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From IRONMAN to Comrades: IRAS Rahul Patil’s Unstoppable Athletic Journey

IRAS officer Rahul Patil completed the 87-kilometer Comrades Marathon in 9 hours and 59 minutes, earning the prestigious Robert Mitshali Medal.
Rahul Patil IRAS
Indian Masterminds Stories

In a remarkable feat of endurance and determination, Rahul Patil completed the Comrades Marathon on June 9, 2024, finishing the grueling 87-kilometer ultramarathon from Durban to Pietermaritzburg in 9 hours and 59 minutes, earning the prestigious Robert Mitshali Medal. This achievement comes on the heels of his successful completion of the IRONMAN 70.3 event last year, showcasing his exceptional athletic prowess.

Speaking with Indian Masterminds, 2012 batch IRAS officer Rahul Patil, who is posted as the Deputy Finance and Chief Account Officer in the Construction Department of Pune Railway Unit of Central Railway, shared about his marathon journey, challenges, and success. 

DISCOVERY OF A PASSION 

Despite his demanding professional responsibilities, Mr. Patil has carved a niche for himself in the world of marathon running, achieving remarkable milestones along the way.

“Running has always been a favorite sport for me,” Mr. Patil shared. His journey began with half marathons, where he diligently improved his time, eventually running them in under two hours. This accomplishment motivated him to target a full marathon. Around the same time, he learned about the Comrades Marathon from trainees in his coaching group who had completed the race the previous year. This new challenge became his next big goal.

QUALIFYING FOR THE COMRADES MARATHON 

Mr. Patil further informed Indian Masterminds that the Comrades Marathon is the oldest ultramarathon, starting in 1921 and spanning 87 kilometers from Durban to Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Held annually, the race alternates between an “up run” and a “down run” each year. To qualify, runners must complete a full marathon in under 4 hours and 49 minutes. Mr. Patil targeted the Tata Mumbai Marathon in January 2024 and successfully finished it in 3 hours and 57 minutes, securing his place in the Comrades Marathon.

TRAINING FOR THE ULTIMATE CHALLENGE

The rigorous training for the Comrades Marathon began in January 2024. This involved not only running on various surfaces but also intensive hill training, essential for the five significant hills in the Comrades route. His training included the Tata Ultra Marathon in Lonavala, which he completed in 5 hours and 5 minutes. “Under the guidance of the Shiv Spirit group in Satara, my training routine encompassed running, strength training, swimming, cycling, breathing exercises, and meditation,” the officer added. 

Mental strength played a crucial role in his preparation. Alongside physical training, Mr. Patil incorporated cross-training, night runs, and long hill runs around Pune, covering areas like Sinhagad, Vivek Ghat, Bopde Ghat, Tajjai, and Tekdi. These sessions were challenging due to India’s hot and humid climate, making night runs a strategic part of his training.

OVERCOMING CHALLENGES 

“Adapting to South Africa’s winter climate was one of the significant challenges I faced. The road surface and steep gradients posed additional difficulties. Despite these, I strategically maintained a pace of 6:20 to 6:30 minutes per kilometer, initially aiming to finish the race in nine hours,” Mr. Patil shared. 

However, the crowded starting position delayed his desired pace, and after the half marathon, he revised his goal to complete the race within 10 hours. Employing a walk-run strategy, Rahul successfully conserved his energy, avoiding cramps, and finished the race in 9 hours and 59 minutes, earning the prestigious Robert Mitshali Medal for finishing between 9 and 10 hours.

IMPACT 

“Completing the Comrades Marathon was a moment of immense pride for me.” The disciplined training process felt like a form of meditation, creating a sync between mind and body after long distances. This experience not only strengthened his physical fitness but also enhanced his mental resilience, benefiting his professional life in the railway account service.

Balancing his professional, personal, and athletic life was challenging. “I would like to credit my wife, who works in state government. She managed our household and our two children, allowing me to focus on my training,” Mr. Patil said. 

WORDS OF WISDOM 

IRAS officer Rahul Patil emphasizes the importance of the training process over the marathon event itself. The journey of training, with its physical and mental challenges, is vital for achieving any goal. “ I would also like to extend my gratitude to my coach, nutritionist, running partners, and family, whose support was crucial.”

In sharing his journey, Rahul Patil inspires others to focus on the process, highlighting that the culmination of the marathon is just a part of a larger, enriching journey. 


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