Sunday running in Jakarta – not such a tough mudder

Between 6 and 11 am every Sunday, Jakarta’s six lane thoroughfare, Jalan Jenderal Sudirman, is closed to all traffic except public buses and emergency vehicles.  As air pollution is a problem in Jakarta, the reason for the closure is to give city dwellers and visitors alike a safe, carbon free environment to exercise and to promote cycling, running, walking, rollerblading and exercise in general.

With the current state of emergency declared during last weeks’ flooding, the clean up continuing and with more rain forecast this weekend, I wasn’t sure if I would get a chance to run the muddy streets of Jakarta.  This was yesterday…

When I woke this morning however, this was a promising sign…

As it was Sunday, I lay in for a bit, before tootling  down to the gym at around 9am.  From there I could see that the Sudirman was packed with cyclists and walkers, so I headed out. As it was overcast, the temperature was very comfortable.  Within about ten minutes however, it started to rain and everyone made for shelter.  I did too – but only to take a picture of them!

Being a mad Scotswoman, I of course continued in the rain and had the entire street for myself, apart from the odd passing bus.  It was an exceptionally unique feeling – this is a street that is gridlocked for most of the time.

Here is the same stretch of road at 8pm Wednesday night last week…

…and on Thursday at 2pm when mother nature took a big aquatic run…

After about five minutes, the rain passed, and everyone got on their way again. There were few runners and I passed a couple heading in the opposite direction.  This however was mainly a cyclist’s gig and there were all types – kids, mountain bikers, tourers, cycle clubs with nice brightly coloured uniforms, foldaway bikes – I pretty much saw the full spectrum of pedal power.

At the lowest point of the Sudirman, they were still cleaning up some buildings, pumping out the basement areas.  This provided additional entertainment for children…

Some cyclists used the clean water to wash their bikes!

Along the stretch I ran, there were enterprising street vendors selling snacks and drinks. There was also the occasional emergency vehicle breaking the peace, but I have to say, it was a really great running route with a lovely city community atmosphere. Everyone seemed to be out enjoying the stress free environment that the lack of traffic provided. Even street entertainment was laid on.

…and paramedics on standby just in case – with alternative transport strapped to the roof!

…and the media for that breaking story…..

I covered a total of 5.42km.  The sun came out for the last couple of km’s and was around 30C with high humidity, so in the words of Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam, it was “hot and shitty”. I did however manage to knock in a reasonable time for me – 5kms in 33 minutes 55 seconds, with a couple of photo stops.  Here I am back at the hotel glowing a bit….

Glowing or not, this is a really cool thing to do in Jakarta.  I have lived and worked  in some congested cities and this sadly becomes part of their identity – almost a trademark.  Regardless of the reasons why there is congestion,  it is good that someone has made the decision to have a weekend “traffic free” period downtown, so people can actually go out safely and enjoy the city.  As an ordinary Joe Bloggs runner, today gave me a chance to run and take in the streets of this busy capital.  Any other time it is nigh on impossible to run safely on the streets of Jakarta, and as a visitor, I saw a little more of the city, a slice of life and interacted with the locals.

I will definitely take advantage of this next Sunday, weather permitting, and explore the opposite stretch of Jalan Jenderal Sudirman. The hotel rents out mountain bicycles, so maybe I’ll join the majority.  Then again, maybe I’ll do both as the streets will be mine to enjoy for five hours.

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