MAE HONG SON – Race review by 3rd overall finisher Randy Travis of the Thailand Ultra-Marathon 100 km 2014,
Thailand Ultramarathon 100 km was a unique event, and that’s saying something, considering the slew of unique races that Thailand has to offer. Organized privately, without sponsors, the Thailand Ultramarathon was made to showcase the beautiful region of Mae Hong Son, leading runners run through indigenous hill tribe villages. And showcase it did.
The area is full of caves, rives, sweeping landscapes, and lesser-known archeological sites that date back 30,000 years. In other words, the trail we ran on has been used for 30,000 years. That’s pretty mind-blowing, if I do say so myself.
The race started and finished at Cave Lodge, an adventure resort and base camp for exploring the region. The route was tough. Brutal, actually, starting with a huge climb to the first checkpoint in a village at 6 km. The organizers did a great job of getting everyone in the villages involved, so once you arrived at the checkpoint a crowd was there cheering you on.
The course to the second checkpoint weaved through knee-deep river crossings. There was no way to get around them. You just had to move forward with confidence, hoping you wouldn’t get stuck. Just before the checkpoint was a huge descent, followed by an even bigger ascent that climbed to a village on the top of a mountain. Many runners were left with unforgettable memories of this one point high above the clouds.
As we neared the village again, the locals came out in droves. It was a treat seeing villagers so happy, and that’s what made this race really stand out from the rest.
Between the second and third checkpoints, about 25 km into it, we labored up over 2,000 meters of elevation gain. Thankfully, it leveled off a bit on the ridge of the tree-lined mountain. This, too, was an incredible view.
Hurting now, runners arrived at a beautiful viewpoint overlooking a village nestled in a valley of India green rice fields. That village was the third checkpoint.
On the way back to the Cave Lodge for the fourth checkpoint, we were bombarded with the loudest cheering, clapping, and banging on pots I’ve heard at any race in Thailand. School kids played specially made instruments, adding to the beautiful chaos.
After refueling at the buffet table, we soldiered on for two grueling 12-kilometer laps to finish the race. This lap was tough, taking even the top runners two hours to finish. By now, runners no longer cared about avoiding the water in the river, instead jumping in—practically diving—to cool off.
The race ended up being 79 kilometers, with 4,400 meters of elevation gained. Over half of the 44 runners dropped out. It seemed every runner had a great experience. Some racers with more than a few Thai races under their belt said it was the most fun they’ve ever had in a race.
With total support from the villages, including the hospital staff, the police force, and government, the locals all did their part to ensure a safe and successful race. They did a great job, and—speaking on behalf of every runner at the Thailand Ultramarathon 100 — I’ll never forget it.
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