In the northeastern part of Thailand resides the city of Khon Kaen, home of the Khon Kaen International Marathon. The warm weather and humidity immediately makes you think that it is a questionable location to host a marathon of this magnitude, but hosts Khon Kaen Alumni Association and Khon Kaen Province organizes this international event as well as any other olympic event in the world. Transportation is always an issue when trying to bring more than 40,000 runners to the starting line, but the hosts were prepared and were able to get the runners and us –the spectators– to and from various locations without any problems.
This year’s marathon kicks off Sunday, January 26th.
The marathon is open to everyone from professionals to runners, all able to participate either in the full marathon, half marathon, mini marathon or fun run.
In previous years, the pros were up early, over 2,000 flooding the streets before the sun came up in their bright neon colored shorts while they warmed up and stretched in preparation of the 26 miles ahead. Along side them were hundreds of photographers, musicians playing local tunes, sponsor tents and dozens of cyclists getting ready to keep track of the marathon leaders.
Although many get up at 4:30am, the streets are usually already buzzing with activity, making us feel like it was 11pm on Loi Krathong(link to other post). Standing by the Golden Jubilee Convention Hall of the University, where the race was to begin and finish, the runners counted down and took off. Roughly two hours later, the fastest runners are seen turning onto the main road to sprint towards the finish line.
When I participated in the race previously, I remember noticing something odd. Groups of children runners were turning onto the main road, but were not wearing any shoes! At first I thought they were too poor to afford shoes, but then I heard that they chose to run barefoot since they trained that way in order to get a better feel for the course… an amazing feat of endurance that I can never see myself doing.
Overall, the marathon held every year is a fresh reminder of Thailand’s active spirit that never ceases to amaze. The event, combined with a treat of local history and culture, showcased the regional beauty and sense of community as people gathered together from all over Thailand to cheer on their runners. The hospitality and people has always been extraordinary, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Krabi are some of the main tourist destinations, but places like Khon Kaen and it’s annual marathon keep me on the search for more hidden gems in Thailand.
To get a better sense of this amazing marathon, check out this video of the Khon Kaen International Marathon from a few years ago.