The National Monument of Indonesia or Monas is bustling with activity and excitement at 4 in the morning on a Sunday. The Jakarta Marathon, the biggest running event of Indonesia, is about to begin in an hour and thousands of people are gathered in and around the park that houses the tall, glowing Monas which also happens to be the starting point for the race. Having run before we knew it’s better to get to the venue early to avoid long queues and crazy crowds, it does mean you’ll be standing around waiting for quite some time but it’s still better than getting stressed and pushing through crowds.
We, the husband and I, are running the half marathon for the second time and are not as nervous as we were the last time around; the route is the same and we feel better knowing what to expect, we’re only hoping unlike the last time, this year it’s better organized with water and food available where they say it will be. Hydration is always important when you’re running long distance but when you’re running in 90 percent humidity with temperatures in excess of 30 C, water is all that matters. It’s close to 5 am and the starting line is getting crowded with the full marathon runners in the front, followed by the half marathoners; it’s still dark and with all the bright lights, loud music and crazy crowds it feels more like a party, only no one’s dancing. A few minutes before 5 the Indonesian national anthem is played and at exactly 5 the full marathon runners are flagged off; in front are the Pocari Sweat pacers. Pocari Sweat (a Japanese sports drink manufacturer) is one of the sponsors for the Jakarta Marathon and this time they decided to provide pacers for different categories and times; when I came to know about the pacers, I was wondering how the runners would identify a handful of pacers from thousands of participants. When we were walking around the venue before the run, we had seen about ten people wearing bright blue Pocari Sweat singlet’s with ‘pacer’ written on the back and I thought to myself, how is this ever going to work with such a massive crowd but just before the race is set to start, I see the pacers pushing through the crowd to get ahead and attached to the back of their singlet’s are matching blue balloons billowing high in the wind, with the distance and time printed on it; the balloons are high enough for everyone to see and follow. I have never seen or heard of something like this and I think it’s really cool.
Ten minutes after the full marathoners left, it is our turn and finally we are running! It’s early morning, ten minutes past 5 and still dark; humidity is at 90 percent and the temperature about 30C; in less than 2 km I am bathed in sweat, luckily I’m used to it. Close to 5 km I can see the morning light breaking through but then it starts to drizzle and suddenly its dark again and it begins to rain- hard! Now I’m bathed in sweat and rain water and although the rains bring some much needed respite from the heat, it also means running in not just wet clothes but also wet shoes and socks, which is just not nice. The roads are wet and everyone is getting splashed around because of all the puddles; what worries me though is stepping into a deep puddle and twisting my foot or falling down. Not used to running on wet roads and in pouring rain, I have no choice but to slow down a little, thankfully around 8k it stops. I’m still feeling pretty good and am excited to reach the halfway mark but I can feel my already injured right knee start to protest. There’s a little bit of panic and a lot of frustration; I have the stamina, I know I can run, I’ve trained but the darn knee is just not cooperating. I calm down, and decide to start pleading with my leg to please just carry me through, no really, from 8k onwards my mind is constantly coaxing and talking to my knee, it’s like just hold on, hold on and let’s get through this, you and me baby, we can do this. 10k- half way there, phew!
It’s bright daylight now but luckily it’s cloudy and most of the time we’re spared the harsh direct sunlight. I know we’re going to be getting bananas and fruit at 14k and that’s what I’m looking forward to next, I know you don’t expect anything less from me; to my surprise we get fruits at 12k and my reaction on seeing the much dreamed about bananas, well let’s just say I made our forefathers, the apes very proud. So eating and running and still sweet talking that knee to keep going; by 15k we’ve encountered some traffic and a few very inconsiderate motorists, I can understand they’ve been waiting for quite some time but this isn’t an everyday event and if you’re tired sitting in an air-conditioned car, imagine how tired we are so please be a little considerate and enjoy the cool comfort of your car.
16k and just 5 more to go! But by now the sun is out in all its glory, the cool relief provided by the rain is long gone, the knee is throbbing but holding up, the good thing is that we’re now running around Monas and that means the finish line isn’t far; 17k and my weak in math sleep deprived exhausted brain can’t even figure out how many km I have yet to run, oh well at least I know it’s close. 18, 19k and we are on one of the busiest roads in Jakarta, close to two of the most popular malls in the city, a whole of people are standing around cheering and encouraging all the runners. The 20k marker- the joy I feel cannot be expressed in words, only one km to go…woohoo and just like that, bad knee and all I pick up the pace to get to the finish line, only it seems like the longest one km I have ever run, it just won’t end and the increase in pace has totally exhausted me and unexpectedly I just stop, like actually just stand for about 5 seconds till better sense prevails and I start running again towards the finish and across the finish line, yes just like that, no need to be dramatic. The husband and I high five and he says the 20k marker was placed more than half a km before 20…ah the secret to the longest km has been revealed, we collect our finisher medals, I thank my knee for being awesome, eat some more fruit and drink some more Pocari Sweat, click a couple of pictures, walk a kilometer to the gate and head home; sweaty, bruised and happy. The rest of the day is spent eating, sleeping and icing that rockstar knee.
So food! To make up for this long wordy post, here’s a short simple recipe; three ingredients, two of which are butter and cheese, how can this not be good, mix and bake, no special skills and equipment required. These biscuits will keep for days in an air tight container and are so so good with wine and drinks; also I think these biscuits would be a great Diwali gift, a break from all the usual sweets. So these cheesy buttery biscuits have three ingredients and I added chili flakes but you can also add some dried herbs like rosemary or thyme or spices like pepper, basically anything you want. Some of the biscuits didn’t hold their shape because I cut it too thin and didn’t chill the dough enough, tasted the same just didn’t look as pretty. So if you want a perfect shape, make sure the biscuits aren’t too thin and the dough is chilled well before baking. I wanted to try this recipe with cheddar as well, but I only had parmesan cheese so that’s what I used, I think it will work with cheddar as well but since I haven’t tried it, I can’t be sure. So make something cheesy and buttery this Diwali and try to keep food wastage and firecrackers to a minimum. Wish you all a very happy Diwali.
- Plain flour/ maida- 150 grams
- Parmesan Cheese (grated) – 150 grams
- Salted Butter (cut in cubes) – 150 grams
- Chili flakes- 1-2 tsp (optional)
- In a bowl add the flour and butter (you can do this step using a food processor or by hand like I did). Rub the cold butter into the flour till it resembles bread crumbs, if small pieces of butter remain, that’s ok.
- Add cheese and chili flakes to the flour and butter and mix till it comes together into a ball. Roll the dough into a log shape (make two logs so it’s easier to roll), wrap in cling film and chill in the refrigerator for an hour or until firm.
- Preheat oven to 180C. Cut the dough log in to rounds of 1/3rd inch thickness and place on a baking sheet leaving an inch between each biscuit. Put the baking tray in the freezer for 10 minutes. Place in the oven straight from the freezer and bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden.
- I have given the measurement in weight as the ratio has to be 1:1:1.
- If the dough becomes too soft to work with, place it in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes and then use it.
- If the chilled dough is too hard, let it soften a little before you cut it into rounds.
- Make sure the dough is chilled well before baking so it keeps its shape.
- If you’d like to control the saltiness, you can use unsalted butter and add 1/4 -1/2 tsp salt.
- You can flavour the biscuits with dried herbs, pepper or other spices.
- Recipe adapted from bbc food.