October is coming up real soon, and the next thing you know, it’ll be 2020 already! You would need time to plan for a race, and train for it. Well, if you are gainfully employed, chances are that you would have annual leave days that can be typically carried over to the first quarter or half of the next calendar year. And this may just work to your advantage if you are still undecided on clearing them before the year ends.
Flights and accommodation are in peak season when school holiday starts in mid-November, and gets into super peak season – and also prices skyrocket – nearing Christmas until year-end. Then we cross into the new year, schools restart and prices return to sensible levels all over again.
While races in Singapore tend to bunch up in the second half of the year, thankfully both road and trail running races in Thailand are well spread out throughout the year. Especially for trail runs that serve as qualifying races with International Trail Running Association (ITRA) points, it is prudent risk management that you take part in races early on in the year, and if for some reasons, you Do Not Finish (DNF), then you would still have a shot at taking part in another race later on to meet your ITRA points requirements.
Below is a list of Thailand running events in the first half of 2020, with key ones in the first quarter having firm dates already. April is the Songkran season – or Thai new year and a long break – that is also typically the hottest month and thus no races.
When/Where: 19 Jan 2020. Ratchaburi
Road: 42 / 21 / 10 km
Chombueng marathon is well known among locals to be the “go to” event for their first full distance marathon. With slightly more than 10,000 runners in each edition, about half would be allocated for the the full distance category. This translates to a generous cut-off time, lots of water stations and many volunteers that will cheer participants on. While no records will likely be broken in this event, there is indeed satisfaction in seeing huge numbers of runners who complete a full marathon for their first time.
Chombueng marathon started way back in 1985 by a group of local health enthusiasts, and has strengthened its position as a grassroots event in the upcoming 35th edition. I took part in the 2016 edition. Chombueng is 130km from Bangkok, and is about a 2-hour drive towards the west. Registration for next year’s edition is already open. You’ll find lots of communication and instructions in Thai language, but that is part of the fun, indeed.
Khon kaen International Marathon
When/Where: 26 Jan 2020. Khon Kaen
Road: 42 / 21 / 11.55 km. AIMS and IAAF certified courses.
Meanwhile, the marathon event in Khon Kaen has almost a completely different feel to Chombueng marathon. The Khon Kaen International Marathon started in 2004, but quickly gained fame because its full marathon distance is certified by Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS), while its half marathon and 11.55km distance categories are also certified by International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF). These course certifications mean that results from this run can be used as proof for you to be eligible to take part in future bigger marathon events globally.
Khon Kaen is located in north eastern Thailand and is a cool in January. In addition to the beautiful countryside, this region is also famous for its food cuisine.
When/Where: 26 Jan 2020. Bangsaen
Road: 10 km. IAAF certified course.
This is indeed a rather short distance course. However, it will be organised by the same folks behind the Bangsaen42 and Bangsaen21, IAAF Silver and Bronze label races respectively. You can expect bells and whistles in this race. While it is only in its inaugural edition, there is a lot of chatter and anticipation within the local community. Expect the race to sold out within hours of registration opening!
Bangsaen is about an hour’s drive from Suvarnabhumi airport. Perhaps a short race has its benefits; you can continue southeast towards Pattaya or head towards Bangkok for shopping and food after this race.
The North Face 100 Thailand
When/Where: 1 Feb 2020. Nakhon Ratchasima, Khao Yai
Trail: 100 / 50 / 25 / 15 km. ITRA points on offer.
There are trail races in Thailand, and there is this TNF100. It’s probably the granddaddy of trail races that started the trail running trend in the country way back in 2012. For the 2020 edition, registration sold out within a few days for about 3,000 slots on offer.
I was fortunate to have this race three times a few years ago. This would be a benchmark race. Khao Yai is about 200km north of Bangkok, and the organisers have efficiently worked out the shuttle service logistics from both Don Muang and Suvarnabhumi airports to the race site, including accommodation. If you are itching to participate in your first overseas trail race, then this race would be my recommendation. You would have to wait for the 2021 edition though.
