Laguna Phuket International Marathon (10.5 km)
Sun, 14 June (0630-0730 hrs)
Bang Tao Beach, Phuket (Thailand)
Here be a list of things that made the Laguna Phuket International Marathon (the 10km part) special:
1. A Cool Pre-Race Expo
In Singapore, race expos are all business: collect number tag, check singlet size & then quickly leave. But in Phuket, the organisers make you want to stay. For one, even though everyone thinks its assumed, a race expo on the actual site of the starting line is a good idea. “International runners” like Roy, Alan & myself (i.e tourists) at least had an idea of how far the starting line is from our hotel (just 10 minutes walk).
Then there were the lists: a nominal roll of all the runners competing, complete with country of origin and bib number. So already, on the first day there, we learnt that the top runner in our category was American, and there were a fair amount of our own countrymen in the race too. But a nominal roll helps because, if you didn’t have your confirmationslipwhatnot, you could just point out your name on the list and flash your passport.
2. Morning of the Race Day
Having attempted to sightsee & shop the day before, our feet seemed a bit sore when we began warming up at about 0600 hrs on Sunday morning. By then the road to the starting line was filled with runners doing serious warm-up. The Thai runners, from their many clubs, reminded me of Gurkhas doing training: very tanned, very serious, very fierce. There was a portion of a tent near the starting line cordoned off to be a stretching area, which I thought was quite cool.
Singaporean race organisers please read this: to solve your pre-race toilet problem, do what the good guys at Laguna did – they had portable section with only urinals. So that least the make runners could do their business without jamming up the usual portable toilets. In all my years of doing races, that morning I got to the starting line faster, earlier & more comfortable than I can remember. Ever.
3. The Route
Everyone in the 10.5Km race started out like they were running a sprint. By the 2km mark, there were just a steady stream of really consistent runners. With Roy behind and Alan in front, the route trailed through all the resorts, bungalows & fields on the Laguna property. The roads were no closed closed to traffic, because Thai drivers were really polite: they stopped to let you pass, then drove up beside you to cheer you on. I had a friendly one-on-one pacing game with a woman on her worn-out Vespa. Can’t imagine that happening here.
At the 4km mark, the hills began. But nothing much, just a winding, snake-like road – designed so that you couldn’t see more than 500 metres before the next turn. But the best thing was, running by the beach. Not on sand (even though I don’t mind), but on the road with an unblocked beachfront beside. Think of East Coast: minus the cyclists, minus the ships on the horizon – nothing but the nearest runner breathing (the Thai gentleman I was pacing) & the sound of my own breathing.
4. And everything after
The Thai gentleman I was pacing was a 45 year-old Phuket resident who I didn’t manage to get a photo of. But we were chatting off and on until I stepped things up for the finish. And after running through a weird little trail with the smell of elephant dung (I think), there was the finishing line Alan had been posing under the other day. The usual finishing burst, and it was over. The Thai gentleman finished next. Alan after him.
After the rush of the race, the end seemed like an anticlimax. (Later, I would learn that I hit a personal best). There wasn’t a post-race like Stan Chart here. we took a photo & rushed off for to prepare for our Island tour. My legs hurt like crazy until I hit a rock when snorkeling then it hurt even more.
But what made it memorable for me wasn’t just the organisation, or the impromptu pacer, or the personal best. But the gardener at the hotel asking me & Roy while we were warming down along the beach how the race was. And there, with the waves crashing and the gardener’s difficult English (and my legs hurting): you realise it’s not just about winning. Or about pushing. Or about talking.
It’s just about running. And hearing nothing but your own breathing. And you’re not dead yet.