As they lined up at the start line, just before 6am, tense and excited; small intermittent drops of rain began to fall.
The more optimistic runners were probably imagining a light sprinkling of rain to keep them cool during this 10.7K race. I know I was.
There were a few short announcements, people started to clap and the rain started to get heavier.
The air-horn sounded, the crowd cheered and began to flow sluggishly across the start line, the fast athletes up front took off like greyhounds and the rain increased to a heavy downpour.
Five minutes into the race we were struggling through a torrential downpour more typical of mid rainy season.
This was how the Sikarin Hospital Mini Marathon got underway yesterday in the Bangna area of Bangkok, not far from Suvarnabhumi airport.
I’ll credit my Irish heritage for getting me through the first half of the race in increasingly adverse conditions. If you don’t go running in the rain in Ireland, you don’t go running.
The puddles, or small rivers, two to three inches deep in places, quickly swamped my shoes and soon I was squelching with every step and thinking about the inevitable blisters; the bane of every runners’ life.
After half an hour or so the sun peeked out from behind the hazy clouds; the sky and the runner’s spirits started to lighten and those of us with any energy left picked up the pace.
The police were closing the roads in front of the runners and opening them up again behind the back markers. Most of the run was in one lane with two lanes of moving traffic getting progressively busier alongside. I guess completely closing roads in Bangkok is an impossibility.
At one point we ran through a motorway tunnel where people began shouting, trying to get an echo. It gave me a little boost of camaraderie, I perked up and stared to enjoy myself.
Fifty meters from the finish line there was a huge pool of water maybe six inches deep, black, murky, oily and unavoidable but I splashed through it, laughing like a five year old. I was already soaked right through and had the finish line in my sights so what was one more puddle!
I’d also like to mention how friendly the police were. Urging on the runners during the run as they huddled under their waterproofs directing the traffic. A couple of them said hello and talked to me as I trudged back to my hotel after the race. It was nice to see another side to them.
Despite the rain I thoroughly enjoyed the run. It was well organised, had a good level of participation and it was for a good cause, heart surgery for children. It was only 250 baht to enter and if you are interested in similar events I found it online at www.jogandjoy.com
Their website wouldn’t let me pay by Paypal unless I entered two people for some bizarre reason so I printed an entry form, filled it out, scanned it and sent it back to them with a screen shot of my internet banking showing that I had transferred the entry fee to their bank account. I got an email the next day confirming I had entered successfully. So it wasn’t too difficult in the end.
I stayed in a hotel near the start line because with having to start running at 6am I did’t want to cross half the city in a taxi before I got there and I certainly didn’t want to try leaving early from Pattaya. Getting up a 5am was difficult enough.
The hotel turned out to be old and the staff looked at me like I was crazy for wanting to stay there. It’s miles from anywhere interesting in Bangkok and despite being called the Bay Hotel Suvarnabhumi Airport it was a twenty minute taxi ride from the airport.
I went into the restaurant in the evening alone as my girlfriend was tired, not hungry and wanted to lounge in bed.
There was a large group of old Thai people drinking whisky and singing Karaoke. Several of them couldn’t help looking round at me with expressions that said are you in the wrong hotel?
Despite feeling a little self-conscious it wasn’t too bad a restaurant experience. My Massaman curry with rice, chosen for it’s carb-laden properties (for anyone who doesn’t know, Massaman is yellow curry and usually contains peanuts and potatoes along with whatever meat you choose) was quite tasty. It was served in a burner which added a pungent aroma of paraffin to my surroundings but kept my curry bubbling hot until the very last bite. The staff were friendly and efficient and spoke to me in English despite my best efforts to use my limited Thai.
I got the bus to Bangkok, the day before the race, from Foodland in Jomtien, which goes direct to the airport. It’s big and more comfortable than the local mini buses and not much more expensive at 150 baht or thereabouts. Since I was going to a hotel near the airport it made sense.
This was the first of these 10K events in Bangkok that I’ve done. There’s another 6am 10.5K on the 24th of March, The Bangkok Run for Health sponsored by Mitsubishi Electric. I think I might brave the early start and enter this one as well. It’s a better location, starting and finishing at Rama VIII bridge which is near Khaosan road, the river and many of Bangkok’s tourist attractions.
I will hope for better weather, and on a personal note, a faster time.
And you know what? I never did get any blisters. Just mildly chafed nipples!