Craving For New Running Experiences? Explore Top Running Events in Thailand
Weekend getaways or proper runcations, Thailand has lots to offer and more.
So, you have run - either on your own or in races - at East Coast Park, Marina Bay, MacRitchie Reservoir and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. In both day time and also the wee hours when the roads are closed for the marathon. In short, you've been there, done that!
With all due respect, there are good running events in Singapore. But we have only so much - or little - running space. And in runner talk, there is no altitude or elevation gain. After taking part in a few local events, it is highly likely that you would be running on similar routes from previous races, and you'll get bored. The question then becomes, what’s next?
Fortunately, Singaporeans are blessed to have neighbours that offer run-friendly trip options. And to borrow an analogy from George Orwell, “all neighbours are equal, but a particular neighbour is perhaps more equal than others”.
Short weekend getaway? Yes. Affordable? Yes. Convenient and accessible? Yes. Good food? Yes. Good massage? Yes. Well, often times, the run is just but a valid excuse for us to go to - where else, but - Thailand!
A biased view, perhaps. But you cannot deny that Thailand is a “must go” destination for Singaporeans. To be exact, this is the second consecutive year that the Tourism Authority of Thailand is running the "Thanks a Million" campaign that produced over one million tourist arrivals from Singapore in each year. Based on 3.47 million Singapore citizens, this means almost 1 in 3 Singaporeans visit Thailand each year!
There are many reasons to run overseas these days. The mass participation run industry is enjoying a booming period in many countries. People start by running socially, then become serious over time. In addition to road running events, trail runs offer a good alternative. Good races sell out quickly, and build more hype. Some famous races such as the Boston Marathon requires qualifying times from accredited races or International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) label events, while Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB) races require qualifying races with International Trail Running Association (ITRA) points which are aplenty in Thailand.
August is approaching, and that means five months left in the year. Typically, it would be high time to plan your vacation leave for the balance of 2019. Ideally, you may want to consider short getaways that minimise your leave days, or relatively long ones that include your friends and family.
Among Singaporeans, I think there are some races in Thailand that familiar to us. I first took part in the Bangkok Marathon back in 2008 when I was based there, and found the 2 a.m. start time a truly alien concept. Laguna Phuket Marathon is notoriously known for being a hot race, but Singaporeans keep coming back because its June timing coincides with our local holidays. Up north, Chiangmai Marathon is another favourite because it usually takes place near to Christmas, when businesses in Singapore may provide a year-end company leave for employees.
Beyond these well known races, there are now so many more options for you to consider in 2019. Here's a list of them in chronological order.
When/Where: 3 - 4 August 2019. Chiang Mai.
Trail: 150km, 105km, 80km, 60km, 44km, 20km. ITRA points on offer.
This event is only in its third year, but is gaining a cult status among locals. Billed as a “maximum points, minimum frills” race, CM6 is not for the beginner trail runner. You would need to have some experience in trail running so that you can enjoy the challenges. Race venue is conveniently located at Chiang Mai International Exhibition and Convention Center, which is less than half an hour away from Chiangmai airport and city. With six race distances on offer, you could easily gather a few friends yearning for different challenges, yet all be on the same trip.
Bangkok Midnight Marathon
When/Where: 24 - 25 August 2019. Bangkok.
Road: 42km, 21km, 10km.
Another event in third year, this marathon is fast gaining popularity over the more established Bangkok Marathon due to its IAAF-certified course and a more “convenient” midnight start time. For Singaporeans, this is literally a race that you can get away over the weekend without using any leave days if you work the usual office hours. Fly out from Singapore on a Saturday morning, collect your race pack, rest, run, massage, eat, then to the airport and fly home. Scores of flights ply the Singapore-Bangkok airports daily, so getting there and back is never a problem.
Ultra-Trail Chiang Mai (UTCM)
When/Where: 31 August to 1 September 2019. Chiang Mai.
Trail: 104km, 65km, 33km, 20km. ITRA points on offer.
