5 Reasons Why I Love Bali Marathon 2015 & Why You Should Too!

Bali Marathon 2015's beautiful finisher tee and medal

Who doesn't love Bali? To run a marathon in Bali - isn't it hot, humid and I heard also that Bali Marathon is very hilly and tough to run especially under such hot weather?

Well, after seeing the photos and positive feedback given by Tey Eng Tiong, a famous Malaysian journalist cum runner com photographer who was invited to run last year as media representative, I told myself that Bali Marathon 2015 was definitely going to be a marathon in different venue that I would want to experience this year.

I managed to complete 42 km in net time of 4 hours 3 min 23 sec. A bit disappointed at my time because my previous 3 full marathon races were all sub-4 hours. I have still so much to learn and improve to make sub 4 as consistent as possible. I shall continue to improve on my running technique - and perhaps start to learn about strategy  - especially when it comes to joining a race in hot weather and hilly routes.

Anyway, I have also learned that there are so much more than timing in running! :)

The richness of Bali culture I soaked in nd the unique experience that I went through in thousands of steps over 42 km distance covering 3 villages were more than enough to make up for my little disappointment! Oh - who could forget those smiling faces of kids cheering on? :)

So here I am - writing rave reviews for Bali Marathon 2015 giving you 5 reasons why I love Bali Marathon and why you should too!

Reason #1 : Beautiful Bali Village Scenery, People and Culture
Don't forget to soak in Bali's culture and beauty when you run! Or you will be missing the true essence of Bali Marathon!

Please watch this official Bali Marathon 42 km course map video to have a feel of what you will pass through. I watched this 2 nights before the race - and it got me all pumped up to really run through all the points mentioned! 

Alternatively, here is the full marathon course route, starting from Bali Safari & Marine Park, Gianyir, Bali. 

What you get to experience:
  • 20 interesting villages seeing things you would not see in Kuta, Nusa Dua, Ubud, Seminyak and Denpasar. :)
  • Beautiful villages, rice padi fields,  sun rise, streams, more
  • Daily lives of Bali villagers
  • Friendly Balinese cheering crowds in traditional costumes
  • Hot Bali weather! (why do sun worshipers go to Bali for? What is Bali without hot sun? :))
  • Challenging hilly routes with highest elevation of 119m at 35km

Reason #2 : High Five
You must give high five hand gesture to all the village kids wearing traditional costumes

I slowed down at every stop (I think there were about 6-8 such stops in the 42 km course) and gave high-five hand gesture to all the smiling, beautiful kids and school children in the 20 wonderful villages we passed through. They all lined up on the road side with their colorful traditional clothes waving flags, singing, playing drums / gongs, cheering, hitting the long balloon stick making loud upbeat sound, or simply saying "welcome to Bali".

When I gave them high five touching their small little hands, I couldn't stop myself from having a big smile on my face. I was so so happy and smiling from ear to ear in such atmosphere! The crowd is just simply superb. The cheers were thunderous!! I have never felt such a lasting cheering atmosphere any race I had been to before - especially from the locals in their costumes or traditional clothes.. I could really feel the genuine warmth of the villagers eagerly wanting to see us runners. I said "Salam" to them - and then high-five! And some of them even said "Semangat" in return!!

When I saw kids with their mother or father sitting outside the house, I would also slow down to try to touch their little hands giving them high five. Some kids were scared - but most welcomed my salam! I could see the grin in their sparkling eyes. And when they stretched out their little hands and responded. My heart melted!! 

Until today - I could still feel their friendly genuine smile and warm little hands.

Reason #3 : Flower Blessing
You will be blessed in Bali's traditional way by beautiful Balinese girls throwing flower petals on you blessing you as you run pass them

I was so surprised to see the beautiful Balinese girls dancing in their strikingly bright costumes. Initially I thought they were just dancing cheering for us. But as I ran pass the first stop after giving high five to the kids, the Balinese girls with flow petals then threw some onto me to bless me - making me laugh and overjoyed by their warm gesture!  Since the first stop, I also looked out for them - usually at end of cheering line. 

This experience - another first for me! Marvelous and unforgettable!

Reason #4 : Pleasant Cultural Shock Might Be Waiting For You!
Open your eyes to the mystical culture of Bali even when you run - and you may be pleasantly shocked!

