To this year’s BKK Marathon foreign runners could only enter online on the gotorace website. Thai runners could enter via the NJAT (National Jogging Association of Thailand) or the co-organiser Amazing Fields Co.
I assume the online registration process was pretty straight forward, though I didn’t have the chance to try it. When I decided to run the BKK Marathon the online registration was closed. I arrived to Bangkok a week after it closed and I headed to the NJAT office, prepared to beg my way into the race. There was no need for that. The kind young girl in the office simply took my details, congratulated that I’m going for the full distance and asked for 1200 Baht in entry fee. I simply was overjoyed!
Especially because I knew that this year, for the first time, there was a different price introduced for foreign runners. Foreign entries for the full marathon cost 75 USD, while Thai runners paid 1200 Baht (about 30 USD). I was prepared to pay the 75 USD, and I think the only reason I didn’t have to, because the office couldn’t accept foreign currency. It was easier for them to have me pay the fee in Baht. This, or the girl in the office didn’t know.
My opinion is that dual pricing is fair, if it differentiates between local and non local runners. This is what most race organisers do. But having to pay a higher price as a resident, just because you hold a foreign passport seems very unfair. I know that many people was very upset about the dual pricing, especially because there’s a huge expat community in Bangkok. The members of the largest running group in the city all-together boycotted the event because of this.
The Marathon Expo was a joke. Or rather, there was no Marathon Expo.
I probably feel very strongly about this, because I love this part of a race. I can spend a day there, surrounded by runners, soaking in the vibe, getting my head in the game.
In Bangkok there was a great cycling expo (which to me, as a cyclist, was a bit of a consolation) and next to it there was a place for runners to pick up the bib and race pack.
Nothing running related. I can’t imagine how the sponsors of the race and other running or sport companies wouldn’t want to be present there. The location was excellent, very central (Airport Link Sky Train – Mukason Station) and spacious. The only reason I can imagine is that they weren’t invited. This was also my first expo where there weren’t other race organisers present.
However, the bib pick up went smoothly and the staff was kind and helpful. There wasn’t many people around.
The race pack was okay, but nothing exciting. The following items were in it:
- technical event t-shirt
- tube of massage cream
- coloured booklet in Thai, mostly advertisement (not pictured, left it on the spot)
- little Snickers (didn’t make it to the picture :)
- finisher medal
Now, when I wrapped this out of the little plastic it was in, I almost began to cry.
You know that glorious moment when you can barely stand on your feet, everything aces but you make it to the finish line. You run, jog, crawl across it, stop your watch then drag yourself ahead a few more metres because that’s where the best part of the race awaits you: you bend down your head and someone puts a medal over your neck and you feel that lovely weight of it. Maybe it’s just me… but for me, that’s the best moment in any long race, the one that brings out all the emotions and that makes all of it worth it.
I cannot express the disappointment I felt, when I realised it was taken away from me.
The start area was surprisingly good. It was easy to access, and so simply arranged that the lack of English signs didn’t really matter. There was water, toilets (though a bit further away), photo ops with the sponsors and free warm-up balm that turned out to be very good and useful.
Here are a few minutes recorded at the start area:
It was only a couple thousand of us, so I don’t think the lack of start zones caused a problem to many. The start was quite comfortable.
There were pacers as well, as I remember between 3:30 and 5:30. The only weird thing was that just before the start the pacers walked to the very first row, and all of them started from the same position , setting off at their designated pace. It was quite difficult to catch up with the pacer groups for all of us who started in the second part of the field, a good minute or two after them and in a crowd of people.
The route of the Bangkok marathon is B O R I N G! You have been warned. :) I was, as well, because I did some research before signing up and knew what to expect. And some people even like boring.
After 2.5 kilometres the rout turns out of the city and climbs up (gently) to an elevated motorway. You run on this until 28KM, with a U-turn at 16KM. There is none there, but the few organisers at the water stations.
The pro is that none bothers your race, and you don’t have to bother about much, just run in a straight line. It’s dark and empty.
During a 2 km section there were no streetlights, which means we ran 2×2 km in complete darkness. Some local runners must have known this, because they came with headlamps. The asphalt was uneven and there was a water station on this section so for hundreds of metres the invisible ground was covered with plastic cups. The runners who had phones took it out to light up the road a bit. It was dangerous.
There were no kilometre markers between 16KM and 24KM, nor between 34KM and 39KM. That was no fun, either. I didn’t have a GPS watch on me, so I had no idea where I’m at on the course.
