comrades Marathon- The Ultimate Human Race-Contributed by Sruti Dasgupta
“If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon” a famous quote by the “Czech Express”, the multiple Olympic gold medallist-Emil Zatopek. When it comes to running a marathon, we often associate it with the Comrades Marathon-the Worlds largest and oldest ultra marathon race (89km). There are many ways to describe it but it is best described by the men who have run it. A s described by the King of Comrades, 9 times champion ”Bruce Fordyce,” It is not so much a run but a ‘survival trip’.
HistoryIt is run between the up run starting at Durban and down run starting from Pietermaritzburg. It was run for the first time in 1921.World War 1 veteran conceived the race to commemorate South African soldier killed during the war. He wanted to create a race that would ‘celebrate mankinds spirit over adversity'.
AdversityThe pain of the final kilometers of the Comrades is stated as: Were the human brain able to recall the pain of the Fields Hill, no one would run the Comrades twice. This then is the point each runner from the first to the last, must pass to arrive in Durban on their own feet It is here, stripped of any society’s false privileges, that he finds no hiding place, no shelter or convenience. These miles will challenge everything the runner holds precious, his values, his lifestyle.They will ask nothing less than his view of the Universe. As said by Bill Rogers, “A Marathon can humble you”.
The RaceThe race is generally held in May however this year it is on the 1st of June. It has very strict cutoff timings .Unless a comrader finishes a particular distance in the cut off time, he is not allowed to progress any further in the race. For example he needs to finish 82 km point within 11:20 hrs to compete further. The expo starts 4 days earlier. The race commences at exactly 5:30am. The energy exuded by the runners gives out immense motivation and positive energy and you forget your pains soon. About 15000 of the worlds fittest and mentally strongest people gather at the magical ‘start line’. The Pacer begins shortly. There are moments when you totally Zone out, devoid of any feelings, thoughts, existence and you just are into a being.
As quoted by Hellen Keller, ”The most beautiful moments in life cannot be seen or touched. They must be felt with the heart” This is the exact explanation of the Ultra Marathon.
Do you have it in you?Are you a couch potato? You like watching marathons but have never thought about getting up from your chair. Its alright. Talent is something that we are gifted it, but more important is how we hone them, develop them. Only talent and no hardwork is equaivalent to no talent. However, hardwork alone can do the trick. Take your first step.
- Do not begin by running endlessly.
- Get yourself tested for your body type, feet type, breath.
- Start with 200-500 m then slowly increase.
- And finally it depends on your level determination, grit and patience and says it all.
Amit Sheth, an Indian runner, started similarly. He realized that he couldn’t run more than 200 m. But then he worked on it. Participated on every local marathon, practiced endlessly. He and his wife competed at international marathons too. In their first Comrades run, he couldn’t complete the journey. However he practiced patiently, came back for the next Comrades Ultra Marathon and bagged the medal. He is now one of the international Ambassadors of the Comrades Marathon Association.
BenefitsThere are ample benefits of running ranging from physical well being to mental. It essentially cleanses you, purifies you. Everything worldly is discarded and you go into a world of trans.
- It is the cheapest hobby
Although runners around the world buy several accessories, pedometers, energy gels and on, unless you are prepared mentally, nothing is of use. Infact the Comrades used to be run naked initially, which required only mettle and endurance.Hence take the leap, and begin running.
- It releases happiness hormones
Run for an hour , that destresses you. But for someone running the Ultra Marathon ,the challenge in completing the marathon is a Herculean Task. Once you complete the marathon ie, 89km, the feeling is uncomparable to probably any joy in the world and you want to keep doing that again and again.
- Great Way to keep your body in shape
Run one day, run two days and keep running.It not only keeps you fit but helps keep your body in great shape. This is turn makes you so much more energetic and increases your confidence immensely. It also keeps the body immune to a large extent.
- Helps you differentiate between a material being and just being
Running a marathon tests your determination and mental levels to beyond any point and especially when you’re participating in a Ultra Marathon, it’s the mental level that is tested more than the physical levels. This essentially tells about your being and your material self to a great extent.
A big Salute to all the Comrades Ultra Marathon participants.