Johannesburg, May 29 A South African Gujarati woman is the toast of her community after she became the first Indian woman to finish in the top 10 of the prestigious Comrades Marathon run annually between two cities since 1921.
Against competition from international professional runners, Kashmira Parbhoo, 34, from the huge mainly Indian township of Lenasia, south of here, got a medal and 11,000 rands in prize money after finishing the 89 km race between Pietermaritzburg and Durban.
Parbhoo started off at dawn with 8,600 other runners in the city where Mohandas Gandhi was inspired to his path of becoming the Mahatma after being kicked off a train because he was not white. She reached the finish line at the Sahara Kingsmead Stadium in Durban seven hours and 16 minutes later to thunderous applause.
Russian twins Olesya and Elena Nurgalieva came in first and second respectively and another Russian, Tatyana Zhirkova, was third.
Kashmira, a petite information technology consultant, said she watched her father Jaydev cross the Comrades finish line in 2000 and said to herself then: "I can also do that!"
Kashmira's father then became her mentor, coach and trainer as she started entering professional races across the country as a member of the Lenasia Athletics Club.
Coming first in several local marathons, Kashmira also competed in another major national race, the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon which straddles the Indian and Atlantic Oceans that meet at Cape Point as she set her sights on the arduous Comrades Marathon in her first year as a runner.
"It was a moment that changes you forever," Kashmira said after finishing the race, thanking her family and friends who had stood by her, adding that she had finished almost half an hour earlier than her own predicted time of seven hours 45 minutes.