For my first race of the year, I decided to kick it off with a slightly bigger bang than the usual road race and flew to Bangkok for the North Face 100 Thailand edition. Having heard from friends that the TNF Thailand was a fairly easy race, I decided to go for this. Of course, I wasn't up to the task of doing the 100km or even 50km and went for a safe 25km. But then the race site was moved to the more hilly PakChong district and my heart dropped a bit.
This being my first oversea trail race and with a dismal record in the Singapore edition, I wasn't very optimistic on how I was going to fare. Will I withered in the heat of the Thailand sun? Will I get another sprain? Excuses excuses. Haha. But I was really not going for any PB or any glorious finish. What I wanted to do is to enjoy and savour the run.
So armed with my trusty hydration bag filled to to the brim with water, gel, first aid, phone and a camera, the sidekick and I found ourselves at the start line at 6 am on a cool dark morning. We then discovered that we were to put it mildly, very "overdressed". The Thai runners came without any extra - no hydration bag, no fuel belt and not even any hand carried bottles. It seems like only the foreigners were prepared to the nice while the locals apparently don't need any of these. What did they know that we didn't?
The 25km was flagged off 5 minutes later than the schedule 6 am to as the MC announced "for safety so that it will be brighter". Still we found ourselves running in the dark for at least the first half hour before it was bright enough for us to see clearly. And what a sight! We ran into the rising sun! It is moment like this that makes running so memorable!
The trails were wide ranging from 1.5m to more than 2m wide and with not that many participants, it was fairly easy to run without any "human jam". The ground for the most part were soft trail with small loose rocks and laterites. While it may be difficult for grip, it didn't really pose any problems for those with a good pair of trail shoes. However, what we had to be mindful of was "minefields", not the type that can main or kill but something worse; cow dungs. And they were everywhere since there were plenty of farms around the areas.
For the most part, we were running right in the open and we were thankful that the sun did not come out at all. During the 3 hours we were out there, it was cloudy throughout and the temperature was around 20 to 23 degrees. With our slow pace and the great weather, it was photo shooting time as I snapped photo after photo of the every changing landscape.
The route wind through the base of the hills and the highest we climbed was all the way up to 550metres according to my GPS. Then it was a series of up and down but nothing that was really tough or not "runnable". In fact, I think at least for the 25km distance, it is easier than the Singapore edition.
This is the course elevation
This being the outskirts, there were relatively few villagers unlike in say Cambodia but nevertheless, what little support from the villagers and the kids were a sight for sore eyes.
We finally finished our sight seeing race in slightly over 3 hours. I dare say if not for the many stops to enjoy the view and take photos, we probably will have finished in under 3 hours. In any case, this was a PB since my last race of the same distance in Singapore was a miserable 3.30+ hours.
While some may not agree, I think after completing this, that the Singapore edition is tougher. Firstly, the weather here is fantastic and I understand it is like this most time. Secondly, the trails are easier to run as opposed to the narrow and rocky trails in MacRitchie or Bukit Timah. While there are more uphill here, the gradient are not so steep and long to force one to have to walk up the slopes. Unfortunately, I heard they will be moving the race site again for next year otherwise I will highly recommend this race for beginners to trail races.