Part 14 – Once More?

In the early morning thou wouldst call me from my sleep like my own comrade and lead me running from glade to glade.

As I was picking up my baggage from the international tent, a little girl volunteering there asked me if I would do run the Comrades again. My answer was ‘Never’; She responded ‘They always say that… and come again and again’

It is true that Comrades marathon is some kind of an addiction for variety of reasons and people run it again and again. Most of the Indian contingent last year appears again this year too. Here are top 3 reasons why I would like to do it again:

1. The Comrades Experience

The Comrades marathon is definitely one of its kind and is uncomparable with any other event. The organisation was impeccable, the volunteers were great and the cheering crowd all through the course made the event special. In one of the post-event mails, the  number of people involved was shared with runners.

Volunteers – 4850; Marshals – 800; Community – 100; Traffic & Law enforcement personnel – 350; CMA officials – 110; Media – 350; Broadcast support staff – 200; IT support staff – 90; Suppliers staff- 300; Refreshment station staff – 3550; Supporters/spectators atFinish Venue – 21,000; Supporters/spectators along the Route – 700,000; Peak TV Audience – 2.4 million

2. Medal Rush

Another feature of the Comrades is the different type of medals awarded. There are medals based on finish timing, repeat performances etc., If a Runner completed the downhill and uphill runs in two consequtive years, he/she gets two medals – one for completing and ‘one double’ medal. Strangely the shape and the size does not change much though.

3. Green Club

Finishers of 10 Comrades marathon are awarded a permenant number and a confirmed start at the E Batch. They are given a special bib to identify that they belong to the Green Club.’ I once remarked to a fellow runner that running is also a kind of religion with its own rituals, pilgrimages and penances. Similar to visitors in Sabarimalai who are accorded the status of ‘Samy’ or ‘Gurusamy’ depending on the number of visits, Comrades has its own features. And there are these ‘extremes’ like the TEAM UNOGWAJA who cycle for  1748 Km for 10 days and then run the Comrades on the 11th day.

And the top 3 reasons why I wouldn’t do it again…

1. The joy of first time

The joy of finishing it for the first time when the odds are staked against you is something that I would miss it again. It is very true that every marathon is a different experience and cannot be compared. Still, the joy of finishing two minutes to spare can never be repeated.

2. Familiarity breeds contempt

Getting familiar to the challenge can in a way make someone arrogant about it. So, the next time I run it and miss the cut-off, I can get way with it blaming everything else except myself. And if I am lucky enough to finish it again, it breeds even further arrogance. Importantly, it is the uncertainity that makes the whole event exciting. At the 6th hour mark, I was totally unsure if I can really run for another 6 hours as I have never done it before.

3. Other Challenges

Life is short and there may not be time to do many things. So, it makes things more exciting to look for newer challenges and not to repeat the same challenge again. Finishing Comrades just once may be considered as a stroke of luck which I never wish to deny.

After finishing Mumbai Marathon in 2006, I resolved not to appear again. Yet, I have run there for another 4 times since!

And the one reason that I feel is irrelevant to my decision – Cost/Investment. It does cost a lot to participate in the Comrades – Entry fee, flight tickets, stay and other expenses. Then, if someone is serious about running it, rather experiencing it, it is worth every Rupee invested for the cause. I don’t feel cost can be a deterrant for anyone to participate in the event. Being a ‘former’ investment analyst, I always feel that people ‘blindly’ invest/speculate their money in ‘so-called’ investments which fetch them returns occasionally and yet believe that their decisions are rational. Same is the case in Comrades, the journey by itself is the return you receive on the investment. I was not (never wished to be) sponsored for the event and had to use my personal savings for participating in the event and I am more than satisfied with the ‘returns’ from the event.

Comrades or no Comrades, all that I wish to be doing is to keep running for ever. As I rephrase one of Rabindranath Tagore’s quotes,

God praises me when I do good; but He loves me when I run

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