There were almost no supporters on the route.
There were two groups of about 15 people making some noise and music in the second part of the run, and that was it.
Because of this the long stretch to the U-turn was actually great. As the leading runners started arriving on the other side of the road, foreign runners started cheering each other on. (It seems Thais prefer to run quietly, they didn’t “socialise” as much.) Also, girls cheered each other on (locals and foreigners alike). That was very touching and quite fun and made the run more interesting. On the way to the U-turn I gave the whoop, whoops and on the way back I received them.
I found the refreshment stations very good.
They were unusually frequent, about every 2 kilometres, and every second one had energy drink. A local brand in two
colours tastes, and these were offered to try at the start area to decide which is better for us. That was thoughtful.
About every 10 kilometres they had bananas and watermelons.
There was a Snickers stop at 40K. But why? I mean, eating right there won’t do any good. Carrying it for another 2K is nonsense. Why wouldn’t they hand it over at the finish? Or put it to 25 or 30K?
The marathon crew was okay. They were helpful and kind at the start and finish area and at the refreshment stations. There were only two of the latter where they actually cheered us on, and that was nice. At all the others they served us quietly but promptly.
It was a bit demotivating to see that if there wasn’t much do for them, they were sitting and lying on the concrete, bored and tired. I know, it was the middle of the night, but still. I couldn’t help but compare it with races back home where at the refreshment stations everyone shouts and chants and barely has any voice left by the end of the race. This really made me appreciate their effort.
The Finish area before the Finish Line was OK. There were some people cheering us on at the last 600-800 metres and their presence was very welcome.
The finish was not cathartic, though. You run in between barricades, not many people standing about. There was no arch over the finish, not even a finish sign, so it was hard to know where it was… then you step over a chip pad, with a clock next to it, and that’s it. You walk out at the other end, no medal, no nothing. Marathon finishers could walk to a little box where they got their finisher T-shirt, then upon exiting the Finish are, we got our goodie-bag.
This was funny. And as a coffee lover, I appreciated it, as there were two types of ice coffee in it. I have never before got coffee after a race.
What we received:
- Coffee Latte – from the sponsor, DuchMill
- Coffee Mocca – from the sponsor, DuchMill
- Pink Lady apple (huge and juicy, mmm)
- stuffed thai bread thing (looked at the ingredients and gave it away)
- Plus the Finisher Tee
I was just a bit disappointed, because last year the finisher pack contained McDonalds fish fillet and cheese burgers. I wouldn’t eat that but I already came up with the best caption for a selfie with them.
For me it was a fun run and nothing depended on it.
The 12 month before the race, though I cycled 9000 kilometres, I only ran 185 kilometres. I was less than prepared to run, but I wanted to take part anyways and come out at the other end, maybe exhausted, but uninjured.
And that is what happened.
I was fit, so I assumed I would finish it just below 4:30 without much effort.
That did not happen. :)
It took me 4 hours and 43 minutes to drag myself through the course and the last 15 kilometres were worst than I ever imagined. But now I know that we use different muscles for cycling and running. And I found comfort in the fact that while I could barely walk the next day, I could get back on the bike and cycle 5 hours without difficulty.
This race is boring. And soulless. But it’s not a badly organised race.
If you’re a type of runner who likes to get in the zone, focus inside and just do your race, it’s perfect, actually. None will bother you. If you also happen to be a fast runner, I would say under 3:30, even better. The overall field was very slow and runners aiming under 3:30 mostly run alone or in pairs. You wouldn’t have to elbow anyone at the water stations, for sure.
However, if you’re the kind of social runner who enters a race to get the race experience and not just the registered time, you’ll suffer.
At Western races we are spoiled with attention and admiration from both the onlookers and the marathon staff. Shallow and vain and false this notion might be, but I think for a few hours we like to imagine ourselves invincible, larger than life. I think a good part of runners enter races for this feeling. I certainly do, however bad this reason might be. It feels good being cheered for and admired for four hours in each calendar year. And I think that’s why we pay a hundred quid for a race. We could run 42 kms any weekend, it would be even more comfortable than going through the whole race procedure. Here we pay for the experience, the international marathon experience, and if we look at the Bangkok Marathon from this point of view, it really didn’t deliver.
I don’t regret attending, because the timing of the race fitted in with my plans, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else. There are better races in South-East Asia you can attend.
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