Comrades Marathon: 30 from Pune take part in one of world’s ‘longest, oldest’ runs in South Africa

Many from the city, who finished their run within 11 hours, bagged bronze medals. (Express photo)

Written by Sneha Kudva

KNOWN TO be one of the oldest and longest marathons in the world, the Comrades Marathon 2019 held in Durban, South Africa, witnessed more than 200 Indian runners, of which at least 30 were from Pune. Many from the city, who finished their run within 11 hours, bagged bronze medals.

Taru Mateti, who was one among the Puneiites, finished her run in 10 hours, 44 minutes and 56 seconds. With over 25,000 runners, the marathon commenced as an uphill run of 87 km from City Hall in Durban and ended with a downhill run of 90 km at Pietermaritzburg. Mateti said the event has time-based finisher medals.

Although I was more of an indoors person, I decided to go for a run one day and nothing has ever felt more liberating, she said, adding that she ran alongside husband Chandan Kumar. He completed his run in 11 hours, two minutes and 19 seconds. The two stand as one of the couples to have received the Novices Back to Back Comrade Medal .

Their journey included four months of training with weekly long runs and a monthly uphill run of 50 to 60 km. They trained under Atul Godbole, the founder of a popular coaching centre in the city.

Godbole also ran with a team of 13, and successfully completed his run in 10 hours and 38 minutes. Every person is different, which meant creating a personalised plan for each inpidual even while training together, he said, explaining the different types of training that the team underwent.

Although one member, unfortunately, could not complete the run, Godbole was glad that everyone took part and had a great time. My target for next year is to take at least 20 athletes to the Comrades, he added.

Inspired by actor Milind Soman, Pravin Zele has been running marathons barefoot for the past six years. The Comrades Marathon 2019 happened to not only be his first Comrades, but also his first time running with shoes on. Zele made it through the run in 10 hours and 53 minutes. One must learn to control their breathing in order to balance the heart rate so as to avoid stomach cramps, he said, explaining how he had trained himself to switch between walking and running at short intervals during the uphill run. With over 25,000 runners, the marathon was an 87 kms uphill run from Durban to Pietermaritzburg.