Prelude to Pattaya Marathon
It was during one of our Sunday morning runs that we were chatting about running overseas and the Pattaya Marathon came into the topic. After our run, we asked around to check if the other runners were interested and we got in 20 names almost immediately! We booked our flights on that very day and on 19th July 2009, 11 of us made it happened. As the days drew nearer, half of our group decided to cancel the trip due to the H1N1 and ultimately, left 11 of us : Gary, Uncle Hooi, Francis, Teresa, Agnes, Chooi Lin, Patrick, Peter, Lena, John and I. We travelled to Pattaya, ran, ate, enjoyed ourselves and came home in one piece!
We landed on Bangkok soil on Friday evening via Air Asia and immediately boarded the coach to Pattaya which took about 2 hours. Had dinner - checked into our resort and headed to a much needed massage. By the time we finished the massage session, it was close to midnight but everyone seemed happy!
The next day, we had a good breakfast spread provided by the resort. Sunshine Garden Resort is situated at a prime location at the corner of North Pattaya Circle. Therefore, it offers easy access to almost anywhere in Pattaya and especially for us, it is walking distance to the marathon venue.
After breakfast, half the group went to collect our bibs and race kits while the other half opted to take a cruise to Coral Island via speed boat. The sea was rough that morning making the ride extremely choppy. At one point, I thought my heart almost fell out!! Then my raging hormones became confused and started to play a joke on me at the wrong time! Yes, the untimely menstruating...how frustrating!
Anyway, activities in the island had not changed much compared to my trip 20 years ago - the usual parachuting, banana boat ride etc.
On arrival at the Pattaya beach, we moved on to the marathon site and joined our friends there. It was a joyful occassion when we met our bunch of friends from Singapore and we took a group photograph together. Although Thailand is just our friendly neighbour, it's always good to meet people you know in a foreign land.
The 'Pre Race' occassion was like a carnival with lots of happenings, sales and promotions. Rows and rows of stalls carrying various brands of sports gear from running to cycling or treking were on sale.
The Thais never let go the opportunity to promote futures races eg. Khon Kaen International Marathon (Jan 24, 2010). Pretty ladies were there to promote The Blackmores Sydney Marathon in September. A huge contrast to races in Malaysia unless it's organized by our Running Clubs. Otherwise in big events, most of the organizers either do it to make some fast bucks or for some political reasons. Sad..so sad!
After spending sometime at the site, we went for lunch. It was then, I was hit by a sudden nap attack! I slept in the bus on the way to lunch. I almost slept over lunch. I slept after lunch on the way to the so-called World's Largest Gem Factory. The excursion was quite impressive and educational where we were taken by tram into the tunnel where gems were found and made. Reminds me of Disney theme parks but then, I slept too. Later while the rest were still shopping at the factory, I dozed off on the couch and allowed my coffee to sit on the table.
The rest of the afternoon was siesta for me. Some of our friends followed the tour to Nong Nouch to observe some Thai cultural shows. In the evening, we were invited to a Pre Race Beach Party at the marathon site where they served all kinds of Thai delicacies and food. I could see many international runners especially the Kenyans carbo-loading with rice and meat.
I was overwhelmed by the generosity of the Thai organizers. They really have deep respect for runners in any race and always feel that it is their responsibility to serve us and ensure that runners are well treated. The people actually cooked the food continuously at the site so that runners were never short of food and drinks. They took accountabilty so that every race is executed with reverence and passion. The volunteers were mainly school children but heck, they did a great job! In Thailand, John and I had participated in the Hatyai Nature Run, Songkla Marathon, Chiangmai Marathon and Ocean to Ocean Relay (from Songkla to Satun) and we could only applaude them!
At about 3.30am, Patrick, Francis, Teresa, Chui Lin, Uncle Hooi, John and I started walking from Sunshine Garden Resort to the marathon site. The Full Marathon was to start at 4.30am. At the start line, we met up with Mohan, Terence and all our dear Singaporean friends and had another round of photo session. The one that stood out was my friend Jenap from Singapore. Jenap used to run with many colourful wigs and this time, she was dressed as CatWoman.
It was very humid that morning and so much so that we were already perspiring profusely at the start line. There were about 800-900 runners running the full marathon distance. The race course is a mixture of highways and beaches where rolling hills and strong breeze were the order of the day. It was exhausting and at 26km, I was losing form (perhaps due to heavy menstrual flow)...I wished I was just running a Half Marathon instead. After that, I started hydrating myself at every 2km to keep myself out of oxygen debt.
When I arrived at 35km, I was quite pleased that I had actually come this far - I bumped into Patrick and sensed that something had gone amiss. I asked if he was alright and he murmured that he has already 'knocked out'. I moved on and went ahead only to find a steep hill in front of me! By now, I was so physically spent but kept telling myself that with each step, I am actually getting closer to the finishing line. Yes but not until I had to tackle yet another hill and passed through that long stretch of beach where the winds kept hitting me from the sides.
Soon, I saw the 1km to go marker but that 1km always seemed like eternity! Then, I sighted Gary somewhere at 300metre taking photo and all I could offer was a faint smile. I just want to finish the race, that's all.
Eventually, I did. This time in 4hours 20 mins.
The Pattaya Marathon is not an international marathon but it provided ample evidence of the current healthy state of running in Thailand. The reason for their success is simple : the organizers put up the event with their hearts and with passion. Just as runners. A lot of runners ran with their hearts and minds too. I know I did.