The Enigma known as “Comrades Marathon”

The first time I heard the word “Comrades” was when I met Sushant. “I’m running THE COMRADES” he tells me very matter-of factly. A 90 km race…and I looked at him in stunned disbelief……the distance was daunting, intimidating, simply crazy!
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On googling it, I discovered that it is a 92 year old race, which has been run 88 times, all years except World War 2, since 1921 ( with only 34 runners) from Durban to Pietemaritzburg, with alternating up and down runs, beginning on a road and ending in a stadium, with a total elevation of 810m. It has 5 hills along the course, known as the Big five. The race is capped at 18,000 entrants and a 12 hour cut-off.

This is probably the only race in the world where the spectators care more about the last person to finish than the winner! As I watched the live telecast I could feel the deafening silence. I had goose bumps as the look of despair on the runners who remained on the other side of the line. I cannot even imagine what it feels like to having come this far, and then being unable to complete the race.


It is arguably the world’s greatest ultramarathon where athletes challenge their mind and body over approximately 89 long km.

Most of us who know Sushant (a national level 800m champion), know that he is obsessed with discipline in food and exercise. Maybe that’s the kind of commitment a race of this calibre demands. We have seen him work single mindedly towards his goal. Talent, ambition and dedication. Unbeatable.

Neepa Sheth. I have known her since I was a child, and a couple of years ago, my mother told me that Neepa and her husband had run “some long race”. From what I knew of Neepa, she was never an athlete in school. What she has accomplished today is purely an outcome of her and Amit’s choices. Their hard work has brought them on the forefront of the Indian running scene.

Amit said,” 4 years ago when I went to run the Comrades Marathon, I had taken a risk, a leap of faith. I had ventured into an area unfamiliar to me. I had moved outside my zone of comfort. I have become more comfortable with the Certainty of Misery while I run the Comrades.”

We learn……these are ordinary people, people like you and me, who have chosen the extraordinary path. This is where their greatness lies.

A runner develops quiet resolve as he commits himself to a distance. Any distance. It is a challenge either by way of pace or distance.

The faith that he puts in himself will help him to overcome his fears. Self doubts will not disappear but they will minimize as training will make confidence grow.

It is very hard in the beginning to understand that whole idea is not to run to beat others. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.”

-Dr. George Sheehan, Marathoner, author of

 8 running books

I am running only for myself. I need to be completely honest with myself. I need to strip myself bare of all pretences in order to connect with my inner strength.

The core of my being will take me to the place I want to reach.

“Pushing your body beyond what you thought it was capable of is easy, the hard part is pushing yourself even further……past what your mind wants to let you. That’s what Ultrarunning is all about; introducing you to a self you’ve never known.”

– Rex Pace photo

-Rex Pace, Ultramarathoner.




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