Not that exciting – but its always fun to run a race in new place.
- Difficulty: Easy
- Terrain: road
- Length: 21.1km
- Flow: Not good. Narrow course, no corrals, traffic stops!
- Scenery: A little old city wall then nothing much! City.
- Safety Issues: none
- Bathrooms: port-o-pottys near start
- Drinking water: yes
- Transit Access: n/a
- Parking: yes
- Night Access: n/a
- Special Features: International Race – 2016 had 55 countries represented
- Nearby Attractions: Various amazing Wats of Chiang Mai.
I was really excited when I found out my trip to Thailand would allow me to run a race in Chiang Mai. I always research races around my travel plans. I saw that the Chiang Mai race included full marathon, half marathon, 10k and 3k distances. I knew I wasn’t running a marathon in the middle of a month long tour of Thailand and Vietnam with my kids, so I opted for the half marathon.
The sign up was easy. There was a simple online form and then I paid through paypal 955THB which worked out to just less than $29 USD at the time I paid. They sent me a confirmation written in Thai and English that indicated I could pickup my race package in the two days before the race.
Race Kit Pickup
It was easy to find the race kit pickup location; the Thapae Gate is a well-known spot in Chiang Mai. I was staying in the old city, and my hotel was less than a 15 minute walk away. When I arrived in the square, there were lots of signs and staff directed me to the right area to line up. I went on Friday and there were virtually no lines. I happened to be in the same area on Saturday and the lines were quite long. The pickup was available 10am – 6pm both days. They staff didn’t speak much English, but asked to see my passport. I was quickly given my kit. It included a simple printed bag, a nice tank top race shirt, my bib with timer chip, a race bib belt, and a clip on flash light. As I walked out, they had a scanner to check your chip worked and information was correct. I was please to notice that a little Canadian flag was printed on my bib; I thought that was a nice touch and being that I am just a recreational runner, it’s the closest I will ever come to running for my country.
There wasn’t really a race expo per se, but there was a booth selling discounted name brand running clothing. The prices were very good if you felt like fighting the crowd and rummaging through stacks of stuff. There were also a few other booths for sponsors but I didn’t check them out as they didn’t seem too exciting.
The half marathon started at 5am, I wasn’t complaining because Chiang Mai can be very hot and humid by mid morning. (The marathon started at 4am, I am not sure what time the other shorter races started). When I arrived I was amazed to see that they had a wide variety of food available before the race (free for runners). It turned out this was the same race that would be available after the race, but there was plenty of it and it was nice to have a pre-race snack available if you wanted it. There was also water and the very sweet Thai sports drink available. A line of port-a-pottys were set up near the start as well.
There were no corrals; everyone was just kind of bunched up as the time for the race drew near. There were a few announcements, including the fact that the event (for all distances) had 12 000 runners from 55 different countries. I had a blush of national pride looking down at the red and white maple leaf flag on my bib. Promptly at 5am we were off. Right away it was narrow and I was stuck in a crowd of slow runners. I was surprised because I had been in the front 1/3 of the group at the starting gate. I didn’t expect to be around so many people running so much slower than me. I am usually solid in the middle of the pack. After a few minutes I was a little frustrated and started weaving through the tight crowd, taking advantage of any other faster runners trying to do the same.
The beginning of the race was cool. The City Wall is old and we ran around about half of it before heading out of the old city. However, as soon as we left the city was, the scenery was really boring. We were just running along a road. There was nothing to look at. Thailand has a ridiculous amount of 7-11s and as we passed the 5th or 6th one I consider counting them for fun! I spoke to some women that evening who ran the full marathon and they agreed it was very boring; when I mentioned I had taken some pictures, they asked, “Of what?!” There was no entertainment and no cheer until we were a km from the end of the race. On the positive side it was dead flat, but that also added to the boring.
The water stations were ok. Some stations also had the sweet Thai sports drink and one had watermelon and dried bananas. I actually lost one of my gels on route, so I was happy to eat a slice of watermelon.
The race route was narrow and several times I got stuck in crowds. Towards the end when we joined up with the 10k race it got so crowded I got completely stuck for a few minutes. There was traffic beside us and sometimes scooters came right through the race, which was rude, and it sucked breathing in the fumes. We also had to stop a few times to cross busy roads. There were police directing traffic and they did stop traffic for the race, but every so often they also let traffic through, so it was just your luck if you had to stop or not. I had realized early on I was not going to get a great time because of the crowding, so by the time I had to stop for traffic I didn’t care. I was taking pictures and just enjoying the run by that point. The race was mostly an out and back and when runners began returning we had to split the narrow route into two sides. Thailand is right hand drive, and they also ran that way! So I had to get used to running left while people coming the other way passed me on my right. It was very strange and counter intuitive! I was very impressed that when the first people came back from both the half marathon and later from the full marathon, bikes escorted them with lights flashing.
It was dark when we started and street lamp lit our way. A few times it was quite dark. Most people were wearing the little clip on light we had received in our race kits but they didn’t provide a lot of extra light. It didn’t really get bright until around 6:30am, well into the race, by that point the full marathon runners would have been in the dark for 2 ½ hours!
The last km of the race was fun. We were back along side the city wall, and there were spectators and cheer groups for the first time.The race ended at the start, back at the Thapae Gate. The same food was available as before the race: chicken wings, chicken soup, McDonalds (this was a first at a race!), boiled eggs, watermelon and dried banana. There was also lots of water, sports drink and coconut water. There wasn’t really a post race party, but I did notice blow up swimming pools where you could soak your sore feet. That just reminded me that I could go get a post race massage. The going rate is about 250THB an hour which is less than $10 USD! That’s definitely a perk of racing in Thailand!
The medal is nice: two side and fairly heavy. I was happy it has the date printed on it.
I had a great time at this race and I am happy I did it. However, I would not go out of my way to do it and would probably not run it again. The biggest problems are the route itself. It’s boring and narrow and you have to deal with traffic in various ways. However, I was travelling and it was easy for me to fit in and it’s always a pleasure to run a new race. For the price, what do you have to lose? Besides I needed to get in a training run of that length anyways J
Meanwhile, Chiang Mai is an awesome city and definitely worth visiting! We had a great time and my kids wished we had stayed longer. I would recommend staying somewhere in the old city. The markets are plentiful and awesome.