On Sunday, 12/20/15 I ran the Chiang Mai International Half Marathon.
After moving to Thailand in late August, I ran only once or twice during my four week TEFL course and the beginning of my job hunt, so I decided to sign up for a race with just 7 weeks to train as a way to start running again.
In typical fashion, I trained reasonably well (meaning I did all of my long runs, and maybe 2 shorter runs during the week) for the first few weeks. Then, I went to Penang to get my non-immigrant B visa and didn’t run that entire week, including skipping my long run. Following Penang, I got sick and was coughing and wheezing which made it hard to breathe normally, so running was off the table. I did two final long runs (one 9.5 mile run, another for 9 miles) and no other shorter runs or workouts at all, and that was it. So in short, I had no business trying to run well on race day.
However, this was my first international race and it was in my new neighborhood, so I was pretty excited for the experience.
The race had an extremely early start time because of the Thailand heat, even in winter. The marathon started at 4am and the half marathon (which I was running) started at 5. My plan was to leave my apartment by 3:45am.
Jake is amazing and woke up in the middle of the night to drive me to the start. The whole drive he discussed how crazy running a race in the middle of the night is…which is probably true.
There were no signs at the start to line up by pace, so I started near the back since I was planning on running very slowly.
After a leisurely run around the moat to start, I was feeling really relaxed (later on when looking at my splits I was running slower than a 10 minute/mile pace) so at mile 8 I started to pick up my pace–I ran about 9:20/mile for the rest of the race which felt a lot better. The only problem was my left IT band started aching at about mile 10. My IT band hasn’t bothered me since this same problem happened at mile 23 of the NYC Marathon in 2013…essentially it acts up when I run a distance more than I should be, given my (lack of) training. The pain got worse as I continued running, but I kept going at the same pace and finished with my second worse half marathon finish time ever. However, I ran the whole way (my only real goal for this race), ran very significant negative splits, and finished feeling pretty motivated that I can train to run well here in Thailand following this race.
My only issue with this race was the lack of mile markers and clocks on the course. There were no clocks on the course at all, and there were distance markers put out in kilometers, but not consistently. As an American, I just couldn’t convert kilometers to miles fast enough in my head to see if my GPS watch was accurate (turns out, it was).
Also, it was completely dark until I got to about mile 9. That was a little strange, and there was one stretch of road where I had to really watch my footing because there were few lights—but it reminded me of the night leg running Reach the Beach New Hampshire and Ragnar Cape Cod relays with my friends in the states, which I loved.
Otherwise, the course was well marked in that it was easy to follow and I always knew where to go. Knowing the city probably helped, and the route was a good one. The half marathon course went around the moat, the Old City, and down Route 121. The marathon course does the same, but goes further out and back on Route 121 so that runners also run in and around the Royal Flora Ratchaphruek gardens which are very beautiful.
The race swag was also top notch. I received a nice medal, flashing running lights (again, most, if not all of the race is run while it’s still completely dark out), and a nice running tank—although I was surprised it was a tank and not a short sleeved running shirt considering Thais don’t really show their shoulders, but I guess runners have a culture of their own.
Now that it’s 2016 I’m considering actually training well and running a marathon or half marathon in Phuket in June…but we’ll see :-).