It’s been two weeks since my Chiang Rai (long) Half Marathon. Fourteen days to shake off the remnants of my bout of manflu, to allow my body to recover from the race and to slowly build up my fitness whilst acclimatising more to the weather conditions and early morning running. It’s been a busy fortnight as I travelled down to Chiang Mai and stayed in a riverside condo hotel for five days whilst I searched for a more permanent abode and then did the other things required for long time living abroad, such as opening a bank account, getting a mobile phone, wifi, TV box and various bits and bobs to make my condo feel more homely.
I’m now living at D’Vieng Condo in Santitham, North West of the moat and old city aka Thapae Gate. It’s a good condo with great faculties, including a 25m pool, air-conditioned gym and free bike hire. The condo has a real mixture of people living here from various places around the globe, a range of different age groups and a healthy balance of males and females. It’s got a real community feel about it as does the local area with a fruit and vegetable market only two minutes walk away. The busy narrow streets are not ideal for running or cycling but they are much quieter in the morning as is the 107 road which I’ve been running and cycling along to Lanna Park and 700th Anniversary Sports Complex before discovering that Chiang Mai City Stadium, with its running track, was less than a mile away. The place is a hive of activity in the morning with runners and walkers, an outdoor gym and a variety of outdoor fitness classes taking place.
My plan was to use around here for my shorter training and to head up past 700th Anniversary and into Doi Suthep – Pui National Park for my longer runs. I had run just over 10k on Wednesday and was thinking of doing a 10 mile run at the weekend. I couldn’t believe my luck when I discovered that on the Sunday of my first long run there was a 15k road race along my planned route. Through the powers of social media, I was able to find out more about the Northern Bikatorn event and although I had missed online registration, I was able to go to the race HQ at the International Conference Centre on the Saturday before the Sunday Race. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there was no fee required, the events, a 5k fun run, a 15k mini-marathon and a 70k cycle, were being used to encourage running and cycling in the area. There were three categories of male and female races: 20-35, 36-40 and 41+. The lack of a specific 60+ race meant that the pressure was off of me and that I could just use the event to get some company for my long run.
As it happened, I had a Thai friend from Lampang who was coming to CM to visit a friend and both were aiming to do the 15k, they kindly offered to pick me up at my condo and take me to the race in plenty of time for the 6:45 am race start. It’s just as well that they offered as I had no idea how I was going to get to the race and I was under the false impression that the race started at 6:00 am!
After a quiet dinner with some Thai friends, one of whom gave me a lift home, I had an early night and woke up at around 5 am to the sound of heavy rain. Does it always rain on race days, I wondered as I enjoyed a light breakfast and prepared for the race. The road to the race HQ was quieter than we expected and we got there in plenty of time for an easy warm up before joining over 3,000 others for the slightly delayed start.
There was no chip timing provided, so I made my way to the front of the masses, where an official ticked my Bib number with a felt tip pen, presumably to prove that I had started the race at the right place.
My race plan was to run a totally different run from that at Chiang Rai, to start slowly, to take on water when required but none of the stop-start which I was forced to do two weeks ago. I set myself a target pace of 5:15 to 5:30 to the turning point and then increase the speed a bit in the second half. However, within the first 500m, I was aware that I was running too fast so I reeled in the pace and watched those around me pass by and disappear into the horizon. The first kilometre of 4:59 only reinforced what I already knew so it didn’t concern me at all. We were running north along the Outer Ring Road (Route 121) which I hadn’t been on before. I ignored the first water station as we reached the 700
The first kilometre of 4:59 only reinforced what I already knew so it didn’t concern me at all. We were running north along the Outer Ring Road (Route 121) which I hadn’t been on before. I ignored the first water station as we reached the 700th Anniversary Sports Complex and continued northwards. There weren’t any distance markers to be seen but I had set my Garmin to 1k laps and it beeped to tell me that the 2nd kilometre had taken 5:15. ‘Bang on target’ I thought, before rewarding myself with a little water at the next drinks station. The third kilometre took 5:13. ‘Not a problem, just don’t get sucked into racing anyone at this stage’.
The fourth kilometre was pretty non-eventual, we continued along route 121 and it took me 5:16. Three hundred metres later we turned left into Doi Suthep and the race totally changed as we ran uphill through the woods. I found myself catching up with those that had left me after 1k and had to check my GPS to make sure that I wasn’t running too fast. My pace had actually slowed to 5:27 the others must have slowed even more. I was still within my target pace and was feeling good. 26:08 was fine for my first 5k. I then saw my first, and only, distance marker at 5.1k. Don’t ask.
I kept running t the same 5:27 pace and started to see the fast runners making their way downhill, I even found myself exchanging encouragement with some of them before I reached the apex at Huay Tung Tao Lake, which I’m told means ‘old man’s lake’. At this point, I received an elastic bangle, which you place around your wrist to prove that you passed this point. No cheating!
I took a drink of water, refreshed myself with the rest and looked at my GPS. 6.59K. Now, I know that the distance at Chiang Rai was long; could it be that the distance here was going to be short? What I didn’t want to do was run flat out only to discover that there was another 2k or so to run around the car park or somewhere. No, it was best just to stick to my plan.
I was now running downhill and could see the thousands of others behind me on the outward part of their run. I took the opportunity to support my friends and others along the way and it was good to hear the occasional shout of ‘Ian’ and ‘Good Job’ along the way. The 7th k took 5:16 and the 8th 5:09. We left the woods at around 8.75k but instead of rejoining Route 121, we were marshalled onto the cycle and running paths along the perimeter of the 700th Anniversary Sports Complex. Now, this was familiar territory to me as I had cycled and run along here last week. The 9th K took 5:08 and all was well. Sure, there was a distinct lack of drink stations on the way back and those that were there only had a few cups of water on them. It wasn’t too bad though as the rain had helped to keep us cool in the 26C temperature. The rain was getting heavier but apart from making my paper Bib so soggy that it came loose from the safety pins, I didn’t mind at all.
I had maintained my 5:08 pace for the next kilometre, completing the 10k in 52:16. I found myself running in a pack with a bit of a distance between us and those further ahead. I was quite happy to stay with the pack but they slowed and the 11th k took 5:16. I didn’t know if there was 2k or 4k to go but decided that I should work a bit harder and went in chase of those ahead. The pack ahead broke up and I started to catch some of them, the 12th K took me 5:07 and the 13th k took me 5:06 and then I turned right and saw the finish line ahead. I crossed the line feeling the most comfortable that I have ever in a race in Thailand, if not anywhere and stopped my watch at 1:08:05.
I received my medal and had a drink of water and hot soya milk before heading back along the route to warm down and support some of the other runners. There was no emotional saga, no tears, no exhaustion, no sickness, no trophy, just a feeling of quiet satisfaction on having kept to my plan and having run a decent race. I supported my friends over the finish line and was more than a little amused when a fellow mature runner, Nasa Tay. asked me how I had done as he had seen me winning our race at Chiang Rai two weeks ago.
I enjoyed having some post-race chat with a few other runners and I was even invited to join a local running club for their training sessions next week. It’s so great to be part of the international running community.
Many thanks o the race organisers, volunteers and the other runners and cyclists for making my Sunday morning run so special and not forgetting the photographers who braved the weather conditions so that I could have a few photos of my run.
You get a much better view of the gorgeous setting for the events here and even a wee glimpse of me at 6:30 as I head back out of Doi Suthep.