Amazing Thailand Marathon
When/Where: 2 Feb 2020. Bangkok
Road: 42 / 21 / 10 / 5km
The Amazing Thailand Marathon is only in its third edition, but has overtaken more established runs in this capital city with more than 20,000 runners participation. Registration opens on 24 October. The race starts in the wee hours on Sunday. So, it’s a race that you can fly into Bangkok as late as Saturday morning, collect your race kits, rest, then run. And have shopping, food and massage before heading back to Singapore on Sunday night.
When/Where: 8-9 Feb 2020. Buriram
Road: 42 / 21 / 10 / 4.5km. AIMS and IAAF certified course.
Running aside, if you are also a motorsports fan and follow the MotoGP and World Superbike Championships, Japanese Super GT and World Touring Car Championship, then the Buriram Marathon is perhaps something you should seriously consider. This marathon starts and finishes inside the Chang International Circuit before covering the city of Buriram. The various distance courses are fixed, so that allow runners to compare their current timings against previous ones. And also, the organisers gives away prizes to course record breakers, generously for the various age groupers..
Buriram province is in central Thailand, and is about 380km from Bangkok. You can choose to drive, fly, or take the bus or train. My local friends there would usually drive and do food stopovers en route; the journey takes about 4 to 5 hours.
UltraTrail Koh Chang
When/Where: 15-16 Feb 2020. Koh Chang, Trat
Trail: 100 / 70 / 34 / 14km
UTKC is now in its fifth edition, and is getting bigger than ever. 2000 participants from 32 countries are expected to descend on Koh Chang in Trat province. “Koh” means island. And this means there is a bit of travelling to do. Koh Chang is the third biggest island after Phuket and Koh Samui. And Trat is situated in easternmost Thailand, bordering with Cambodia.
There are no direct flights from Singapore to Koh Chang. You would need to fly into Bangkok, and then fly a domestic flight into Koh Chang; or you can choose to do a 5-hour drive, and then board the connecting ferry.
When/Where: TBC Mar 2020. Khao Kheow Zoo, Chonburi
Road: 10 / 7 / 4km
We may be familiar with zoo runs, but what about an open zoo run? Kid you not. Khao Kheow zoo is the biggest open zoo in Asia and is ranked Asia’s best open zoo by TripAdvisor. Khao Kheow is in Chonburi province, is about 1.5 hours from Bangkok and 30 minutes away from Bangkok.
The next run will be for Season 5, with the event date to be confirmed soon. Get ready as slots will be snapped up within minutes!
Laguna Phuket Marathon
When/Where: 13-14 Jun 2020. Phuket
Road: 42 / 21 / 10 / 5 / 2km
Laguna Phuket Marathon is well known among the running community in Singapore for three main reasons: Phuket is easily accessible and affordable, the marathon is always in June so it coincides with the school holidays and thus is family friendly, and the hilly course and sweltering heat seem to be loved by runners who are into “sufferfest”.
If you are looking for a near runcation in next June’s school holidays, then this is an easy decision to make.
Prachuap Khiri Run
When/Where: TBC. Prachuap Khiri
Road: 21 / 10 / 5 km
You may shake your head at the mention of Prachuap Khiri Khan province, but would like nod if you hear about Hua Hin city. Prachuap Khiri is in western Thailand, is about 240km away from Bangkok, easily accessible by road.
The date for the next run Season 4 will be announced soon. The 21km route includes a 17km run by the coast! The area is known for pineapples, so no guesses what kind of theme this run is about. This run is ranked as second best half marathon race in Thailand, and 3,500 slots were snapped up in 10 minutes!
There are many more interesting events in the first half of 2020 in Thailand but organisers are still firming up their dates. One example would be the Bangkok Airways run series consisting of six half marathon distance events around the country.
Fail to plan, and plan to fail. As cliche as it may sound, it certainly holds true if you intend to run in Thailand next year. Time is still on your side to get early bird deals on flights and hotels. And don’t forget to train up too! So, what’re you waiting for?
Photo Credit: Various organisers