When I heard that Stamford Raffles (British Governor and founder of modern Singapore) in 1814 went to look for this sanctuary deep in the island of Java and how serene the picture of Borobudur in front my coffee table travel book ‘The Road Less Travelled‘, without much delay I signed up the full marathon 42.2km race.The 2016 Borobudur Marathon took place in Magelang district in Central Java, Indonesia on 20th November. It took me 1 hour and the half from Yogyakarta Airport before reaching Magelang.
For you seasoned half marathon runners and full distance marathon runners read and understand the below because it will leave you to manage your expectation, and be more reasonable which ultimately benefit you to enjoy the race day even more, and perhaps felt the enlightenment at the end,
1. Borobudur temple may not be as famous or busy as cousin its Angkor Watt, but it’s the biggest Buddhist temple in the world (built around 8th – 9th century) with magnificent structure, fulled with history and still today a center for pilgrimage. It survived plenty of earthquakes, volcanoe eruptions, and bomb threat. The perk of this marathon is a free entry to the park where the ancient site located and chances to view monument clearly from the starting line. So instead of got up early to watch sunrise on top of Borobudur and paid additional fee (above the usual entrance fee), I laced up my running shoes and witnessed for the first time what a mesmerizing view of the temple surrounded by very eager local runners.
2. Don’t expect fancy sports expo at convenient location because I had to get a cab which took about one hour to get there (thanks to Yogyakarta traffic), and then joined an hour of long queue in Grand Artos Mall to get the race pack. I received my bib number after being firstly told at first that they can’t find my fee payment. While in the queue, it was great to hear special guest Agus Prayogo talking about his training regime on the stage at Meet & Sharing event organised by Magelang Runners club.
3. Don’t contact their Social Media instead go ask people on ground. For the record, I did message their Social Media Account on few occasions and no response provided. After bib number pick-up, it was already dark and I began to wonder – ‘where will be the starting line’? Surveyed from Gate 1 to Gate 7 of the Lumbini Park with no sign indicating where the starting line was. Asked few locals around and received inconsistent answers. So in the morning I simply followed the crowd and entered via Gate 1. Situation was a bit chaotic at the front gate among cars and runners.
4. It’s kind of ‘okay’ for a race to start late – perhaps this is only in Indonesia, or perhaps I never been to any race that compromised on value of precision. It appeared that singing the National Anthem ‘Indonesia Raya’ (oh boy they did sing beautifully) and arrival of Minister of Youth and Athletics were more crucial in term of formality/protocal over race punctuality. We gathered in our pen (no time allocation pen at all), waited from 5am as expected till announcement made later on that race to kick off 30 minutes late. Dear organiser, can you not released the marathon runners first and let the half marathon runners deal with the protocal?
5. Pay attention to distance sign and don’t just follow runners in front. After running the first 1km in the park, a police on a motorbike told that we were heading into a wrong direction. Could not believe what I just heard, we turned back and run for another 1km to reached the correct turn. I assured most runners ran longer that marathon distance that day. Other that this unlucky turn, most part of course was spot on and well guarded with police and volunteers.
6. Don’t rely on full road closure like big city marathon because the course brought elements of local daily activities, their farm and small villages. I ran along chilies plantation, paddy field, and saw locals shopping at the busy morning market – with butchers and their poultry, farmers and their harvest. The last 10km was against background of mountain from afar- something I enjoyed very much. Peaceful and serene at some part of course interchangeably with open roads where motorcycles, cars an trucks passed by. Aside this, the course was not too flat – came with occasional gradual small hills.
7. Be prepared to consume only bananas (about 4 checkpoints), no oranges or watermelon of that sort. Also prepare not to be thirsty too quickly because the first checkpoint as we got out of the park, was not ready to serve any water. Having said that the water and isotonic (Isoplus) were frequently available as well as ice cubes (much needed because day turned out to be a very hot one).
8. Be amazed to finish strong in the green grassy park that is buzzing with crowd (mostly from runners who completed the 10km and half marathon). I received group clap in the last 0.3km where I poured my heart out sprinting to finishing line out as I heard them chanting ‘semangat’. Great music played by a group band as well as plenty of home cook vendors selling amazing local cuisine were activities at the park that witnessed runners finished the race.
9. Go find the finisher medal yourself. No marshall or volunteers waited at the finishing line to award medal around neck. Instead I heard from another runner that one marshall asked “is there still someone running on the road?”.
10. Finishers Tshirt not being given away as runners entitled to. So when I heard they were giving away later from another runner I met in the hotel I stayed, I rushed back to the park only to be told that organizers already packed everything up. No sign of finisher Tshirts but it did give me chance to climb the 100 stairs to top of Borobudur temple. Worth it.
11. Don’t look out for your race result because chances are they are not there. True story – my bib number was not on the race result. As mentioned in point 3, no response or replied given to my email/Social Media as to explanation on this.
All in all – what a wonderful day despite everything. Not a bad run – no PB but no running issue such as cramp. GU gel did rescued me that day so as handful of ice cubes I tucked in my sport bras. At 3-4 km mark, I accidentally bumped into Japanese runner, Shin whom I met in Jordan (Dead Sea Ultra) last year – only because he donned Comrades cap in white and green which was easy to spot.
I came to Central Java to have a significant run around UNESCO important site and I have indeed enjoyed every part of it – the imperfection, disorganised and somewhat never dull moment race. While the organisation may not be on the top of my race list, there are other satisfying factors that made me rate this race a must do for you adventure runners out there.
I wish the organiser (who claimed to be supported by IAAF Athletics) can take lesson learnt as enhancement opportunity from its first time experience in organizing this full marathon race.
More information on Borobudur Marathon, please visit here.
Accommodation – Recommend for stay close to the starting line, not Yogyakarta.
I leave you with amazing Borobudur monument pictures, to say that it wasn’t all about running.Hover over the image for further details. Be at the top of this majestic architecture felt very special, definitely worth climbing 100 stairs to the top even with sore legs – witnessed not just Buddha statues and reliefs (intricate carvings on wall) but amazing view of 4 volcano mountains: Merapi, Merbabu, Sumbing and Sindoro.
Jumpa lagi (see you again in Bahasa)
Live To Thrive,