Bored with the same old same old race routes in Singapore, I was enticed to sign up for the International Bintan Marathon, joining the half category, of course.
Fortunately, my wife gave me permission and went with me.
This was the first time I took part in an overseas race since the North Korean marathon two years ago. At least Bintan has never threatened anyone with nuclear annihilation, right?
I arrived by ferry on Saturday afternoon to collect the race pack which included two packets of Indomie.
The place was pretty dead. I guess it’s for travellers looking for peace and quiet because it was really peaceful and quiet, depressingly so for me.
My hotel, Grand Lagoi, was right next to the starting line, which was very convenient. I just went downstairs and there it was.
Flag-off for the full marathon was a few minutes past 5am (6am Singapore time) Sunday after the Indonesia national anthem. The half was half an hour later.
With only about 1,300 runners from 33 countries, it wasn't a particularly huge event. I saw a few people I know from Singapore.
I was a bit concerned about the heat because of the late start (Army Half Marathon flag-off was 4.30am Singapore time), but the weather thankfully turned out to be quite cool for most of the race.
The distance markers were placed 2km apart instead of the usual 1km. I actually preferred this because I felt a greater sense of achievement every time I see a sign as opposed to "Oh my god, I ran so much and it was only one kilometre?!"
It wasn't a very scenic route as most of it was just a long stretch of road flanked by forest. A trail race could be more interesting.
There were deceptively gentle slopes that sapped your energy without you realising it.
Hydration points were aplenty. I've now developed a racing strategy (if you can call it that) where I start drinking only after the 10km mark when my pace starts slowing down to the point where feeling bloated from the liquid sloshing around in my stomach can't slow me down much more.
These two women (presumably Kenyan) just blew past me.
U-turning near the ferry terminal.
More endless road.
The Pocari and cold sponge were a welcome relief.
One last drink by the lake before the final stretch.
Running past my hotel.
A red carpet to the finish line.
While Bintan might not be my idea of a holiday destination, the race was worth the trip. It was well-organised enough with nice little extras and a friendly, almost intimate, atmosphere.
I also came close to my personal best time so I'm happy.
Knowing I had a breakfast buffet waiting for me at the hotel afterwards was a great motivator I never had before.