Recently, “zombie run” races, in which the runners are motivated by a horde of fake undead chasing after them, have become increasingly popular in some countries. Perhaps thinking zombies are too passé, the Indonesian regency of Purbalingga decided to try and attract tourists to their corner of Central Java with a similar kind of race event, but instead of having runners chased by pretend zombies, they recruited a local resident infamous for having actually eaten human flesh.
Back in 2003, a 31-year-old man from Purbalingga named Sumanto made headlines in Indonesia and around the world after he was arrested for digging up the corpse of an 80-year-old woman and eating it flesh. He claimed to have eaten the flesh of two other people as well, saying the act gave him supernatural powers.
Despite being judged to be mentally ill, Sumanto was sentenced to five years in a regular prison for stealing and defiling a corpse. After his release, he was rejected by the people of his village but was taken in by a nearby centre for religious guidance (such community based centers often treat the mentally ill in Indonesia due to the country’s tragic lack of psychiatric healthcare professionals and facilities).
–FYI the video above has English subtitles-
Despite claiming to have completely reformed from his cannibalistic ways (he has said he now just wants to find love and somebody who will marry him) Sumanto is apparently still game to play up to his infamous image as evidenced by his participation in this race event in Purbalingga.
On the poster the event is advertised with the words “Lari Bersama Dikejar Sumanto”, which roughly translates to “Run Together Being Chased by Sumanto”.
And indeed, the 800 or so people who signed up for the race, which took place along the Klawing River on Saturday, October 6, were met by Sumanto, who amiably gave chase once the race was on.
One of the race organizers, Bambang, said they recruited Sumanto to drum up interest in the event.
“The ‘Chased by Sumanto’ running competition was indeed held to realize the goal of the Purbalingga Regent to attract visitors to see the area’s new attractions, specifically the area along the Klawing River. Working with the Klawing Purbalingga community, we held this running competition with the attraction being Sumanto as our guest star,” Bambang said when contacted by Okezone on Thursday.
Bambang said the first through third place winners received cash prizes as well as bags of local produce and medals made with local ‘Klawing’ gemstones. But he said that being chased by Sumanto was enough motivation to get all of the participants running pretty hard.
Apparently the event was big enough of a success that the Purbalingga government is planning on making the Sumanto chase race an annual event.
Subscribe to The Coconuts Podcast for top trending news and pop culture from Southeast Asia and Hong Kong every Friday!