This past weekend, my wife and I traveled to the popular holiday destination, Bintan, Indonesia, for the 2019 Mandiri Bintan Marathon. We ran in the half marathon category, and I just wanted to share my thoughts on the event and whether we’ll be marking this one on our calendars for next year.
Travel to Bintan
We took the ferry from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal in Singapore, which was generally smooth. It was one of the earlier ferries in the morning so there were quite a lot of people, but lines went pretty quick. Unfortunately my wife spent most of the ferry ride itself sea sick, but otherwise the trip was uneventful.
We stayed at Angsana Bintan, which was probably nicer than we needed it to be, but we weren’t complaining. Overall staff were extremely helpful and knowledgeable, and were very courteous and proactive our whole stay.
In amongst everything that happened on this trip (more on that later), the service provided by the staff at Angsana and the connected Banyan Tree resorts was amazing – if there was a reason to come back again, experiencing this level of service would be a top reason.
Getting Around Bintan
Considering Bintan Resorts was one of the primary sponsors of the marathon, I expected a bit more synergy between the hotels and the race organizers. There weren’t any additional shuttle buses to Plaza Lagoi from the hotel, which we needed to do in order to pick up our race packs, and a lot of the staff had no idea the event had scheduled shuttle buses separately to get us to the race start.
We ended up having to schedule our own bus (at not inconsiderable cost) to get into town which I feel could have been easily addressed given this is apparently one of the biggest sporting events here in Bintan (along with Ironman Bintan, which happened a few weeks back).
As mentioned above, the service of the hotel staff is what shone through. Although they were ill-prepared, once they knew we were participating in the marathon, they started making what arrangements they could on their end to ensure we were ready for the race.
Race Pack Collection (Saturday)
After the kerfuffle with transportation, we made it to Plaza Lagoi in order to pick up our race pack. Unfortunately, things didn’t get much better here.
We got to the race pack collection at about 11 not long after collection started, but there was already a small line forming and by the time we were leaving, the line was getting a bit too long (and disgruntled). This was because the line was moving like a snail, mainly due to two reasons:
- People were picking up race packs for large groups e.g. 10+ and clogging up pickup stations.
- Compounding the above was the fact that the racing bib organisation was abysmal. Somehow, along the way, all the numbers had been mixed up and weren’t ordered by number – the poor staff were either not trained or so stressed out by the whole ordeal that they simply scrounged through all the bibs one by one to find the right one.
What this meant is that it took at least 4-5 mins per person in order to find each bib, and ultimately what that meant is we spent almost an hour waiting in line for our race pack. This really needs to be improved for next year’s event.
The Race (Sunday)
Our day started at just before 4am as our scheduled shuttle left our hotel at 4:30am. This went off mostly without a hitch though the chartered car driver didn’t seem clear on who he should be expecting in his car.
By the time 5:30am rolled by, we were doing the obligatory group warm up at the start line, after which the elite marathon, marathon and half marathon groups were flagged off separately – they shortened the time between each of the flag off times as they were running about 10 mins late, but all groups were running by 6am, as scheduled.
The route that they had planned out for us took us on roughly two big loops around the Lagoi Bay area and was very scenic and enjoyable all round – for the first half. Chatting with other runners after the race, there were plenty of comments (all negative, as far as I was aware) about the winding walking track that made up the last 5-6km being unenjoyable. Unsure if this section will be part of next year’s run, but if it could be removed the latter parts of the race will be better.
Thankfully, the way the marathon and half marathon routes were planned allowed us to see the elite marathoners zoom by at various points which was a treat for all of us while we struggled along the designated route.
By the time we finished, the post-race area was buzzing with activity and we collected our finisher entitlements – as one last unplanned inconvenience, they had run out of small size finisher t-shirts meaning my wife had to take a extra small, but lucky that it seemed to fit. Plenty of post-race hydration was available – a bottle of water, Pocari Sweat, and free coconut water meant that rehydrating was pretty much sorted.
(not that I wasn’t to point out another oversight, but the Mandiri Bintan Marathon was on the same day as the Maybank Bali Marathon, meaning they shared the same acronym, MBM. Unfortunately what that means is that most social media posts from the Bintan event were lost amongst posts from the many more participants from the Bali Marathon)
Overall, I feel I had an average experience at this year’s Bintan Marathon – given this isn’t their first run at this, I expected much more synergy between the event and the Bintan Resorts which were sponsoring the event e.g. transportation. The race pack collection was really terrible, so this really needs to be improved if more international competitors are to be expected next year.
The race itself was pretty well organized and race schedule itself went off without a hitch. A highlight was the race pack itself and the race rewards which were plentiful and the items seemed to be of high quality.
As for whether we would come again next year? While we did ultimately enjoy ourselves, there’s no one thing we experienced during the race that’s definitely making me commit to next year’s race. If I did return, it would be to enjoy the hotels and their hospitality, rather than being here purely for this race.
Anyhow, that’s just my thoughts – if you were at the race too, I’d be keen to hear your thoughts in the comments below.