I followed the King and everyone else at the 10k Race held in Chonburi city to commemorate 100 days since the passing of the long-serving and extremely popular King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died on 13 October 2016.
Although I had originally intended to participate in the 19th Amari Charity Midnight Race, which had been postponed from last year, and was being held in Bangkok on 21 January at 24:00, surprisingly enough. Although I had trained hard for the 12k event, I had run it before and although I had really enjoyed it, I just wasn’t too enthusiastic about making a trip to Bangkok to repeat the experience. So when the opportunity arose to run a one-off race along a unique setting, I grabbed it with both hands – many thanks to Ket Sunnyclub for contacting the organisers and getting them to agree to a free entry for me. All I had to do was turn up at the Information Point at 5:30 am and collect my Bib for the 6:00 am race.
A friend booked me a taxi for 4:30 am and I set my alarm for thirty minutes in advance. As per usual, I woke up well before the scheduled time and enjoyed a bowl of porridge, some fresh juice and a coffee as I waited for the cab.
4:30 came and went but unfortunately my taxi didn’t. I waited and waited and at 5:00 am, I walked up to Soi Khao Noi and was lucky enough to flag down a passing motorbike taxi. I wasn’t sure if he would take me as far as Chonburi but he seemed unfazed by my destination request. Holding on to my Sweatshop bag, containing a change of clothes, a towel and some water, I gingerly climbed on the back of the bike and made myself as comfortable as possible for the 58k trip.
A few minutes later and we turned into a petrol station on Sukhumvit Road and he asked the driver of a mini bus for Chonburi, ‘surely he knows where the Capital of the Province is’ I thought to myself. The coach driver pointed to another bus and I fathomed out what was happening. The motorbike rider had taken me to a coach which would take me to Chonburi. I paid 40 Bhat for the motorbike taxi and 100 Bhat for the minibus and took my seat beside four other passengers, three men and a young woman.
We didn’t wait long and as I looked at my watch, I thought that there was still a chance of getting to the Start line by 6:00 am, I’d just have to run without a race number. However, things didn’t quite work out. The bus was obviously running to a schedule, which meant that we stopped and waited at a number of points along the Route 3 road, and I watched the minutes count away until I accepted that there was no way that we would reach Chonburi City Hall before the race commenced.
There was nothing that I could do but relax and enjoy the experience, which was a bit of a shame as I feeling pretty good this morning, much better than I had felt at Chiang Mai and was confident of a decent time.
We stopped again and after a discussion between the driver of my bus and another one I was advised ‘Mister, you get this bus now to Chonburi. I’ve paid him money for you already’. I vacated my now empty bus and climbed into another one full of men and women presumably going to their work. We entered the Provincial Capital and I peered out the window for any sign of runners or race notices. Nothing. We stopped and then as we started up again the driver asked me where I was going. ‘City Hall’ I replied. ‘Chonburi?’ he asked ‘Yes’ and the brakes were applied and I was soon out on the street looking for a motorbike taxi or signs of a race. I knew the course ran along the wharf at the sea front and asked for the ‘Sea’ and ‘City Hall’ but blank faces looked back at me. But then there was a Eureka moment as one of the motorbike taxi drivers deduced from my attire that I was looking for the race and started dancing enthusiastically and asking me if I was looking for ‘the race, for the joggers’. I didn’t want to get into a discussion about the difference between joggers and runners, so I smiled with relief and said ‘yes, yes’. ‘You go with him’ and I climbed on the back of his colleague’s bike and within a few minutes, I could see runners in the race. He stopped, I paid him 40 Bhat and, with my carrier bag in my hand, enthusiastically joined the race.
Race Part 1
Sadly my enthusiasm didn’t last too long, as I raced up through the field, I saw the 9k marker, turned around the corner and crossed the finish line. I had run for less than four minutes and had covered a total of 0.8k. With a red face, from embarrassment rather than exertion, I accepted my medal and walked back towards those still running. It was 6:56 and I was expecting Ket to finish at about 7 am. There was no sign of her, so I started to walk further towards the racers and then I decide that there might just be enough time to run the course and at least get a few miles under my belt, including some along the wharf.
Race Part 2
There was a smell of fresh fish coming from the street stalls which had been set up to sell last night’s catch and a bit of a cross wind as I ran along the road out into the sea. The tail runners were making their way back along my right-hand side as I joined the traffic on the left side and made my way along Thap Ka Sae Bridge. I spied a group of volunteers sitting on the pavement at what had been a water stop and dropped off my carrier bag with them, telling them that I would pick it up on the way back. I doubt if anyone knew what I said. However, I could now run a bit faster and increased my pace from 5 min/k to 4:30 min/k. I was getting encouragement from the groups of volunteers along the way, who were awaiting the pickup bus as it swept its way around the closing route.
I had turned around and was just starting to wonder where I had left my bag when I heard a voice saying ‘Is this your bag Mister?’, I looked over my shoulder to see a motorbike police officer with my distinctive green poly bag hanging from his handlebars. ‘ Khrap’ I responded and held out my hand to collect the bag but he waved me on, indicating that he was happy to carry it for me.
I now had my own police escort and was catching up with more and more tail runners. I was running hard and everyone was looking at me and cheering me on. I wasn’t sure how long there was to the finish line, or how long I could keep my pace up for but I knew that there was no way that I could stop running and /or discreetly disappear into the crowds of finished runners walking along the pavements. The 8k marker appeared, and then the 9th one and there I was crossing the line for the second time and receiving another medal.
I collected my bag from the police officer and was recognised by Ket whose mobile phone had died on her and she was calling her husband on the officer’s telephone. She and her husband kindly gave me a lift back most of the way towards Pattaya, where I caught a minibus back to Sukhumvit Road where a short walk had me home before 10 am.
I’d just enjoyed some breakfast when I received a call from the taxi company telling me that the car was waiting to take me to Chonburi. I explained to them that I had booked it for 4:30 and didn’t want it now and assumed that that was that. However, when I looked out the front, I saw the taxi waiting for me. I explained the situation to the driver and then on his phone to someone else at the company. They apologised for the confusion and again I thought that everything had been settled. However when I went across for a swim at 10:45 the taxi was still waiting for me. I again explained to the river what the situation was and he asked me if I wanted him to come back at 16:30. ‘No’,‘Mị̀ t̂xngkār’ I told him again. ‘You were supposed to be here at 4:30 this morning. ‘Oh, this morning’ he said, at last understanding what had happened. And yet people tell me that there’s no need for Farangs to learn Thai. I beg to differ.
It had been a good morning, I had enjoyed the event and the taxi confusion and alternative transport arrangements hadn’t distracted too much from my fun. Sometimes you’ve got to just relax and make the best of things and where better to do that than in Thailand. Oh and I’ve got the medals to prove it.