Comrades marathon: Indian participation (or lack of)

It was an interesting thought which I got today, to find out about any previous Indian and international participants at Comrades over the last few years. It was not as straightforward to find this data, but with some quick Google searches, I was able to retrieve what I was looking for.

Comrades 2000 (biggest one in years, 24552 runners)
Comrades 2001 (15363 runners)
Comrades 2002 (12167 runners)
Comrades 2003 (13373 runners)
Comrades 2004 (12059 runners)
Comrades 2005 (13899 runners)
Comrades 2006 (12066 runners)
Comrades 2007 (12006 runners)
Comrades 2008 (11189 runners)

Result: Not a single Indian since 2000. That’s very disappointing to say the least. (Update: 2009: There will be exactly one runner from India at Comrades! All the best, Amit)

The biggest chunk of International runners seem to be from Australia, Brazil, England, Switzerland, Germany, United States, and of course the neighbors Zimbabwe.

So, what could be the reason for no Indian runners at Comrades.

  1. Lack of Indian ultra runners: India does not have many regular Ultra runners. Probably 5-6 names (maybe more less known runners), the biggest one arguably being Arun Bhardwaj, the ultra runner from Delhi. He regularly runs multi-day events through the year. Check this post from Shruthi on Indian ultra runners.
  2. Lack of ultra events in India: The two real ultra events which I have heard till now in India are The Himalayan 100 Mile Stage Race, and the 2 year old Bangalore ultramarathon. So, there is not a big enough platform to begin with. There is a new event on the horizon, the multi-day Great Indian Desert Run, so things are getting better.
  3. Awareness: not many regular marathon runners in India may have heard about Comrades. General lack of information and awareness about ultras.
  4. Logistics: South Africa is a more far-off destination compared to more convenient ones in Asia, particularly Singapore marathon, where there are hordes of runners from India. In fact, about 20+ runners went from Chennai alone in 2008 (Low cost airlines between Chennai-Singapore, like Tiger Airways help the cause too).

Add your thoughts on this subject in the comments. Would be interesting to get more perspectives on this topic. Have you run an ultramarathon, when and where?

Update for Comrades 2009: 12890 runners, a 17% increase over 2008.

Of the 12890 entrants, there are:-

  • 460 : International Runners – Men
  • 130 : International Runners – Woman
  • 2120 : South Africa Runners – Woman
  • 10180 : South Africa Runners – Men

From the 12890 entries 2404 runners are Novices (first time Comrades Marathon runners).

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