The Thailand International Half Marathon on Dec. 14 was my debut race in Asia!  It didn’t go as well as I hoped it would, but it also didn’t go as bad as I feared it might.

 

Pre Race

Pre-race was a little different than most races I’ve done.  I flew from Phnom Penh to Bangkok around dinner time on Friday.  Bangkok traffic is ridiculous, and after almost 2 hours I had finally made it from the airport to the hostel where I was staying at about 9:30PM.

The day before the race I couldn’t pick up my race kit until 2PM so I decided to check out some of the malls in Bangkok, I recalled from last year some of them had great Christmas displays.  Long story short when I was headed back to my guesthouse I got really lost, my phone died, and I had almost no money.  Before my phone died I saw that if I continued walking on the road I was on it would lead me to the river near my guesthouse.  About an hour and a half and 7km later I was back at my hostel, a little tired and frustrated.  By this time it was almost 5PM so I needed to head out to pick up my race kit.  Figuring out how to cross the bridge was a bit of an adventure in itself, but I got across, and as I got to the ‘race expo’ all my frustration from the day disappeared and I was really excited to race.

After getting my kit I set out to find dinner and organize breakfast for the morning.  I decided to not even try to get foods that would be similar to what I’d usually eat before a race.  For dinner I had chicken and steamed rice with chilli sauce, and some chicken broth, as opposed to my usual spaghetti.  For breakfast I picked up a blueberry muffin, chocolate chip cake, banana bread, peanuts, and a bottle of sports drink, I’d decide what I would have in the morning.  It was lights out around 9:30PM because I had a 5:15AM start in the morning.

Chicken and rice for dinner

Chicken and rice for dinner

Race Morning

I was up at 3:15AM.  I immediately ate the blueberry muffin, chocolate chip mini cake, and a small bottle of sports drink.  I also began working on a bottle of water.  I laid everything out the night before so I didn’t have a lot I had to do.  I left my guesthouse around 4:15AM.  I decided I’d jog the 700m or so to the bridge as my warm-up.  My legs only felt okay, but my mind was ready to run, I was excited.

I was at the race site by 4:30AM, without a lot to do.  There were lots of people milling about or taking photos.  I made a final pit stop at the bathroom and then found a patch of grass to sit on.  The start/finish chute was decorated with flags from the different countries represented in the race, which I thought was a nice touch.

5:05AM they opened the start chute for runners to line up.  This wasn’t like other races I’ve done.  There was no seeding.  The front row of the start was filled with older Thai people.  I was 8 rows back from the front, I made sure to line up behind the Kenyans to give them a head start!  I expected to hear the Thai national anthem, but it never came.  Some sort of dignitaries spoke and then a horn sounded and we were off.

 

The Race

First 7k (29:53, 4:16/km)

It’s been a while since I’ve run 21.1k so I decided to break the race up into three 7k segments, I hoped each would take 30min or less.  Off the gun this race didn’t have the usual fast start most have.  The start/finish chute was narrow, and made narrower by both a gate 150m up the road and a car parked on the other side of the gate.  Additionally, there were a number of slower runners at the front that caused more congestion.  About 400m into the race there’s a 180* turnaround to go up an on ramp to a raised highway.  This was the only real ‘hill’ on the course.  My opening km was 4:27.  Over the next few km’s I just tried to settle into a good pace that I thought I could hold over 21k.   The race quickly thinned out and I realized just how dark it was.  Fortunately the road surface was pretty good because it was difficult to see much more than a dozen feet ahead (it was really dark until I made it to the turnaround).  At this point my head wasn’t entirely in the race.  I was running without an iPod and I found my mind wandering.  I tried to bring my head back to running tall with my feet under me.  My splits were up and down in the first 7k, from 4:05-4:27, but I tried to focus on continuing to move forward.

 

Second 7k (28:38, 4:06/km)

The second 7k I began to get into a groove.  Almost every time I looked down at my watch I was running 4:06 pace.  It was at this point I began casting out the line and reeling in runners in front of me.  I felt like I was holding a steady effort and that pace was too quick for the runners I was passing to keep up with.  As I approached a runner or a group I’d already be looking ahead to my next target so I didn’t get complacent and sit on anyone’s hip.  If someone wanted to try to run with me I didn’t accelerate to drop them, I felt really steady, and mentally I was in a good place.  All my splits were between 4:02-4:08.

They gave us elastics at the turnaround at the far end of the course

They gave us elastics at the turnaround at the far end of the course

 

Final 6.5k {the course was short} (26:28, 4:04/km)

The final 6.5k I started to feel that familiar hurt.  I was beginning to count down km’s and think; 20mins or running, I can handle that, okay now just 16mins.  It was taking me longer to catch runners now that I had moved up through the field.  At about 18k the course turned into chaos.  The 5k had started and the bulk of the walkers were in and around the turnaround.  Some were taking photos, others sitting, some pushing strollers, and they took up almost the entire highway.  Over the next km congesting was really high and I had to weave in and out of a number of people.  By about 19k the people were spread out enough that I was able to take paths around walkers that didn’t require 90* turns.

On the way back the course crosses the Rama VIII bridge, a neat bridge that we started underneath.  I saw a runner moving well about 200m in front of me and I made it my goal to catch him in the final mile.  I turned on the jets and gave it everything I had as we made the turn at the turnaround back across the bridge and gave it everything I had left in the tank.  I managed to catch him on the off ramp from the bridge to the finish stretch.  I crossed the finish line in an unofficial time of 1:24:58 on a short course of only 20.6k, good for a 4:07 pace. (They didn’t post results and I haven’t been able to find them online, so I don’t know what my official time was)

Rama VIII turn around

Rama VIII turn around

Overall – 1:24:58 (20.6k), 4:07/km

 

Post Race

Just after the finish line my legs were a little wobbly, likely because I hadn’t run this sort of effort in about 9 weeks.  The course was short so I figured I’d be looking at about 1:27 on a proper course.  I wasn’t as fast as I hoped I would be, but I also wasn’t as slow as I worried I might be.  I didn’t know what to expect.  I would have loved to have run 4:00/km’s for 1:24:24, but I also wasn’t sure if I’d be able to manage 4:30’s for a 1:35:00.  So I felt good with my efforts.

Post race on the Rama VIII bridge

Post race on the Rama VIII bridge

The post race food was great!  There was the normal water and sports drink stands.  But that also had a tent where they were making chicken and rice, another that had rice and chicken soup, and there was some kind of soup and dumplings.   All the food was being prepared fresh in front of you.  They also had some fruit and sandwiches.  Fortunately I beat the rush so I was able to enjoy some chicken and rice with sweet chilli sauce, and then go back up for some chicken and rice soup.  I did notice when I was leaving that the lines were rather long, so maybe that’s why they don’t do this at races back home.  Either way, I loved it!

Chicken and rice after the race

Chicken and rice after the race

Up next I have the Chiang Mai Half Marathon next weekend (Dec 21).  Historically this race hasn’t been as competitive as this one, so I may be running near the front.  My plan is to tighten the screws a little further in Chiang Mai.  The 4:06’s I seemed to be running for the second half of the race will be the pace I plan to set off at.  If I feel good I’ll push a little closer to the edge than I did here in Bangkok.