Thursday, October 31, 2013

2013 Jakarta Marathon: Fun, Fund, and a Funeral

oleh Benny Hari Juliawan, SJ

In the wake of the funeral of Fr. Ignatius Sumarya, SJ, and as tribute to his memory, I wish to share about my participation in the 2013 Jakarta Marathon last Sunday. Let this also be my way of extending gratitude to my generous benefactors and loyal supporters.

Running actually came rather late to me and had a simple beginning, around the time I was studying the UK back in 2005-2010. Before that, swimming had been my favourite sport, but to get to the distant university pool seemed to be a lot of effort. I shivered as I imagined my tropical self cycling to the pool in the winter months from Campion Hall, the Jesuit residence in Oxford where I lived. Instead I laid my eyes on the park next door. It is the Christ Church Meadow, and belongs to the largest college in the University of Oxford. Harry Potter movie buffs would instantly recognise this establishment. The great hall of the college was the set of the majestic Hogwart’s Hall. The meadow though is a feast of colours and wildlife. It is bounded by the banks of the River Thames where students on their rowing boats jostle for space with ducks and geese. The river path amicably hosts walkers and joggers alike. Away from the river, the path leads to a dirt boulevard lined by proudly tall oak trees, whose leaves turn yellow and red in autumn, framing the beautiful surroundings in these fiery autumn colours. On the other side is the old Oxford city wall which now serves as tall border fences for several colleges. A rugby pitch and some open grassland inhabited with the occasional cows make up the rest of the landscape. The 1.2 mile perimeter of the meadow encloses a fine example of natural beauty. I simply fell in love with the park and decided to take up running to appreciate its beauty.

It was not long before I found running therapeutic both for my mental and physical health in the midst of hectic classes and preparing my dissertation. The toil and sweat suffered from the first run around the meadow slowly evolved into the now-familiar runners’ high, and so I went progressively longer distances and covered various grounds in the city. It is fair to say that almost every park and bridle path in the city was no stranger to my new-found running craze. And this was when I discovered that there was more to running than meets the eye. In April 2010 my running buddies encouraged me to take part in the annual “Oxford Town and Gown” 10K. The race was organised by the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign Foundation. Apart from supporting this cause the organiser invited participants to support charities of their choice. The idea was simple. I would do a demanding physical activity in exchange for donation to my charity. I chose the Jesuit Mission and started fundraising on its behalf. It was a lot of fun really. I got to know new people and introduced the work of the Jesuits to them.

So when a friend invited me to participate in the 2013 Jakarta Marathon for the half-marathon category, I immediately thought of doing the same. The plight of migrant workers sprang to mind as my main mission is with the social ministry of the Jesuits in Asia Pacific, currently focusing on migrant workers. I talked to Fr. Ignatius Ismartono, SJ, the director of Sahabat Insan (an initiative involved with the cause of returning Indonesian migrant workers at the moment), about this idea and he seconded it right away. My friends in Sahabat Insan prepared flyers and distributed emails while I also did my share of campaigning. People here were intrigued with this new model of fundraising and their curiosity subsequently led to their involvement and donation.

At the same time a group of runners called “CaniRunners” were gearing up for the same event. They were alumnae of Canisius College, Jakarta, and were raising funds for Jesuit schools in need, primarily St. Peter Canisius Seminary in Mertoyudan, Magelang. The kitchen of the seminary is in dire need of repair; this same kitchen fed my teenage appetite for four years when I was a student there back in the early 1990s. This bid got the backing of no less than the Jesuit Provincial himself who would also run alongside them in the half-marathon category. The rector of the seminary, Fr. Ignatius Sumarya, SJ, was willing to take part in the run as well, albeit for the 5K distance. He was a healthy 60 year old man with no history of any serious illnesses. Smoking was his vice, granted, but apart from that he regularly jogged and was generally in good shape. Rectors and headmasters of four Jesuit schools in total committed themselves to running the same distance.

So on October 27th, 2013 very early in the morning we all departed for the starting line in the National Monument Park, not far from where I live. Fr. Ignatius Sumarya arrived a day before on a flight from Yogyakarta, and was his usual cheerful and optimistic self. In fact, on the eve of the race we chatted casually outside my room about the kind of repair that he envisioned for the seminary’s kitchen. Back in the park that morning, I wished him good luck before we parted because half-marathon runners had to start earlier.

And the rest is history…. I was still drunk from the adrenalin high and drowning in ecstasy for having done 21K while breaking my personal best record, when the tragic news broke. We were all stunned, silenced, and devastated. My guess is that he must have run at a much higher tempo than he was used to. The competitive side in him must have kicked in when surrounded by other runners who ran faster. Experienced runners know this very well. In a race one should run at his or her own pace and ignore the urge to respond to other runners’ blistering strides. This, however, is only a theory. I may never know the truth. What really matters now is to continue to support the cause that he ran for, that is the formation of priestly vocations in St. Peter Canisius Seminary, Mertoyudan, Magelang. Good bye Fr. Sumarya, and enjoy the run!

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Tim 4:7-8)

NB. As of October 31th, 2013, we have raised Rp80.498.150,00, US$ 600, and £ 200. The fundraising for the cause of migrant workers through the social ministry of the Jesuits of Asia Pacific is to close on October 31st, 2013. The fundraising for repairs of St. Peter Canisius Seminary, Mertoyudan, Magelang, is still ongoing, so you can still continue to donate.

For more information, please sent email:

Thank you.

Benny Juliawan ( is a researcher with Sahabat Insan, an NGO working with migrant workers in Jakarta. Benny is an enthusiastic runner