On Friday, I was informed of a 12k race taking place on Sunday morning, with a route very similar to the one that I had planned to do as part of my Saturday long run. I passed the info on to my two running buddies but with one doing a 100k cycle on Sunday it was no surprise that they decided to stick with the initial plan. I, on the other hand, had done my long run during the week and really needed to get some speed work under my belt. The race day camaraderie and the opportunity to win a trophy may also have been factors.
On Saturday morning, I cycled just beyond the 700th Anniversary Stadium to Navamindarajudis Phayap School and quickly found the registration desk. On-line registration had cost 350Bhat (£7:50) and included a running vest, today’s registration cost 250Bhat but there was no vest. Although one of the school girls helping out was keen to give me a vest, the older organisers said ‘no’.
It was extremely hot in the sun and unfortunately, after cycling home and having some lunch, I developed an upset stomach (I can’t spell diarrea) and was confined to my apartment for the rest of the day. A peaceful night’s rest was only disturbed by numerous trips to the toilet and my enthusiasm to learn of the Kilmarnock FC result, an inspiring 1-1 draw at Celtic. In my opinion, Steve Clarke is a tremendous appointment by the Killie board.
My dodgy stomach meant that there would be no breakfast and definitely no coffee before my cycle along the 7k to the race. The road was quiet apart from a few runners dressed in their bright yellow running vests riding their motorbikes and scooters to the race HQ.
I had a quick catch up with some running buddies including those V60s who had beaten me at the recent 7.5k race. My target was to go one better than then and place in the top three and also to beat Jit who had placed ahead of me at the Northern Bikatorn 15k and crossed the line with me at the Moat 7.5k on her way to winning the 1st F40 races.
I had lined up with my contemporaries on the start line in front of some other 2,000 runners and walkers and just as the pre-race speeches were concluding, a young face came out from the side and handed me my running vest. Such a kind gesture but there wasn’t much I could do with it. Some quick thinking saw me dashing from the line and placing the vest in my cycle helmet before rejoining the masses and being set off at 6:18 am, somewhat later than scheduled. The problem with the delayed start is that rather than having 22 minutes of running before sunrise, we only had 4 minutes!
MV60 favourite, Canadian Lance shot off with his head down but this time he didn’t disappear into the distance and I kept him in sight for the first 5k of the race. We ran through the school gate and turned right, along Route 121 towards the 700th Stadium. We then turned a sharp left across the canal and then headed north. There were maybe 12-20 runners in front of me but I could see a river of bright yellow coloured vests on the other side of the canal flowing south, giving me a real feel of just how many were participating in the race.
The route goes along the canal road and turns left into the park does a lap of Huay Tung Tao Lake and then goes back to the canal road and joins the cycle path back to the school. I had run up to the lake and back as part of the Northern Bikatorn race a few weeks ago but never around the lake, although I’ve cycled it once. Prior to the start, Lance who’s lived in Chiang Mai for fifteen years told me that he runs the route ‘every day’. Not that any extra advantage would be required today.
I hadn’t eaten for over twelve hours and wasn’t sure how I’d fare but thought that a pace of between 4:30 and 5:30 min/k would be a good goal. The 1st k took me 4:24, the 2nd one 4:31, the 3rd one which included a water stop and the start of the climb into Doi Suthep park 4:46, the 4th one 5:02 and the 5th one 5:14. There was a real trend here and not one that I liked but overall my pace was within my target range. We had now reached the lake and received our bangles before turning left to run anti clockwise around the lake. My cycle around the lake had been in the opposite direction and the hill which we immediately confronted came as a bit of an unwanted surprise to me. Once over the hill, the view of the lake on our right-hand side was something spectacular and I could understand why Lance and so many others use the area to get their morning exercise. Today was no exception and we met a number of other runners, walkers and cyclists as we made our way around the lake.
The scenery might have given me a bit of a lift and the 6th k took me 4:56. At last, a reversal in form. I was now focusing on a runner with a blue vest on to help me around the lake and he seemed to be having a real tussle with a runner in black and white and I looked on as they leap-frogged each other a few times. A number of race photographers had positioned themselves around the lake and seeing them always gives me a bit of a lift.
The 7th k took 4:52 and the 8th 4:58 another 500m and I was back at the start of the lake. I decided to make sure that I had a decent drink of water and splashed myself down before setting off downhill back to the school. Or so I thought.
The route out of the park was more undulating than I had remembered and the 9th k took 4:56. Blue vest and his running buddy had left me behind but I was now focusing on an athletic looking runner dressed all in black. The 10th k took me 4:47 and 600m later we turned right and onto the cycle path.
I was physically and mentally feeling it now and was having to work hard on both fronts. I refocused my attention using mindfulness “This race, this kilometre, this stride, this guy in front” I repeated to myself. We soon reached the school pupils all dressed in their black tracksuits walking along the path as part of their 3k fun run. I had to shout “Khrap” a couple of times for them to move out of my way as I kept my focus on the runner ahead. “This guy, this kilometre, this race, this last eight minutes”.
The 11th k took 4:54 “Less than five minutes to go. Stay focused”. Along the cycle path, we continued but the school gate wasn’t in sight yet. There was nothing that I could do about the course being long. I just had to keep my focus on “this kilometre”. The 12th k took 4:48 and I could now see the school gate up ahead on my right-hand side. “This kilometre, this race” I repeated as I increased the pace to 4:38min/k for the additional, slightly uphill, 700m to cross the finish line in a time of 1:01:25, an average pace of 4:50min/k.
I could see the organisers pointing at me and someone placed a number three around my head. I was shattered. I couldn’t have given any more. Not on this day, this race. I’d done what I’d set out to do by getting into the top three. I collected my finishers’ medal and congratulated Lance and the runner-up on their performances before turning to see the fourth MV60 cross the line just one place behind me. I had no idea that he was there. The MV60 race must be one of the most contested in Chiang Mai and it’s not as if we are slugging it out in the middle of the field, we must have all placed in the first twenty or so finishers.
We checked into the winners’ area to confirm our names and rankings before finding the much needed cold water station to help refresh us. We chatted among ourselves as we waited for the others to finish. It wasn’t long before Jit joined us having won the FV40 race and congratulated me on finishing ahead of her for the first time.
So many Facebook and Strava running buddies and strangers, both ‘farangs’ and Thais, introduced themselves to me and congratulated me on my race as we waited for the award ceremony. I remain humbled and grateful for their friendship and their readiness to accept me into their running community.
Many thanks to everyone involved in the event especially the young volunteer who gave me my race vest and to the photographers, both official and amateur, for the use of their photos on my blog.