As I ran, I was so much soaked in the local culture and atmosphere that I looked at every passing villager - be it an old man, a grandma, kids, family, etc. I smiled at them. I said salam when we had eye contacts. Some would say "semangat" to me and I happily then said "semangat" back to them. I was just curious - after 7 years not stepping foot in Bali and not having a chance to come into the small villages like this - I wanted to absorb as much as possible!! 

And trust me - what you will see in these 3 villages here might be different from what you will see at populated places like Kuta, Seminyak, Ubud, Denpasar or Nusa Dua.

Pleasant Shock #1 
Do you know that if you want to go to the loo - the villagers would just open up their house toilet and let you in to do your quick business? In fact, Bali Marathon organiser has put up a bright yellow sign saying "Toilet" pointing to some of the villagers' houses. This - never happened anywhere I have run before. Usually runners use either the mobile toilets or the nature! :) But in Bali Marathon - wow! This was simply cool! 

So without any hesitation, I was like a little kid full of curiosity - going into 1 of the house toilets in 1st village! And the toilets in the houses are mainly in the front of the house - very different from what I know of - close to kitchen at back of house! 

Oh did I miss something? :) Yes - I did! Here is the next shock...

Pleasant Shock #2 
Not sure if you are aware that in the old days, Balinese women could walk in the village TOPLESS with no shame? I am not sure about the story and I thought I would not exist anymore. But I saw it once 7 years ago on the way to Kintamani.

And during this Bali Marathon - I happened to see it again at 2nd village !! Well - this round - this Balinese village women in her 50s was wearing the Bali dress (her daily clothes I presume) but they were mostly unbutton - except one - so it was visible from where I was running. 

So there you go - the cultural shock! Thank goodness I knew about it before so i could withhold myself from having a heart attack!! In the middle of the small village? Well - I respect local culture wherever I go, and I am always curious to experience it. I was really grateful to witness the history part of Bali still existing in today's Bali!! Wonderful!

Pleasant Shock #3
The third cultural shock was that some runners saw a western residing tourist showering naked in the river stream. Well, I didn't get to see that part though! Censored! :)

Pleasant Shock #4
As I ran along the villages I saw drains wider than usual size along the road in front of their houses. Initially I didn't pay much attention to the drains.

Then I saw a village woman with her foot inside the "so-called" drain outside of her house. The water level was knee high. I was so curious on what she was doing so I slowed down to be closer. And do you know what she was doing? She was washing her clothes there - in the "drain water"! I then wondered where the source of water was - so I ran slightly ahead closer to the padi fields. I found out that it was from the river and sewerage systems all combined!

Such is the life of villagers - fully utilizing the nature for their daily lives!! And we city dwellers are complaining all the time about clean water etc! Instead of feeling disgusted, I feel so much respect for them - for the ability to make the best of what they have! Meanwhile - I hope they do have clean water to drink though for hygienic reasons.  

Reason #5 : Very Well Organised Event

 Excellent Shuttle Pick Up Service : It was first time ever for me to experience being picked up from a pick up point by Shuttle to the race venue. So I didn't have much to expect!! Our pick up point was Ubud. we were picked up at 3 am and arrived at race venue Bali Safari & Marine Park around 3:45 am. When we went back, we also took the shuttle to Ubud. I must say it's very efficient and timely!! And the driver and servicing staff were very friendly!

Plenty of water and Isotonic drinks at about every 2.5 to 3 km. In Indonesia, there is no 100Plus or Revive. Pocari Sweat is the sponsored isotonic drink! Very nice!

Clearly marked distance along the way so that we know where were were. 

Very generous goodies. There are 2 t-shirts. 1 for participation (yellow) given during race kit collection, another black color as finisher tee; a beautiful finisher medal, a pink finisher towel, free 1 day pass to Safari & Marine Park and other discount vouchers!! 

Well traffic control & plenty of traffic control marshals. If I remember correctly, there were at least 1 marshal at  every 500 meter. Simple amazing - and most of them wore the local Bali topi (hat).

Even the event photos - all are provided free by just entering bib number. :) The advanced technology used making life of runners more convenient without having to search through thousands of photos to tag or identify him / herself.

Besides the hot weather and the hilly routes, the first 10 km when running on main street was a bit suffocating due to poor air quality (haze or open air burning?). But once we entered into village area, then the air quality seemed not to trouble me anymore. 

Here are my result and race photos:

So here is the official welcome to you to join Bali Marathon at least once in your running life!! 
You will remember it for life! :)

Welcome To Bali!


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