Monday, June 17, 2024

Trail Running in Thailand – Wow!

Asia Lifestyle Magazine was invited to witness the First Edition of ‘Thailand by UTMB’ and we were not disappointed. 

The Sports Authority of Thailand along with the co-organisers and hundreds of passionate volunteers showed the world, Thailand is a serious player in the world of Trail Running. 

Thailand by UTMB
Trail running at Thailand by UTMB

First Edition of ‘Thailand by UTMB’ 2020 saw full support from ministers and governors attending in person, stating their full support for the event and future events to come. 

Firstly, what is trail running?

Picture this, a race that’s up to 4 times further than a marathon, yeah, 170km.. Not through a city but, across vast sections of mountain, forest, jungle and streams, day and night. Trail running combines running, hiking and endurance to extremes that a normal human being wouldn’t dream is possible. This incredible, amazing and welcoming community of runners engage this (intense) sport with outstanding determination.

Normally taking place in warm climates with a mixed hat of ascents and descents. Navigation skills are not needed as Trail Running is a combination of well thought out paths, or tracks, professionally marked out. With safety a primary concern from organisers, organisations like UTMB make sure that there are Aid Stations every 4km to 20km apart at accessible points along the course with ample food, water and medical supplies for all the runners, as they are expected to carry what they need with them.

The world has seen the number of organized trail races grow by 1,000% from 2008 to 2018, from what was once only 160 to over 1,800 races globally

The ‘Thailand by UTMB’ Trail

Five potential courses saw runners race up, down and through beautiful mountain ranges and forest in the stunning national park, home to The Royal Project, Doi Inthanon, in southern Chiang Mai. 

Pagoda Doi Inthanon
Pagoda Doi Inthanon

Runners passed beautiful chedis (sometimes known as pagodas) Hill Tribe villages, Wachirathan waterfalls and the highest peak in Thailand. 

This incredible landscape with a unique cool climate compared to the rest of Thailand, was made famous by the beloved late King. His most royal majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej transformed the region with an agricultural project to help eliminate opium cultivation in the area. Doi Inthanon hosts some of the best ferns, flowering plants, and vegetables grown in Asia. 

The hugely varied climate of the park also supports a wide range of animal species, including over 360 bird species.

The race

‘Thailand by UTMB’ was attended by Runners of all different skill levels, tasked with completing 1 of  5 possible trails through the mountains of Chiang Mai. 

  • Inthanon 6 170 km with an elevation of 8300 m+ and only 48 hours to complete.
  • Inthanon 5 120 km with an elevation of 5400 m+ and only 30 hours to complete.
  • Inthanon 4 80 km with an elevation of 4000 m+ and only 48 hours to complete.
  • Inthanon 1 24 km with an elevation of 900 m+ and only 7 hours to complete.
  • Inthanon 10 km (which is actually) 12 km with an elevation of 560 m+ and only 4 hours to complete.
Thailand by UTMB course map inthanon 6
Thailand by UTMB course map inthanon 6

The 5 routes showcased local biodiversity, forest changes and gradual climbs of elevation of 400 to 2100 meters above sea level. 

The journey allowed runners to experience the peaceful Hmong, and Pga-Gan-Yaw, Karenic tribes’ ways of life. Awe-inspiring views of terrace paddy fields and picturesque montane farms.

The start and finish line was located at Doi Inthanon National Park HeadQuarters. One of the most popular national parks in Thailand. 

Weather conditions over the weekend started with heavy rain. Even around the Marquis and Stage at HQ was bogged down with thick mud but nothing was stopping the Runners, everyone of them were unwavering to the elements. 

The winners of the male and female 170 km Inthanon 6 race were both won by Thai nationals. ‘Sanya’ the male winner managed to run through the night, achieving an incredible time of just 26 hours and 30 minutes. 

The Runners at ‘Thailand by UTMB’

This unshakable, rapidly growing community of participants were made up of Thais and Expats from all over the world. In the crowds, Runners and Supporters were so relaxed and welcoming. Unlike other competitive sporting events, the atmosphere of ‘Thailand by UTMB’ seemed more of a comradery or brotherhood than a racing event. 

Thailand by UTMB Runners
Thailand by UTMB Runners

When we asked the Runners what made them take part in such a profound style of race, the usual response was their attraction to the beautiful landscapes, running in nature, less impact stress compared to road running or simply proving to themselves that they could do it.

Runners came from all walks of life, some of whom were from inner cities, like Bangkok. Traveling hours to escape the urban way of life to run trails outside of the City. 

Safety and Mandatory Gear

To participate in ‘Thailand by UTMB’ runners are required to handle the possibility of extreme climatic conditions, wind, cold, fog, rain and darkness. Also having the ability to manage the possibility of isolation, physical or mental problems from fatigue, digestive problems, muscle pains or small wounds

Runners are expected to carry everything with them on the Trail.  Mandatory equipment packs are tagged during race-bib distribution and stewards can check the packs contents at any moment of the race to verify Runners have all the safety equipment deemed necessary.

Pack designed to transport obligatory equipment throughout the race.

Mobile phone (smartphone strongly recommended): the runner must be reachable at any time before, during and after the race:

  • Mobile phone with international roaming with fully charged battery and LiveRun application installed and activated.
  • An external battery is highly recommended
  • Personal beaker 150 ml minimum (bottles or flasks with lids are not accepted)
  • Supply of water of 1 litre minimum
  • 2 torches in good working order with spare cells/batteries for each with a recommendation of 200 lumens or more for the main torch
  • Survival blanket of 1.40m x 2m minimum
  • Whistle
  • Self-adhesive elasticated bandage which can serve as a bandage or strapping (minimum 100 cm x 6 cm)
  • Food reserve
  • Recommendation: 800kcal (2 gels + 2 energy bars each of 50-65g)
  • Jacket with hood which will withstand bad weather in the mountains and made with a waterproof* and breathable** membrane and the seams must be sealed.
  • Long-legged trousers or race leggings OR a combination of legging and socks which cover the legs completely. 
  • Cap or bandana or saharan cap or Buff
  • Additional warm second layer a warm second layer top with long sleeves (cotton excluded) of a weight of a minimum of 180g OR the combination of a warm long sleeved underwear (first or second layered cotton excluded) of a minimum weight of 110g 
  • A durable water repellent (DWR protection) windproof jacket
  • Warm gloves
  • Copy OR original passport/ID card
  • All clothing must be the correct size for the competitor and without having been modified in any way after leaving the factory.

You carry this equipment in a pack which must be tagged during race-bib distribution and is not interchangeable during the race

Other recommended equipment (list non exhaustive)

  • Hat
  • Waterproof over trousers
  • Spare warm clothing, indispensable in the case of cold or wet weather or in the case of injury.
  • Poles in the case of rain for your security on slippery ground
  • Vaseline or anti-heat cream
  • A sum of a minimum of 500 Baht (for contingencies).
  • Reusable bowl
  • GPS watch
  • Knife or scissors for cutting elasticated bandage
  • Emergency sewing kit…

Asia Lifestyle Magazine will be sharing articles and videos from the ‘Thailand by UTMB’ trip over the next month. Stay tuned for articles, pictures and videos of the event by following our social media accounts or signing up for our email newsletter for free. 

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Asa Marsh
Asa Marshhttps://www.asialifestylemagazine.com/
Serial Entrepreneur and Founder of Asia Lifestyle Magazine.Originally from the UK, Asa Marsh has been based in Asia for many years. Well known for guiding his Real Estate and Lifestyle company Easy Living Phuket to win the title of “Top 10 Real Estate Agency - Southeast Asia” in 2018.

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