Interview: “The Comrades Marathon is an emotional and mental battle” – Ramani Easwaran, Ultramarathon Runner
Finishing a marathon is a great achievement in itself. But finishing an ultra? Now that’s no mean feat either.
Meet Ramani Easwaran, who works for IBM during the day, but at the break of dawn, runs 20-odd kms four to five days a week.
The 42-year-old was one of 17 Indians to finish the Comrades Marathon – the world’s largest and oldest ultramarathon race.
Run annually in the Kwazulu-Natal Province of South Africa between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg, the direction of the race alternates each year between the “up” run (87 km) starting from Durban and the “down” run (89 km) starting from Pietermaritzburg.
The runners have 12 hours to finish the race (5:30am to 5:30pm). Not only this, they must also reach the five cut-off points en route within the required time to avoid getting disqualified. Ramani clocked 11:54:07 in this year’s ‘up’ run.
“Last year I finished it with three minutes to spare and this year with six odd minutes. It is really amazing to think that over 12 hours, one second can make the difference between a happy memory, and contentment as opposed to frustration and heart-ache when you have failed. But that is the point, the challenge, and that is the reason to run the race, regardless of your ability.
“And when you run such a long race, negative emotions run high. Fear, doubt, pain, hopelessness encourage a formula for defeat. You have to dig in deep to conquer those inner demons. The Comrades is an emotional and mental battle that you fight with yourself,” Ramani said about the event.
“The comrades is regarded as one of the toughest footraces in the world. The course is difficult with lots of ascents and descents and to top it the cut off times. Believe me, it is a trudge through a slough of despond, if you will.
“To come out successfully from what is the ultimate human race – as the tag line of the Comrades suggests – not once but twice has got to be one of the finest achievements of my life,” he added.
Running for 12 hours straight does have its health hazards and this year it was accentuated by the harsh weather conditions.
“The temperature was about 32 degrees, there were strong, hot headwinds blowing and you were running against it. After the half-way point, I saw people dropping like nine pins – from dehydration and other health related issues; hats off to the medical staff and volunteers, who worked ever so tirelessly.”