Be sure to check out the photo gallery at the bottom of this post, too.
With my mom safely headed to Thailand after visiting Amy and I for two and a half weeks, we boarded a bus to take us to Mt. Bromo, the most famous of East Java’s many volcanoes, to join the first ever Bromo Marathon. I was running in the half-marathon, my first, and Amy was volunteering at the finish line handing out medals to finishers.
As we checked-in on the bus, we met a number interesting people who were headed to Bromo for the marathon. It was a great way to kick off the weekend as we met a very diverse and friendly group of people, from all over Indonesia, Southeast Asia, Europe and the Americas.
The bus ride there made the hairpin turns you encounter driving to Snowshoe mountain back home seem like a wide-open interstate. After three hours we arrived and were welcomed with a dinner at our friend Shane’s host family’s house with a number of other Peace Corps Volunteers.
As an aside, the area where Shane lives is unique and isolated. The majority of people there are Hindu. Similar to the Balinese, they are descendants of Hindus who fled other parts of Java when Islam overtook as the dominant religion in many parts of Indonesia. They escaped to the area of Tengger in the mountains and maintain their religion and culture today. They even speak their own language called bahasa Tengger.
Shane had worked over the last year with his community to create a marathon that would bring tourism to the area, as well as benefit the local schools. Shane and his committee couldn’t have done a better job. The event was world-class, with international sponsors and nearly 1,000 people from around the world signed up to race.
On Saturday Amy and I worked the registration desk where we got to meet a number of the race participants and see some of our new friends again. A solid group of Peace Corps Volunteers came to the event to support Shane and the marathon. Eight of us ran, but everyone pitched in to help where they could. One crew of guys who weren’t running were out on the course late that night and absurdly early the next morning to make sure all of the course markers and water stations were setup. They did an awesome job.
We went to bed early so we could make the 5:30am wake up call. My race started at 7:30am and the 380 runners in the half marathon took off on the course. I had been training for the last few months and had no doubts about my ability to run the 13 miles. However, what I wasn’t ready for were the hills (or maybe ‘mountain slopes’ is a better term?). You see, where we live, it is completely flat. We live in the land of rice paddies, perpetual 90+ degree, humid weather and basically at sea level. I had as much luck preparing for a race on the side of a volcano as I would have if I was preparing for a moon landing. Luckily, I wasn’t alone. During the race, on one particularly killer hill where everyone in front of me was walking, the guy next to me tells me that he’s run tons of marathons and half marathons and has never seen everyone walking like this. All this goes to say that the race was hard. Ridiculously hard.
But, it was also ridiculously beautiful. I don’t think I’ll ever run, much less see, a place as beautiful as the ground covered on that race. A mix of mountain roads, trails, villages, hindu shrines, mosques, and volcanoes made it almost dreamlike. My pictures do it no justice.
In the end, I couldn’t have been happier with how I finished. My time was well-under what I was predicting and I ended up finishing 30th in my race. But, even better was the weekend spent with our good friends in a really magical place. If you are a runner and looking for an excuse to travel next summer, I highly recommend you check out the 2014 Bromo Marathon.
Check out more pictures from the race here: