River Kwai Half Marathon


                                                    ( By  Lotus  )

Most people know River Kwai in Kanchanaburi, Thailand from the film The Bridge over the River Kwai which wins a number of Oscars. This is the place where the Japanese Imperial Army forced POWs to build the death railway to Burma so as to invade Burma and India.

Now more than 50 years have passed, the River Kwai is still running and the surrounding areas are still fresh and clean compared to Bangkok. For this reason, about 20 years ago, the foreign expatriates who are based in Bangkok led by BOA (now British Airway or BA) staff began to organise a half marathon run starting at River Kwai Village, a small hotel bordering on the river. The run was on the route 323 with rolling hills and nice vista. Jack F. Angel, 50, an American, was the first winner. Since then, the tradition was born. By 1987-89, the original organisers were dispersed and BA was no longer interested in being a sponsor, a local organiser, World Actions, decided to take over with a local brewery, Singha Beer, is the new sponsor.

Since 1991, the annual half marathon has been certified by Association of International Marathons and Road Races (AIMS) and the River Kwai International Half Marathon is the oldest international road race in Thailand and this 2000 year is the 19th edition.

The cost of registration is 400 baht ($10). For this you get a T-shirt, nice finishing medal, and a buffet after the race. This year it was held on Sunday September 17.

I went to bed around 10 p.m., got up at 1.30 am. and journeyed from home at 2 am. Arrived at the starting site around 5.10 am. The race started at 6 am. for female runners while male runners and 3-person relay team started 10 minutes later. Water was served about every 2 km while Gatorade and water melon were served at 8 km and 14 km stations. I started conservatively with easy run and immediately I had to climb up the hills for the first 5 kms, then it was up and down all the way until the half way point. By 7 km, I saw the first front male runner ran back already and further behind about 100 metres, the first front female runner galloping past. This means the elite male runner overtook the best female runner by km 13.

For me, a mid-pack runner, I could only finish the half way point in a time of 1.10 hours. By km 15, I finally could overtake the first female runner and at this distance, a lot of runners began to tire and some just walked up the hill. However, I powered on as I felt fine. In fact, I was so full of energy that the way back I started to pass over 100 runners from km 15 till the end while nobody never passed me. I came in with a time of 2.15 hours. That means I ran a negative split of about 5 minutes! This seemed to be incredible as I had never run a negative split before after more than a dozen races. I reckon that I started conservatively and that the first half was more uphill while the way back was mostly downhills.

Since it was held early in the morning, I and other runners could enjoy a sea of mist on volleys and mountains beyond and nearby, a sight to behold. No wonder that so many runners have told me that this is the race that you should at least attend once in your life.

The organiser was superb as well. After passing the finishing chute, Gatorade was immediately handed out to you with finishing medal. And during the buffet, which you take out yourself, there is live music on stage with female singer. Tea and coffee is served by staff as well. Never imagine $10 can give runners this much. There is also several drawing prizes, but I did not stay long for I had to come back and work on Sunday night.