The first big hurdle in the training for the full marathon presented itself as the inaugural Bromo Marathon this Sunday,and what a mountain sized hurdle it was!

Bromo run

The sunken mouth of Bromo

Three hours from the city of Surabaya, Mount Bromo is THE iconic Indonesian volcano in East Java. A toughie with an awesome reputation, it took out a whole mountain thousands of years ago, leaving a sunken crater and a massive apocalyptic sea of ash in its wake. Not content with this pre historic tantrum, it continues to harass the towering mountains surrounding it, by blasting out clouds of sulphur all the time. A real bad boy this one.

It also happens to be Aarti and my favourite Indonesian weekend location. The sunrise is breathtaking and so is the rolling sea of mist which magically whites out visibility and reinstates it in a matter of minutes. So as soon as Mani told us about a marathon being organised there, we were all for it. Aarti provided all the enthusiasm and took care of the logistics, Mani and I signed up for the 21 and our madcap pal Venu, probably while in a haze of smoke and beer went for the full marathon.

We drove all night from Surabaya for the usual sunrise tour and trek up frothing Bromo, post which we headed to the village to check out the run details. Immediately impressive was the manner in which the organisers had garnered local support for this charity run. Throughout the day we met enthusiastic supporters and in the evening were treated to the traditional song and dance hit parade performed with gusto.

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Sunrise at Bromo !

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Aarti & I the day before the run

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The locals welcome the runners

The ‘what was I thinking’ moment arrived on studying the course -we had to climb right up that huge mountain and then plummet immediately back down. 21km of circling mountain roads and cobbled paths with a truly insane straight-up-to-heaven vertical dirt track of 5km thrown in between. My experience of monstrous inclines in Jakarta being limited to speed breakers, the only humour was provided by the thought of Venu having to do it twice !

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Yup.. Thats the route !

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Just before the start

Race day dawned with beautiful cool weather and after hugging Aarti for a bit of luck, we were off!
The first few kms were full of long inclines and being well aware of my limitations, I crawled most of the time using the few patches of level ground to speed up.It was hard going till we hit the 5km mark and then it was each man for himself in a sudden exhilarating free fall of 3km.

Of course we paid for the descent with a U at the base and headed straight back up for a 3km reverse climb. And then came the real deal – a 5 km brutal dirt track inclined solely to remind middle aged men of all they had lost. We in turn, gave up any pretence of dignity and wheezed on.

At regular intervals, however, we were greeted by cheering squads handing out water and bananas and at the 15km mark there was even a fully functional shower awaiting us.That, and some regular chit chat on the way was enough to get our spirits up and at 2400 metres, some absolutely smashing views of the volcanic landscape made it all worth it.

And then the final 5km vertical descent started and what a terrific rush it was. It felt like freedom and I was truly glad to be alive.

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The peaceful bit

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Free bird on the final descent !

My final time was 3 hours 1 minute which I later learnt was good enough for a106th finish of 370 odd runners. Mani, being the accomplished runner that he is, finished way ahead at 25th with Venu thankfully stopping at the 21km mark as well with a time just behind Mani’s. Aarti also had a blast hiring an ojek (motorcycle taxi) to cart her and her big camera around. The next day, my happiness increased to read that the top placed female athlete who finished 24th overall just ahead of Mani was an Indian too.

Bromo run

Left to Right..Mani, Venu & I

We rounded off the experience by polishing off the last of Aarti’s home made chocolate cake and headed home, thrilled at having lived to tell the tale.

photos courtesy Aarti Garde

Caught in the wave

Posted: August 25, 2013 in First marathon training

The week was all about work stress and late night dinners with just one run of 8km to keep the dream alive. However, good sleep and rest on Saturday got my spirits up and I was ready for another long Sunday run.

The plan was to run 13-15 km depending on how it panned out, with Aarti cycling the circuit twice. However, today a local bank was sponsoring a massively attended run. First,two Africans absolutely thundered by, their way being cleared by siren blaring police motor cycles. Then came hundreds of elite indonesian runners doing their best to keep up. And finally came thousands and thousands of amateurs running, jogging, walking, strolling and generally having a good day out.

Aarti soon gave up and climbed to a vantage point to click a few snaps of the sight below.

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Learning from last week, this time I started slower. The huge crowd of runners kept me entertained and the regular supply of water for them was very helpful. The 10km mark passed in 66 minutes, 5 minutes slower than last week. But inspite of that, at 12km I started tiring again and for a horrible few minutes thought it would be a repeat of last week. But it passed and I pushed on

Aarti, having abandoned her cycling, was waiting at the 13km mark and feeling pretty fresh,I decided to continue till 18 km, which was reached in 2 hours.

