My recent trip to Bangkok, Thailand, was to visit my grandfather in hospital who is in a coma. I didn’t have a lot of plans for this trip, the main focus was to be there and support my family during this difficult time.
On Saturday 9th of June, around lunch time I was having lunch in Ayutthaya when I got a text from my old highschool friend asking if i wanted to go for a run tomorrow morning. I quickly replied “yes” then he asked me to meet him at 5:00AM at our highschool. I thought, 5AM is a bit early for a run but maybe this is when the local Thai people go out for a run. Only after a few more text messages were exchanged did I find out that tomorrow’s run was a race. A charity run that my highschool organised to raise funds for retired teachers. I sort of kept up with my usual runs during my time in Bangkok but nothing serious since my last 21Km race a month ago which followed by a week of being sick with a cold. I went to bed that night thinking i’ll turn up and run my best, maybe I can get top 5.
10th of June, race morning. Lissy, and I got up early and quickly jumped in the car as dad kindly offered to drive us there. Bangkok traffic is known to be bad so we left as early as we could. As I jumped out of the car I was surrounded by sea of people dressed in pink and blue, the school colours. I turned up in a grey singlet, black shorts and black shoes, the perfect dark horse for this event. If I had known about the dress code, I would have dug out an old school sports uniform. I can easily say that I am surround by over
4000 people dressed in Pink and Blue, a football field off of them.
About 20 minutes before race start I met up with my old friend “Leung” (means Yellow in English) who knew the organisers and had a spare race bib for me. We had a quick catch up before I had to run off to do my pre race warm up. Usually for a 10km I would do about 3Km warm up but given its 5:15AM in Bangkok with temperature of about 30 degrees celsius plus 90% humidity, I was in full sweat after 400m. Well that was a very short warm up for me. I pushed my way from the back to the front of the start line and waited for the count down to begin.
Photo above is of me before race start, after 400m warm up I was in full sweat.
Before race start I was sort of kindly asked to move aside slightly to make way for a guy with tattoos on his arms and hair in a man-bun to allow exclusive access path so he could come up to my left. Straight away the photographers were trigger happy, flashes going off next to me as if I was back in the early 2000s techno club. I knew then that this guy must be a pro or someone famous.
5:30AM race start, right on time. I didn't get a very good start as I was on the very left and was pushed out of the way by a stampede of pink and blue fellow ex and current students of Suankularb school. I quickly latched on the the lead group as we made our way to cross the Chao Phraya River. A glance at my watch, 3:30 min/km displayed. I didn’t like what the watch was telling but I thought let’s see how long I can hold this pace. As we started to climb up the first bridge a guy in pink and blue in tight lycra shorts started to sprint up the bridge, I kicked in pursuit without hesitation and stayed about an inch behind him all the way across the bridge. At this point I thought if I can hold this guy I should be in second or third place.
To have only been told about this race the day before and not knowing the run route, I didn’t have confidence to take the lead but after a while I realised that we had a policeman on a motorbike leading us making sure that traffic didn’t get in our way, plus another guy on a bicycle on my right, looking out for any cars that can pull out from any side street. From this evidence, I trusted that the event was well organised so I pulled away from the lead guy to get close to the lead motorcycle and from about 3.5Km I was in the lead.
The man on the bicycle to my right constantly reported back to the start/finish line through the race radio, later on he started to have a conversation with me. He is also an ex graduate from the school, I think he told me he was from class 116, I am from 122 so he is at least 6 years older than me. He kindly tells me when my pace drops and blocks cars from turning into me. The kilometer markers were held by volunteers, every one kilometer I get a cheer from the volunteer who held the markers and from a few police officers along the road and major intersections. I was really enjoying the cheers and smiles along the roadside, it is unlike any race I have done in Australia. Around about Km 7 a local bus had to pull into a stop to let passengers out. I was slightly blocked in as the road only closed for the most left lane, the two other lanes to my right were flowing with traffic. No other choice but to just back the pace off and let the bus pull out of the stop and move out of the left lane. As that bus pulled out of the stop it let out some thick black smoke. I run on pure oxygen, not a cloud of diesel that the bus left me. It is bad enough to run in the heat and high humidity, with the added bus exhaust, my pace slowed to about 4:15 min/km and it took a bit of time to clear my lungs from toxic bus fumes. I asked the man on the bicycle for the whereabouts of the second runner, he kindly replied “you are well in the lead, don’t worry about it”
After Km 8, I stretched my legs a bit more to try and make up some time only to be greeted by another bridge, Memorial Bridge or “Sa Pan Puut” if you go to my school. We all know that this is the last bridge before the end. I ran through rows of photographers alongside the bridge and sprinted through the finish line before being stopped by organisers, I thought I had to do a lap of the school before we finished, just goes to show how much I don’t know the route, the race was a bit short of 10Km, this is why I just kept running though only to be brought back to be presented with a finishing medal and a card that says “1st male runner”.
I was overly happy and pleased to finish the run in the climate conditions that I am not used to in about 36:xx minutes and to be greeted with so many happy people which later became more happy to know that I am not an known after all but an ex student of the school. I quickly changed my top from the grey one to a new one with Pink and Blue. They were happy to have a winner being from the school. To someone outside of this school they may not understand the bond and the connection amongst students of this selective boy's school (to me this is the No.1 school) in Thailand which was founded by King Rama V. It is like a brotherhood for life, there is a saying, “Pink and Blue is the colour of our blood”. So many people came up to me to genuinely coagulate me.
I was presented with one of the biggest trophies that I have even won, it had to be taken apart in three pieces so that it could be brought back to Australia.
I must have lost about 4 liters of water after the run (all the drinks in my hands were consumed + many more)
My mum turned up after she found out that I won.