Last year there were around 900 runners from 11 countries. This year over 1,500 from 25 countries. All here to attempt either the 13Km, 35Km, 66Km or 100Km runs on mountainous trails through the jungle. In addition, Princess Pa, a daughter of the Crown Prince of Thailand, chose the 13Km run as her first trail race. So the sleepy south east of the island was crawling with police and army over the weekend whilst she was on the island.
These runs are amongst the toughest in Thailand and are more like a very tough jungle trek coupled with a tough run. The steep sections are pretty much a 45 degree angle in places. And the two longest runs took participants to the top of Koh Chang’s tallest peak, something that usually takes normal trekkers a full day. Add to that it was left to the end to do that, after a whole series of smaller , but equally steep climbs.
No wonder the 35Km race here is rated as difficult as the 50Km at the far more prestigious North Face run in Khao Yai.
I thought it would be a good idea to do the 35Km this year. Last year I didn’t the 13Km, that was my first attempt at running in any kind of event since my middle school’s annual cross country runs over 30 years ago.
Since then I’ve done about a dozen different runs in Thailand. Almost all 10 or 15Km runs. Some on trails, some on roads. It’s good fun and a good excuse for a weekend away in a scenic part of the country. Not something that i take too seriously. And for a few months during the past year, I’ve been injured mostly due to thinking I’m younger and fitter than I really am, so trying to do too much and then spending a month regretting it.
Last month I did my furthest run to date – the 25Km North Face trail run. And was 16th in my age group. This was the first time I’d run that far. ( On Koh Chang, I’ve just run max of 20Km. ) And that was pretty tiring. So I was a bit apprehensive about 35Km in the jungle with lots of hills.
But it turned out to be a great experience. Not what you’d call fun. But very well organised, easy to follow markers and all kinds of terrain ranging from paved road, to farm tracks, to pathways through rubber plantations, to dry riverbeds, to the beach and super steep trails straight up the sides of hills which were impossible for anyone to run up
Needless to say a lot of people didn’t finish. But I managed to. In 6 hours & 3 minutes which was good enough for 12th in my age group and Top 10% of all runners. Today, the day after, I have been limping around a bit, one knee hurting from not only the ascents but also the descents. Plus a few cuts and bruises from going flat on my face tripping over rocks. So I’m pleased with that.
This year I’ll stick to mostly Half Marathons and 25Km runs. There are a lot of good runs here in Thailand. But the heat and humidity take some getting used to. I must have drunk several litres of water & Gatorade but overall lost about 3Kg.
How tough were the longer distances? On the 66km run only 18 out of 283 finished. And on the 100km only 2 out of 35 completed the course. One of the Thai runners added his review (in English) here
Some photos below. Only a couple whilst on the actual race. You’ll see a ladyboy in a neon pink bikini in a couple of photos s/he runs in quite a few trail races and we ran a few Km together in a small group midway through the race. I looked like a sweaty, dusty, staggering mess when I crossed the finish line. S/he’d stopped to re-apply make up and crossed the line posing for photographers, arm in arm with a fellow runner.