Even though that was a minute slower than last week, it felt a lot better and I had no problem enjoying a well deserved breakfast at Monologue !

Two weeks of training

Posted: August 18, 2013 in First marathon training

This morning, it was time for a two hour run, and I’m still shocked at how tough it was. Over the last two weeks, I’ve run shorter distances five times including the 10k twice in around 57.3, eaten a lot (!), slept well and basically thought the preparation for today was pretty good.

Aarti was planning to cycle double the distance and we were both up and early on the road. The casual cyclists were all back post Ramadan but what was great to see were the large number of not so casual running groups training for next months Adidas King Of The road. So there was enough motivation for me inspite of the hot and humid conditions.

Aarti thankfully met me every half hour or so to check on my hydration and the 12km mark passed in a decent 74 minutes. And then it was as if my legs turned to lead and it became unbelievably tough. Slowing to a crawl, more than once I thought of giving up. Thankfully it passed, only to happen again at 16km. And this time it didn’t go and finally, barely walking, I stumbled to an 18km close in 1hr 59 minutes, the last 6km taking 45 minutes.

The hilly high altitude Bromo Half Marathon is two weeks away and if today is anything to go by, the iconic volcano might end up spewing a lot of pain !

Sunday Long Run

Posted: August 4, 2013 in First marathon training

On Sundays, a 6.5 km stretch in the commercial district of Jakarta is designated as a car free zone. Extremely popular with one and all, it provides a rare opportunity to walk, run and cycle without worrying about being run over by the city’s zillion vehicles.

It being Ramadan time, the crowds were scarce today allowing the cyclists, including Aarti, to put in some serious laps, I had a weekly long run planned, 16 km this time and used it to inaugurate a Garmin watch and heart rate monitor.

The run went off thankfully without incident. As usual it was hot without being unpleasant and having Aarti around allowed me to replenish my energy drink mid way. Being rather slow, I had to watch many runners pass me, with the consolation of admiring their superior running form and trying to match their stride for a while.

The closing time for 16km was 1hr 45 mins and was rewarded by being handed a clean T-shirt by my aroma conscious wife !

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Hal Higdon

Posted: August 1, 2013 in First marathon training

A search on the internet got me to Hal Higdon’s Marathon Training Programs, Hal Higdon being a one-time elite runner whose marathon running commenced before I started breathing and still continues. So, no problems listening to him.

 After browsing through his programs and having bid goodbye to the ego, I settled on Novice 1, only to find it too tough! So now, instead of the recommended 4 times a week, I run three times. There’s the week beginning short run, the mid week ‘sort of long one’ and the Sunday long run.

Today was the sort of long one – an 8km early morning run. Since this is Jakarta, where running outdoors is strictly a Sunday option, the treadmill got all the action. Running with focus got a finish and a time of 45.52.

Last time around, I had erred in keeping the calorie intake constant while increasing the miles. This time though, Aarti has taken charge and I get a goodie loaded sandwich for a hefty breakfast at office.

Must confess that that I love the both the sandwich and the idea of Aarti making it for me!!

Over the last few years I have dreamt of training for and running a marathon. Though I did manage to complete the Bali Half Marathon last year, that was the end of it. Facing body fatigue and metal tiredness, I gave up the training and have, since then, indulged only in regular short distance runs with general merry making in between.

However, the thought of running a full marathon never disappears. It follows quietly and jumps out of the shadows whenever the mind is idle. It catches me unawares in sleep and calls out of TV screens whenever the Kirui’s, Kiptui’s and Kiplagat’s of East Africa make their dazzling appearance.

So after seeing thousands of regular folk like me wade through the 42km, I decided this month to stop whining and make another run for it.

The target is the Singapore Marathon on 1st Dec 2013, which is 16 weeks away. Hope this time I can go the distance.

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A flurry of night outs and a Balinese weekend ensured that the week went by with a lot of fun but no running. On sober reflection, a serious lapse, compounded further by the no show at the Sunday outdoor run.

So today’s target of a 15km evening treadmill run was set with the knowledge that a failure would, in all probability, end the chase.

Desperation was evident in the sugared gels and water I ran with, worthy of a Brazilian export surplus. As usual a make believe world of jostling runners populated the quiet gym. On a treadmill leading nowhere, illusion is often the only solace.

The run was exhausting and I was all out of gas at the end of the 86 mins it took. There were blisters on both feet and my back threatened a cramp. But base camp had been reached, 15km had been covered.

The Jakarta Half Marathon is less than two weeks away and I’m still in the mix.