Dili Marathon starting line

The starting line of the Dili Marathon 2011
It’s inspiring enough to read about another person doing a marathon, but to watch someone run an entire 42 kilometres, well it’s hard to put into words. You feel elated, motivated and amazed at what is humanely possible and let’s remember that this is what you get from just watching the race, imagine what it’s like running it!I’ve been lucky enough to watch the last two marathons held in the capital of East Timor, Dili. In 2010, the first ever Dili ‘City of Peace’ Marathon, my housemate and I woke early to cheer the runners on their first lap. We ended up staying for the whole race, clapping the final competitors as they pounded away, under the unforgiving midday sun. By 2011, the event was an extravaganza. It was hard to find viewing space alongside the hundreds of children who ran the fun run. Added to these were over 700 sailors and doctors from the USS Cleveland which had anchored off the coast of East Timor for the weekend as well as the tourists, who even included a former Miss Australia, Caroline Pemberton.
Dili Marathon Fun Run

School children ready to race in the Dili Marathon

About the Dili Marathon

Set on the streets of Dili, competitors can choose to run: fun (5 or 10kms), half (21kms), or the full marathon (42kms). Yep, that’s right, on the streets of Dili. The same streets where there are morning traffic jams, potholes, uneven surfaces etc… which makes driving or riding a motorbike a bit of a nightmare. Undoubtedly, things will kick into gear this week (one week before the race) as road maintenance crews appear seemingly out of nowhere to fill the potholes making a once un-tameable surface, kind of “smoothish”.
The race claims to showcase the best of the city and that can be true of Jason’s experience, he’s run the fun run two years in a row:
“I loved the Dili Marathon.  I have entered it twice and while my goal both times was to do the half marathon (21km), both times I held back and ended up entering the 10km instead.  Interestingly, the first year I did it, the 10k runners were sent the wrong way and I ended up doing 7.5k’s.  The next year, I am not sure what happened, but I ended up running about 15k’s!  Ramos Horta who walked it, beat me! But I did hear that, for both years, the full marathon went quite well. Would I do it again?  Absolutely!  It was one of the highlights of my time in Timor-Leste.  There is such a great atmosphere….. Just don’t get hung up on the potholes that remain in the roads and the motorbikes that seem to ignore the police and try to get you run over!  But, all of these things just add to this very unique running experience.”

Jason at the start of the Dili Marathon 2011

The reason behind the race

The race was created as one of President Ramos Horta’s peace building- initiatives. And despite the good intentions, it does feel quite strange to have this event and all the sponsor signs that accompany it, plastered against the backdrop of such a poor country. This feeling I have I think is best displayed on the staring faces of the East Timorese who find themselves in the middle of the race, looking either confused or bemused as to why anyone would want to run that far! The Marathon’s saving grace is that running is an accessible sport, you don’t need expensive equipment to compete: anyone can do it. It is also encouraging to see the investment they’ve put into the national squad who train together, are kitted out in the latest gear and have been given the opportunity to compete in other marathons overseas. Hopefully one day soon, one of them will take out a top title somewhere in the world.
Dili Marathon runners

Silhouettes of runners

The future of the Dili ‘City of Peace’ Marathon- will it continue?

Being the brainchild of President Ramos Horta and his cohort of foreign event organisers, the most important question now is what is to be the future of the Dili Marathon? Will it continue now that Horta was defeated in the 2012 Presidential elections? Such a question might be answered this weekend as the third Dili ‘City of Peace’ Marathon takes off. So if you’re not running, I recommend going along to watch, you’ll have a great time and it could very well be your last opportunity to see it!


Watching at the Dili Marathon finishing line
Tips for runners:

  • Hydrate before, during and after the race.  Yes you have heard this many times, but you really MUST do it in Timor.
  • Be self-sufficient.  While water stations are provided, they can run out of water!
  • Sunscreen and hat are essential.
  • You are crazy if you run with an iPod.  Yes the motivating music helps, but I have seen taxis, police cars and motorbikes sharing the track with runners!
For more details about the race, including some great images like the three large pictures used in this post, head to http://dilimarathon.com