Beauty on Bromo

Posted on September 3, 2013

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This past weekend I ran the Bromo Marathon in East Java, Indonesia. I was heading east anyway, “working” in Koh Samui next week so what’s an extra four hour flight, I figured. Besides, seeing as my little sister lives just 100k or so from the race venue, it seemed crazy not to include it in my plans.

My thoughts are these:

  • Indonesia has some AMAZING trails. The route was truly breathtaking and the views absolutely spectacular. The terrain varied from single-file tree-lined forest tracks with tall elegant trees to wide open fields with rows of exotic wild flowers, from dense green rice paddies to steep, winding jeep roads … and of course the rim of Mount Bromo itself, an active volcano, at 2,329m. It last erupted in 2011.
  • The race route was two loops of 21.1km, which normally would have put me off entering a race but as it happened it really didn’t bother me. On the second loop, you notice things that you never did the first time round and it makes for the perfect opportunity to work on those negative splits!
  • This year was the inaugural year. What this means, is that there were some inevitable hiccups. These came not with the race itself but with accommodation for the most part and a general lack of English spoken by most of the volunteers. I had some serious issues sorting out a bed the night before the race, despite having booked and paid for a room over a month ago. After some major headaches, I found myself snatching just a little shuteye in possibly the worst room I have ever encountered (and with more than my fair share of backpacking stints, I am no stranger to living rough!). Anyway, what’s a cockroach or two when only for a night … and who needs running water?!
  • The race itself was run with perfection. Registration was hassle free, water stations were abundant, volunteers were fantastic, villagers were supportive, route markings were the best I’ve probably ever seen and the route wow’ed me. Looking down at the crater alone was worth travelling across the world for. It reminded me a little of Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania.
  • The race was a community initiative, run alongside Peace Corps volunteers working to improve local education, health and prosperity for the surrounding low-income communities. The idea is that the race will allow these communities to use their natural environment and culture as a source of income to support education. This years objective was to promote the importance of literature, with all event proceeds going towards the development of school library facilities.
  • Indonesia, I suspect might be the next Nepal when it comes to trail running. Beyond stunningly beautiful trails, it is easily accessible, particularly for runners coming from Singapore, HK and Malaysia and it remains very cheap. SE Asia has seen such an explosion in trail running over recent years. Just look at Hong Kong and there seems to be a race pretty much every weekend … but prices are very high there, to travel, stay and participate. Not so in Indonesia and indeed many other pockets of Asia. It seems plenty of runners are willing to travel too. Within moments of arriving at the start, I heard my name being called by a guy I’ve run with in Nepal before. And then another friend who I met in Borneo running TMBT last year picked up on a race pic as her girlfriend in Jakarta stood alongside me. Such is the viral nature of Facebook!
  • I hope definitely to run in Indonesia again. I remain a little sore … but the winning prize makes the stiff legs all worthwhile. And the greatest prize has to be spending time before and after with my gorgeous little sister …
  • Check out www.bromomarathon.com if you fancy this race in 2014. It was touted on CNN this year as one of Asia’s top destination races. I can see why …
  • Next stop, some serious R&R at Thailand’s best-kept secret, Kamalaya. The hard work is done!
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