Reflections on the Grind

thoughts on training and life of an introvert

Bangkok Marathon 2009

with 7 comments

Sunday 22 November 2009. Sanam Chai (สนามไชย), Bangkok. I have survived my second marathon.

Though I tried, I couldn’t sleep on Saturday. Took off early from the house. Since it was quite late (after 10 p.m.), I had to wait for quite a while for public transportation. Took a bus to Sanam Luang. Fell asleep on the bus a little bit. Arrived at the race area before midnight, well ahead of the 2 a.m. start time.

bkk marathon 2009 quiet street before the race

Met Lung Thep, my uncle who helped organize the event. Ate some light snacks and drank water. He suggested I got some rest. So I went to find a quiet spot in Suan Saranrom and tried to nap on a park bench, but couldn’t really sleep due to the mosquitoes. Next time I must remember to bring long sleeve shirts and long pants.

At 1 a.m., I started walking around, jogging lightly, and doing stretches. Rubbed on some analgesic cream (ครีมน้ำมันมวย). Put away my bag at the service tent and walked to the starting line.

At 2 a.m. the runners were in a party mood. Some looked calm. Some looked excited. We were all determined to conquer the 42.195 km in our own ways. I started off conservatively.

My race plan was basic:

  1. Never chase other runners. Run my own race.
  2. Pain will come. When it does, suck it up.
  3. Maintain good form. Be efficient.
  4. Don’t think about the next race. Do my best. No reserve. No regret.

A hill came early, when we had to get up Pinklao Bridge at about km 2.

I aimed to run a 6min/km pace. The time at 4-km mark was a little bit slow. So I told myself to pick up the pace a bit. The pace was where I wanted it to be by about km 8. Then I just kept on a steady pace.

Throughout most of the first 30 km, we were running on elevated Borommaratchonnani road. We got to view a different side of Bangkok–the dark, cool, and quiet side. There were no people along this highway route, but we runners were constantly cheering each other on. This camaraderie is a beautiful thing.

I spotted Mr. Tam Jatunam (ธรรม จตุนาม), a professor who is blind, near the turnaround point (15 km). People encouraged him and he was smiling. Very inspiring. Try closing your eyes and walking to your kitchen. To me that’s a challenge. Now imagine running a marathon with eyes closed. Incredible!

Tam Jatunam

I felt like I was doing well in the first half of the race. I passed the 15 km mark, the first chip-scanning point, at about 1:28:xx, about 2-3 mins faster than last year. But I was still worried. A marathon does not really begin until km 32 (mile 20). That’s usually when the pain hits and the stored energy is depleted. Last year I was doing fine until a little bit after the halfway mark, where a cramp hit. So I was really careful and mindful with my body this year.

I tried to record a split with my watch when I passed each kilometer mark. In the early part, the marks were placed at every 2 km. But the placements became quite irregular in the second half of the race, so I stopped taking down the splits. Not a big deal. I aimed to better my last year’s time, where I ran 5:41. A fine effort would be to break 5-hr barrier. I knew if I could keep the 6 min/km pace, I would achieve that time goal. I kept reminding myself to be patient. “Don’t chase. Don’t push. Be conservative. Must save the energy for the last 10 km.”

On many occasions, I found groups of runners. If their pace seemed right, I tried to go with them. It’s easier to run with other runners than to be out there alone. Ran with runners from Lann Pho club (ลานโพธิ์) for a good stretch. Once I reached Rama XIII Bridge at km 28, I had to run long stretches alone in the dark though.

The km marks seem to be stretched out farther as the race went on, because the legs became heavier. Thankfully, the cramp, which I feared the most, never came. I had a couple moments of leg weakness, and the knees boggled. I felt a scare each time it happened. But I was able to keep on shuffling my legs. Ate banana along the way. Took three pieces in total. They probably helped in fighting off any imminent cramp. Thank you banana crew!

Hydration-wise, I took a sip of water or Gatorade at each station. Due to the cool weather, I wasn’t feeling too thirsty. I slowed down to drink the water, but never came to a complete stop. Skipped several stations, but never two stations in succession. I also drank lots of water before the race. Though I went to the restroom twice before the start, I felt the urge to use the restroom during the race. I decided not to make a stop at mobile toilet vans/roadside bushes though. I didn’t want to stop and start again. Didn’t get an analgesic cream rub-down this year either. Just wanted to keep the motion going, for fear of cramping up if I stop. “Just keep going” was my mantra.

I often had to train in warm weather, and I knew I don’t do well in such weather. It helped a lot to have a good weather today. Slightly windy and cool. Didn’t sweat much at all.

I was worried about the left hip and the calves before the race. However, the most serious pain I had was in my feet. The pain was excruciating. I tried to simply block it out. I thought, though it hurts, there’s nothing I can do about it so I better suck it up. There was no way I was going to quit. My thought flashed to Paula Radcliffe, battling her injuries during NYC marathon a few weeks ago. Winners don’t quit.

I ran along with a gentleman from Lan Pho during the final few km. When we came upon the walls of Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace, we knew the finish was near. He stopped at the last water station but I decided to keep on going. At the final turn–a corner of the Grand Palace–people were yelling encouraging words. I picked up the energy to speed up onto Sanam Chai Road and finished strong. I crossed the line, looked down at my watch and up at the digital timer. The finish time was 3:55:xx.

In the race where I aimed for a sub-5-hr finish, I broke 4! The official time later came out on the website: my chip time is 3:55:05 (gun time 3:55:15). I bettered my last year time (5:41:05 chip) by about 1:45. 1 hour and 45 minutes! This was absolutely amazing to me.

The beautiful thing is, it’s the training that has made this all possible. There is no luck involved. (Well, if there is a luck factor, it’s the weather. The cool weather definitely helped. It’s probably impossible for me to run this fast in typical hot and humid Bangkok weather.) The hard work–all those morning and evening runs–they paid off today. Finishing the marathon last year was very nice, but personally I feel a lot more proud this year, because I really worked for it.

Now my knees, quads, calves, feet are all hurting badly. I probably won’t be able to walk tomorrow but I don’t care. I had a great run. Right now I just want to rest and recover.

Some pictures from Sunday:

great view near the finish line

great view near the finish line

this year we have the largest participation in Bangkok Marathon history

this year we have the largest participation in Bangkok Marathon history

after 42.195 km

after 42.195 km

what a great day

what a great day


Written by Rop

November 24, 2009 at 8:42 am

Posted in running, thoughts

7 Responses

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  1. Great report and photos. What a great result for you, Roppon. A massive PR! You should be very proud of your achievement. Well done.


    November 24, 2009 at 3:51 pm

  2. I ran Bangkok marathon and I felt very, very nice. I want to come back next year with my friends. The Thai People are very:strong, kindness and friendly…
    Or if you know any site (or galery photos) with pictures from Bangkok Marathon send to me this adress (site, link), please.


    December 18, 2009 at 3:54 pm

  3. you’re welcome Marin. congrats on finding your pics!


    December 24, 2009 at 2:25 pm

  4. 1h45 over your last marathon, astounding !!!
    personnaly, I ran my first in 5h03 and my second in 3h56, so I broke my record by 67 minutes
    hope you’ll explose your mark in Tokyo 2011 pal


    November 20, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    • thanks Pm. my first marathon, i got horrible cramp. my second one, my body was more ready.
      big PR for you. 67 min improvement is amazing!


      November 21, 2010 at 11:47 am

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