Khon Kaen Mini-Marathon 2016

27 Mar

Many of the races I have run since moving to Thailand have happened for one of two reasons. First, they were a great excuse to travel to a new location and enjoy a weekend away, or second, Bridget talked me into it. In the case of the Khon Kaen race, both reasons apply. After the half marathon in December, I was feeling a little burnt out from being on a training plan, but Bridget is a persuasive lady. She talked me into registering for a “mini-marathon” a few weeks after winter break. The mini-marathon distance clocked in at 11.55 km (7.17 miles), a random distance if ever there was one. I figured that no matter how lazy I’d been over winter break, I could rally for that, so off we went with Bridget’s husband, Vince, and another runner, Dan, along for the ride.

Khon Kaen is one of the four main cities in Isaan, the enormous northeast corner of Thailand. I was super curious about Khon Kaen simply because I knew nothing about it. Isaan in general doesn’t see a lot of tourists, and we’d yet to explore in that direction. Our first impression of the city was confusion; upon arrival, we checked into a hotel shaped like an ice cube, and headed out to enjoy a Friday night beverage. Dan, Bridget, and I wandered about and discovered a brightly lit Chinese temple, neon dinosaur statues, and dozens of restaurants and bars. The bars all had a trendy appearance, but were all nearly empty of customers. Puzzling.

On Saturday, we picked up our races packets, then set out to explore. IMG_4108We found a few shiny temples scattered around, but nothing much of interest. A lake that looked enticing on the map turned out to be less than spectacular. We struggled to find an open restaurant for lunch, and ended up at a complete hole in the wall kind of joint. We were skeptical at first, until the soup (which may have been the only menu item) appeared – it was delicious! After lunch, we attempted to find a foot massage, but couldn’t locate a single spa that didn’t emit an unsavory vibe. The day of random concluded with yet another wander through unoccupied restaurants, and a trip to the local market that yielded some entertaining photos. Alas, Bridget did not purchase the shirt!

Sunday morning arrived in a cloudy and COLD manner. January is still cool season in Thailand, and Khon Kaen’s northern location had the starting temp at a brisk 57 F, freezing for us Bangkok peeps! Bridget and I bundled into long sleeves as we headed to the starting line. Bridget was signed up for the half, so her race began earlier than mine. As I waited for my turn to line up, a giant herd of policemen appeared and ordered us all to remove our hats and kneel. Turns out one of the royal princesses was also running the half! She paraded by us with a full posse of athletic bodyguards and purple-attired companions (purple is the princesses’ color) before she received a special starting gun and headed off into the dawn. Only then we were allowed to stand and line up ourselves.

IMG_4113When my race began, I set off steadily. I wasn’t particularly interested in my time; I was in it for the adventure after all. First mile… second mile… giant hill… long-sleeve off… At the third mile, my running app announced my time. I was so surprised, I thought the app was malfunctioning. I was zooming! A few more miles, and my times only got faster from there. I don’t remember the last time running felt so effortless. I truly felt like I was flying. I finished the race at a full sprint, cruising under the finish line and feeling fabulous. Turns out, all that training in stifling, hot weather had prepared my body to deal with torture. In the absence of the heat and humidity, I flew. My last mile was my fastest (negative splits are an amazing thing for a runner to achieve). I was bummed I hadn’t signed up for the half – I was still energetic and ready to go! Later I learned that heat training, like high altitude training, is actually an official thing athletes do – who knew?!

As I waited for Bridget to finish, I quickly realized the downside to the cool All done!weather; covered in sweat and standing still, I was freezing! Fortunately, she also made amazing time, and we regrouped to enjoy hot beverages and wait for Dan to finish his marathon. We got so cold while waiting that we purchased fleece jackets. Eventually, we took the coldest tuk tuk ride ever back to our hotel. The rest of the day was spent in the Khon Kaen mall, trying to avoid the cold rain that began falling, before heading to the airport and back to BKK. In the end, we never did figure out who the intended clientele of all those empty hotels, bars, and restaurants were. Ah, mysteries…

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One Response to “Khon Kaen Mini-Marathon 2016”

  1. batelm2014 March 27, 2016 at 1:06 pm #

    That is so unbelievably cool! Your pictures make me so jealous of your travel adventures. Great job on the 7 mile mini marathon. I just started running and this totally motivated me to lace up my shoes and get in the mood for training. https://runningtomilan.wordpress.com/2016/03/26/the-first-run/

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