Chennai’s Dr Erica Patel is the state’s first woman to complete South Africa’s Comrades Marathon


Dr Erika Patel from Chennai is the first female runner from Tamil Nadu to participate and finish the Comrades Marathon in South Africa

Dr Erika Patel from Chennai is the first female runner from Tamil Nadu to participate and finish the Comrades Marathon in South Africa

“The energy was amazing. It was like a music festival, with spectators cheering you on as you keep pushing yourself to make it to the finish line,” recalls Dr Erika Patel, discussing the recently-concluded Comrades Marathon in South Africa. The Chennai-based gynaecologist completed the ultra marathon, a 89.885 kilometre race held between the cities of Pietermaritzburg and Durban, in 11 hours and 38 minutes.

“For runners, Comrades is the ultimate feat as it is one of the oldest marathons in the world. It was an emotional moment to make it to the finish line as my coach Lindsey Parry, who is South African, was waiting for me there. The cut-off time is 12 hours and that is what makes the race so unique,” she describes, adding that the cherry-on-top factor for her is that she is the first woman from the State to participate and finish it.

Dr Erika, who works at ART Fertility Clinics in Nungambakkam, has been an athlete before she turned to running in 2016. “I also used to play badminton. For running, I started with 5k, 10k, and half marathons, and took part in the Berlin marathon in 2018. When I got pregnant in 2019, I trained under Lindsey Parry, an expert in training pregnant athletes. I also completed a 10k run during my third trimester. Six months after delivering my son, I got back to running just like before,” she recalls.

 Dr Erika Patel with her coach Lindsey Parry

As she focusses on rebuilding her strength after the run, she continues to motivate women as part of the mentoring programme of Chennai Runners, encouraging their participation in the marathon. “Experienced runners mentor newcomers with a day-to-day training programme. Success comes from consistency. I judiciously follow a routine that includes four days of running and two days of strength training every week. We have to be at it, and the results will show eventually,” she states.

Dr Erika stresses that cross-training is equally important to strengthen one’s body. “I trained with The Quad for my strength training. They tweaked it according to my running schedules. I advise my patients to tackle infertility by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Almost 50% of the women I see every day at my clinic suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome, which can be cured by staying fit,” the doctor says, describes running as therapeutic. “The run time is my ‘me time’. It gives me calm and I am recharged to take on the day.”

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