UTCM is popular among locals as it is part of the 4 Trails Thailand series, and is also known among Singapore trail runners because it is part of the Asia Trail Master circuit. Trail running is quickly gaining popularity among Singaporeans, but we only have MacRitchie Reservoir and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve to run, and so I do know of our local runners always itching to run on proper trails. The UTCM race site is a good 129km from Chiangmai airport, with shuttle services on offer. I will attempt the 33km race; wish me luck!
River Kwai International Half Marathon
When/Where: 8 September 2019. Kanchanaburi.
Road: 38km, 21km, 10km
In its 38th edition, this is the oldest and most iconic road race in Thailand. The River Kwai location has lots of history and heritage from the world war days. If you need to know why you would get a 38km distance in a “half marathon” race, join and ask the organiser! Kanchanaburi is easily accessible from Bangkok. You can choose to rent a car or take a tourist coach. The journey takes about 2 hours.
Event information here.
Chiangrai Half Marathon
When/Where: 15 September 2019. Chiangrai.
Road: 21km, 10km, 5km
This run is part of the Bangkok Airways Boutique Run series taking place in 6 cities. This tourism-centric run targets casual enthusiasts with its half-marathon distance, which is not too taxing on the body and allow you to do sightseeing soon after your run. Chiangrai is Thailand’s third of the famous Golden Triangle, bordering Myanmar and Laos.
The Westwind Trail
When/Where: 5 - 6 October. Chiangmai and Pai.
Trail: 110km, 85km, 60km, 32km,12km. ITRA points on offer.
This inaugural race is currently one hot conversation within the local trail running community. It is the only race that crosses two provinces: Chiangmai and Mae Hong Son. While Chiangmai is a familiar city, Pai in northwest Mae Hong Son is good 3-hour drive from Chiangmai and is known for it beautiful landscape. Mae Hong Son is popular among car and motorcycle touring enthusiasts wanting to experience its roads with 1000 corners, but is relatively untouched among the international trail running community.
When/Where: 3 November 2019. Chonburi.
Road: 42km only. IAAF-certified course.
Bangsaen42 pioneered the single-distance race concept in Thailand and offered a high level of hospitality for runners. In only its third year now, the event sold out soon after it opened registration. Bangsaen in the province of Chonburi is a convenient hour’s drive from Bangkok. If you are flying into Suvarnabhumi airport, you may choose to go there directly, then get back to Bangkok after your run.
When/Where: 10 - 11 November 2019. Phuket.
Road: 42km, 21km, 10km, 5km. IAAF-certified course.
While the more established Laguna Phuket Marathon takes place every June in the northern part of Phuket island, Phukethon - only in its third year - offers a convenient run from Phuket Town in November. I was fortunate to have run at the inaugural race back in 2017. Please click here for my race review. Phuket is slightly more than an hour’s flight from Singapore. With so many budget airlines plying this route, you could sometimes get a return flight deal for about a hundred dollars, with taxes included.
When/Where: 15 December 2019. Chonburi.
Road: 21km. IAAF Silver Label event.
Brought to you by the same organiser as Bangsaen42, Bangsaen21 is a hugely popular single-distance 21km event among locals. It prides in being the first and only IAAF silver label event in Thailand and is constantly raising the bar. In other words, if you are looking for a truly international event in Thailand, then this one is your benchmark. As context, the Singapore Standard Chartered Marathon is an IAAF gold label event.
When/Where: 22 December 2019. Chiangmai.
Road: 42km, 21km, 10k, 3km.
Into its 11th year, this marathon is popular among year-end holidaymakers who want to squeeze in a run while on vacation. To date, runners from 35 nations have signed up. This event has a local feel and festive atmosphere.
There you go! 10 top running events in Thailand for your consideration in the coming months. There are choices galore, with a few hundred running events in Thailand every year.
In fact, for Singaporeans, there is a current promotion of free airport transfer if you arrive at the airports in Phuket, Krabi, Hatyai, Koh Samui, Bangkok, Chiangmai and Chiangrai with at least another Singaporean on the same flight.
For more information and promotions for Singaporeans heading to Thailand, you may visit Tourism Authority of Thailand’s website and Facebook page. Or if you need information on running in Thailand, you can get in touch with me via my Instagram account.
With so many exciting races coming up in Thailand, which one would you decide to go for?