October 12 2014 is the date set for the Luang Prabang Half Marathon. Only in its second year, already this race has raised the bar for destination races in terms of helping the community.
Unlike other races where only a small percentage of the race fees goes to charity, if any at all, this race donates 100% of the runners contributions. Each year, 1 organisation is selected to ensure maximum impact.
The brain wave of Michael Gilmore, a Singapore-based investment banker, the first race was a big success. Michael, with the help of friends, Luang Prabang residents, hotels and businesses, managed to attract 400 runners, 250 from 26 different countries, and raise US$125,000 from individual sponsorship websites, direct donations and a fund raising dinner.
This single sum allowed the designated organisation, Friends International, to achieve their goal of setting up an outreach program for street children in Luang Prabang and a social enterprise training restaurant in the tourist centre of the town.
Experience “La Procession” for Yourself
Contribution to the local economy by the 2013 half marathon was in the vicinity of US$250,000 with runners staying an average of 3 nights, and bringing family members with them to sightsee after the race.
Michael enthuses that the greatest thing about the run is its “community feel”. Called, “La Procession” after the alms giving ceremony Luang Prabang is famous for, the race aptly starts early morning, as soon as the monks have completed the alms giving. At that time the town is already alive. Many residents, having never seen such an event, just ran alongside, many came out to cheer, as was captured in the heartwarming video below.
Come to Run, But Leave Something Behind in Luang Prabang
Born on a peninsula, nestled at the junction of the Mekong and Khan Rivers, Luang Prabang is a magical place. Dozens of temples, whose monks and novices inhabit the town and surroundings, providing a peaceful and unusual ambience. This combined with the natural beauty, makes it an ideal getaway from busy modern city life.
The 2014 race will take place on 12 October, just after “Lai Huea Fai”, the magical lantern festival that marks the end of Buddhist Lent.
Expect temples, schoolchildren, cheerleaders, cake-stops and 3km of riverside running by the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. Most importantly of all, however, you get leave something truly valuable behind in Luang Prabang.
Friends Without a Border: Helping with Paediatric Care
This year Michael has handed the run over to a committee of dedicated hoteliers and local business owners. This year, the committee unanimously selected the beneficiary as Friends Without a Border, an organisation already established in Cambodia with the Angkor Hospital for Children, to receive the funds.
Friends Without a Border will help develop, build and operate the Lao Friends Hospital for Children (LFHC) in conjunction with the Luang Prabang Provincial Hospital and the Lao Health Department.
Using the successful model of “Treatment + Education + Prevention” achieved at the Angkor Hospital for Children, LFHC will be a state of the art paediatric care facility with superior staffing that will contribute to the improvement of health care in Laos.
There are 3 distance races; a 7km, 14km and 21km race.
Running will be the reason to come, but you will have time to explore this wonderful UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Race registration for the Luang Prabang Half Marathon is now open. Minimum donation for a place at the starting line for international runners is US$200.