Monday, November 19, 2012

Trying a longer distance

CONGRATULATIONS to all of you!
A group of my friends in the Bangkok Runners group just finished the Bangkok Marathon (42km), Half Marathon (21km), or mini-Marathon (10.5km)

image edited by MdK
I didn't join them, as I'm currently in the USA, rather than Thailand, plus am still increasing my running distance slowly after a forced running break from plantar fasciatis.

But their achievement reminds me of Christmas Day 2011. I recall the 3:30 am wake-up, 4:00 departure, 5:00 start. Chasing Santa? No, it was the Chiang Mai half-marathon!

Running events in Thailand start really early to beat the heat, and, actually, the full marathon started at 4am, so I really can’t complain.

Doi Sutep temple
glorious Doi Sutep temple, near Chiang Mai
I don’t think the full marathoners saw Santa either, but we did run into a group of Buddhist monks coming down from Doi Sutep temple on the mountain outside of town for their dawn ritual of blessing the faithful who come out to the streets and receiving food offerings from them that will be their single meal of the day.

giving alms, photo:

Read on for more on the race and some Thai running sites:

Starting a race at 5am in a tourist town meant that we also ran into revelers returning home from the night before.

in Thailand, long races start in the dark to avoid the heat!
The passing runners held up traffic briefly, eliciting calls of either encouragement or frustration from several still-drunk partiers.

I’m not an experienced long-distance runner, and I entered this race with a good base fitness but probably insufficient long-run training (OK, it was a somewhat spur of the moment Cool Idea).

This was my first race longer than a 10K, so my main goal was to finish.

Secret second goal was to finish in under 2 hours, but more important was to just keep running!

I recommend this distance to anyone in a similar situation, with the extra recommendation to do more than 1-2 long (15+ km) runs beforehand so you are more confident in your ability to finish it! But even so, my race-mate Nichar and I took our time for the first half of the race, chatting at times and pacing ourselves.

Nichar & I registering for the race

This was much more relaxing than any 5K or 10K race I’d run, because the extra distance meant a slow pace and no pressure to go fast. The low expectation was, in fact, a relief, though I suppose one’s expectations for speed and finishing time increase with each repeat of a given distance.

I included two 1-minute walk breaks, as I’d seen in several training guidelines, which may or may not have helped, I’m not sure! I do know that, at about 16K (10 miles) into the race, I felt much better than I thought I would, so I decided to put on the headphones I’d brought and let the music lead me forward.

This was awesome! I don’t know why but I just kept getting faster for the last part of the race, and decided to go for it at the end. Enthused by a particularly energetic song, I took off for what I thought was the last 2 kilometers, based on a GPS watch, until I saw a sign (finally, a mileage sign!), saying 3 km to go. What? Nich and I had both worn GPS watches, and mine was telling me I had only 1½ km or so at that point!

Chiang Mai half-marathon finish!
The fast final “sprint” that I started when I thought we had 2 km left to run turned into a 3.2km extended “sprint” that was slightly less sprinty than I’d hoped.

In the end, Nich’s GPS watch agreed with mine that the course was apparently 22.3 km, rather than the 21.0 km (13.1 miles) of a standard half-marathon. Hmmmph! Bonus kilometers!

So, as this race photo shows, I didn’t meet my secret second goal, but for a first half-marathon, I was really pleased with this effort. I even got a trophy (4th in my age group – yes, the 40 on my race number is the age group, sigh).

While I was pleased, this photo shows a serious heel striker, which may explain in part why I suffered from plantar fasciatis for several months soon after this...that might be another post...

awards ceremony, 40-and-over
And if, indeed, we ran 1.3 additional km (.81 miles), then I was actually really close to beating 2 hours. I’ll never know, I guess, but I was really buoyed by the experience. So was Nichar, as she went on to break 2 hours in another half-marathon soon after.

Half and full marathons have the aura of An Event that merits planning and travel to a cool place in order to run them (several Thai events listed below!).

For any adventurous souls who haven't tried running abroad, Thailand has a fun running crowd in several cities, as well as races of different sizes throughout the year. It is hot and really humid, but I’ve been rewarded with some great scenery or intriguing cultural activities (e.g. monks, temples) while running here.

Does anyone out there have some encouraging race tips or stories for those considering trying a longer race?

There are a good number of informative, helpful, and entertaining web sites on training for longer running races or other athletic events. Here are a few, including information on some of the major Thai races:
check out our group!
Some Thai race sites:
  • Bangkok Marathon (November 2013) ( – 40,000 runners ran the various distances this year!
  • Angkor Wat Half Marathon, December 2, 2012 ( - run thru the Angkor Wat temples!
  • Chiang Mai Marathon December 23, 2012 (
  • Khon Kaen Marathon January 27, 2013(
  • Phuket Marathon June 2013 ( – fun in the sun
  • Ocean-to-Ocean Run, Thailand ( – Pacific Ocean to Indian Ocean

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