SUN, SEA, SAND…. AND SWEAT!
It takes a lot to stop a long distance runner even before they have launched into their half or full marathon or even (much) longer. Ever since the introduction of the big-city marathons in the early 1970s, so successful has been the notion of travelling the world to run a race that marathons in such disparate locations as the South Pole, Siberia, and various deserts have been augmented by longer runs like the Great Wall event in China, the Comrades 89k race in South Africa, and even in locations where lesser mortals fear to tread, such as Pyongyang in North Korea and last month’s temples race in Myanmar; which is doubtless why the infinitely more attractive location of the Thai holiday island of Phuket has attracted 9000 people to a new event this weekend.
The Phukethon is the dreamchild of Thai entrepreneur (and runner himself), Boonperm Intanapasat, and follows on from the inaugural Bangkok Midnight Marathon which he successfully launched last May. Like the Bangkok events, the Phukethon features fun-runs, along the beach tomorrow, Saturday, with the 10k, half-marathon and marathon early Sunday morning, running into the dawn.
Intanapasat, known as ‘Pom’ says, “We might have come late to the party in terms of launching running events in Thailand, but the Phukethon as a running festival is the first of its kind in South East Asia. We have the backing of both the private and public, that’s to say, government sectors. And we’ve reached out to the different communities in Phuket and tried to get everyone involved. The goal is not only to promote health and fitness but also to promote Phuket Island and the rich Thai culture”.
Helping out is one of the stars from another South East Asia island. Soh Rui Yong of Singapore has recently successfully defended his SEA Games marathon title, the first man in history to do so. He gave a fulsome welcome to the Phukethon. “This is a testament to how quickly the sport of running is growing in SEA. Running is a very accessible sport to the masses, and with more quality events as competition platforms, we will eventually begin producing other SEA runners capable of competing at the Asian Games and Olympic Games. It’s key to our development to have SEA runners regularly competing against each other rather than just at the SEA Games. I would absolutely love to be racing with SEA best at least five times a year rather than once every two years at the SEA Games”.
Soh, 26 will be running the half-marathon, where his leading opponent is likely to be Kansuke Morihashi of Japan, who ran 64.06 in the Ageo ‘half’ two years ago. Former 2.10.08 marathoner, Takahiro Sunada is now a celebrated ultra-marathoner, holder of the world record for 100k, with 6.13.33. A native of Osaka, he’ll need all his experience of hot and humid conditions to contend with younger men, Fernando Cabada of the USA, and his own Japanese compatriots, Hiroki Kai and Masaki Shirotake.
The women’s marathon is expected to be equally closely contested, between former 2.24.57 performer, Azusa Noji of Japan, who is ten minutes slower this year, and Zhang Meixia of China, who has run 2.33.54. Nary Ly is the first Cambodian woman to run in the Olympic Games, as she did last year; but she is more of an ‘ultra’ racer, having finished second in the five-day Camino de las Leyendas in Spain earlier this year