Amit (21548) and Neepa (33374) Sheth
Taking one for the team!
Comrades marathon always more than manages to fulfill ones wildest
expectations in terms of sheer excitement and joy. This year was
no exception. Neepa and I had a great race.
from food poisoning starting Saturday morning and continued to do so on
the race day morning. I was washed out at the 20k mark. I felt as
if I had no legs. I dug deep within myself to find some strength.
I came up empty. As early as 20k into the race, I was wondering
whether I ought to stop. I thought I should ask the Race Marshals
whether the bail bus/ambulance would drop me to Durban
(start-line) or PMB (finish line) . But since, I was intimately
aware of the tragedy which befalls the entrant of the bail
bus/ambulance from my 2009 experience; I kept running along very
slowly. I did not want to see the inside of that bus ever again.
I could not understand how this could be happening to me. For the
last 7 months Neepa and I had put our heart and soul into training for
this day. We had run over 1200 kms each since December. We had
done countless runs of 20k and 30k, multiple 42km runs besides 2 runs
of 56ks and one of 60k. And yet, here I was on the race day at
20k and I felt as fatigued as I had at the finish of Comrades 2010.
I felt a great sadness inside me.
Running alongside me,
Neepa did not understand what was going on inside my body or my mind,
and kept encouraging me to run faster. She did not know the extent of
my food poisoning and so could not understand why I was running so
slowly. She did not know that I had been on the potty 10 times between
Saturday and Sunday morning. Sometimes in life, Shit Happens, and I had
felt that there was no need to spread negative vibes around. She
did not know I was
So, on the road that day, she kept encouraging me to run faster
by reminding me of my kids, Namrata and Aryan, who were following us at
home via the computer and of the fact that we had trained hard for a
year, for this very day to dawn. She reminded me that based on our
training times and training effort we were capable of finishing the
race in 11 hours and 30 minutes. I had to ask her to speak to me
in our native tongue because she was speaking to me in English and all
the runners around us could hear her and I was getting
embarrassed at my inability to speed up in-spite of such extraordinary
encouragement from my her. She also kept running ahead to the
water-stop and then waiting for me to catch up and give me water. At
one point, to lessen the weight on my waist she took the energy gels
and other stuff that I was carrying and asked me to throw away the
Yet, at 55k, I told her to go ahead as we were both in the
danger of losing Comrades. I told her that if she stayed with me
any longer, we both would not make it. So, after giving me
another 'talk', she gave me an energy gel and extracted a promise that
I won't give up. She then disappeared ahead.
I kept moving along
until 67km. At that point I had 2 hours 20 mins left and 20k and Polly
to go, which in my confused and tired mental state was near impossible.
I could not run a straight line along the road. I felt dizzy and
nauseated. I decided to be a live donkey as opposed to a dead
lion. I stopped and just slept on the road. As I lay on the road,
looking at the clear blue African sky above me I thought whether we had
misjudged the time and distance at which Neepa should have left
me. But somehow, deep inside me I had absolute faith in her
Neepa meanwhile ran on faster and faster making up
the lost time. She finally reached around 79km and with 7.7 km to
go to the finish, she had just 56 mins left. At the top of
Polly’s (the last major recognized hill ) she had removed her
sunglasses and cap, adjusted her hair and had decided that she would
now run as fast as she could and finish the race no matter what it took
out of her ! Finish the race, for me and the kids!
seeing in her watch that she had 7km to go and 49 mins to do it. At
that stage of mental and physical exhaustions it was near impossible
because a 7km run on the mumbai beach normally takes her 49 mins.
Now after 80k she had to run 7k in under 49 mins to finish the race .
She had left me at around 55km and perhaps this was a few kilometers
someone had told us a week before the race that we would have 7km to go
and 49 minutes to finish the race, both Neepa and I would have counted
ourselves out as would most 12 hour finishers. Most people of our
ability run 8-10 Mins per km in these last few kilometers after having
already run 80 km. The odds were stacked overwhelmingly against
Neepa, all because she had lost critical time pacing me.
So why am I grateful for Comrades 2011 ?
was a Comrades made unforgettable for me by the sight I saw from my bed
as I lay in the medical tent. Shivering from cold, dehydration and
exhaustion, covered by 3 thick blankets, with an IV tube in my right
hand, I kept looking for Neepa on the large TV monitor kept at the far
end of the medical tent. I would look for a few minutes and then
would either lose sight of the screen because of the runners and the
medical personnel walking around or because I would suddenly fall
asleep from exhaustion. With only a few minutes to go before
cut-off, I cross-checked the time of the day with the nurse, who
happened to be checking my pulse. She told me it was 5:25 pm. 5
minutes for the race to end. She asked me if I had any family
waiting for me in the stadium outside and I told her that my wife was
about to run into the finish. She gave me a sad smile and went
away. With about 4 minutes to go, in the most lucid moment of my
day, I looked at the TV screen, the people walking in front of it
magically parted and I saw Neepa running in. The Camera focused on her
completely for almost 15 seconds. She looked fresher and happier
than I have ever seen her look! She raised her hands as she crossed the
finish and smiled. She looked absolutely gorgeous. It was just 4
mins short of the 5:30 pm cut-off.
I told the runner on the bed
next to me (who was also disoriented, shivering, on an IV and under
multiple blankets) that my wife is my hero. I don't think any of
it registered with him.
I then, happily, fell asleep.
All was well. Comrades 2011 was priceless for the sight of my wife
running into the finish with her head held high. Neepa had run
out of her skin and finished the last 7 k in Under 49 mins. How
she managed to run a personal best time for a 7k after having already
run 80k will remain a wonderful mystery to me!!! . She says that
she just had to finish the race for both of us and she ran through
unbearable amount of pain and nausea in those last kilometers.
she met me as I staggered out of the medical tent. She hugged me
and started to cry! She said she was so worried for me!
I love this race but not nearly as much as I love her.
do, however, promise that we will be back next year and that I will
keep running Comrades until I run it in my permanent green number (10
See you guys next year !
Amit Sheth, #21548
International Ambassador Comrades Marathon - The Ultimate Human Race.
External links: Official Comrades Marathon