Aka and I at 3:30am about to leave the hotel
I love the fact that the Thai word for run is wing. Some days that’s how I feel when I run, like I have wings and could just fly through the miles, soaring over trees, the wind carrying me. Other times my wings feel broken, stressed out or just tired. But wing in general is a word that sounds positive and lifts you up and carries you through the next mile.
My bus left my Thailand hometown at 11am and slowly but surely made it’s way to the next station where I missed my connecting bus. Damn. A two hour wait for the next one that leaves at 3:30pm and would take 5 hours to reach Pak Chong, once I reached Pak Chong I would need to find a motorbike taxi to my hotel and from my hotel I needed to find a ride no later that 3:45am, yes am, to Khoa Yai National Park where I had to pick up my bib, chip, race shirt and rules, store my stuff, go through the mandatory gear check (things we MUST have: head torch, the ability to carry 1litre of water, food, cell phone, med kit, a whistle, map) kind of a long ridiculous list if you ask me and the other hundreds of racers racing the The North Face 100 50k or 100k. but we oblige. Needless to say the travel aspect and little details were stressful. Mai pen rai. I got there, made it on time and passed the checklist. Start time was 5am, an hour and a half before sunrise—I guess the headlamp was a good call.
By the time the sun came up I told myself it was a new run, I had fresh legs and those first 12km or so didn’t exists. We could finally see the ground, I could dodge the rutted mud and gravel more easily, I could no longer blame kicking the rocks on lack of light and only had my own clumsiness to blame, my right ring toenail is nice and purple due to this fact, I suspect it will fall off sometime later this month.
The race was a wide variety of mostly farang from all over the world. I chatted with an Austrian, a guy from New Zealand, some Aussies, a few Britts, a guy from Switzerland, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, I battled mile after mile with a man I referred to in my head as the Red Frenchie.
The Red Frenchie was a good-looking French guy that for some reason decided to wear the race shirt (which is red) for the race (totally dorky if you ask me) and red shorts. We battled mile after mile for the lead (not the lead but the lead between the two of us). He would run ahead, then walk and I would run ahead and then walk—it was like this for most of the race. It was a nice motivation to keep moving at every moment. I don’t know if he even noticed me, most of the time he was focused on his I-pod, heart rate monitor and a cadence beeper—I’m not sure he even knew he was in Thailand in one of the most beautiful parts of the country, he was so distracted.
I beat the Red Frenchie, FYI.
Before long we were at another aide station and the woman there was telling me we only had 15-16km to go. NO WAY, I feel awesome. Is what popped out of my mouth. At the same time a tractor started blowing a whistle at me to get out of the way. Dodging a tractor at an aide station, nothing I’ve had to deal with before—mai pen rai. I hit the trail feeling good, started feeling awesome as I approached the 40km mark.
Many people had been complaining of the hills. In reality this trail run is not what any one from Oregon would consider trails, hilly or really all that scenic. Most of the course was quite flat, dirt roads that have left my ankles tired and swollen. We got to look at the mountains but as far as climbing them, the most vertical we got was climbing a hill up to a Buddhist Wat.
After feeling amazing at the 40km mark two Britts and myself decided we could bust out some 10-minute miles and finish in 6 hours. Totally do able, right? I was convinced it was possible. I told myself I had fresh legs again, I led the three of us and quickly dropped the two lads for my own pace. A mile of pavement down hill quickly led to hip discomfort, and eventually when it flattened out led to walking. I was tired. I needed energy and motivation.
I would walk and then run and pass the Red Frenchie, and then walk and he would pass me. I truly felt we must be getting close. Looking ahead I soon noticed a group of children in orange t-shirts standing in front of a school. As soon as they saw me they began to cheer, jumping up and down, excited to see a sweaty, tired farang sluffing her way toward them.
All the children reached out for a high fives! I took a moment to bust out my camera (the teacher in me needed these photos,) as soon as they saw the camera 5 more kids ran out from behind their Thai teacher and struck a pose with me, cheering the whole time. THAT is what I needed to get me through the rest of the run, these kids pumped me up, made me smile and reminded me where I was and what I was doing. Not only running a 50k in Thailand, but I’m in Thailand. Here. Now. This is where I am.
Wing, wing, wing.
Community. Motivation. Sweat. Mountains. Inspiration. These things have left me with a perma-grin on my face. Since being in Thailand I have lacked community and inspiration and the ability to be. This race, being surrounded by an international community lifted me so high that more than 48 hours later I am still flying. I met people from all over the world that I hope to stay in touch with. This weekend has left me with a feeling of bliss that I hope I can maintain, that I hope I can continue to feel and pass on.
[wordpress is being incredibly slow and not uploading the photos fast enough for my satisfaction, so either be friends with me on facebook or be patient and I’ll load some more soon, I promise!]
- These kids are so stoked!!
- Aka, me, Jeff. We look pretty bad ass, not gunna lie