Bare-ly: A tale of my first 10k race in Chiang Mai

When I made my short and sweet bucket list for 2012, the first item on the list was “Train for a 10k, and possibly run one too.”

I wrote it with the idea that I’d use Hal Higdon’s novice 10k program to prepare for hiking to Mt. Everest Base Camp.

That didn’t exactly happen.

I made it to Base Camp, but I wasn’t the most dedicated in my training.  Instead of running, I chose to walk up a local hill, Khao Taphet, a few times in my borrowed hiking boots.  That’s about it.

I probably could have used the extra fitness — high altitude and I didn’t get along very well — so after the trek, I banished the idea of running from my mind for a while.

Until we got a copy of Born to Run.

merrell pace gloves after 2 months of "use"

merrell pace gloves after 2 months of “use”

Though Blake was wary of anything he deemed “hippie”-related at first, we both got pretty swept up in MacDougall’s well-crafted reporting on the Tarahumara and ultra-marathoners and the havoc that running shoes might be wreaking on our bodies.

Less than a week before we came back to Thailand, we each had bought a pair of minimalist running shoes.  I got some Merrell’s and Blake ended up with some New Balances. (Though I agree with the idea of barefoot in principle, there’s no practical way to run in Thailand without something on your feet.  He drew the line at Vibram 5-toes.)

the route

the route

I promised myself that if I bought a pair of running shoes, I had to actually use them.  I started doing Merrell’s Barefoot Training program…and got through about 14 days of 40 before getting distracted by excuses (travelling, too hot, yadda yadda yadda).

Once we found out we’d be in Mae Sot, Blake signed up for the Chiang Mai half-marathon on December 23rd. Remembering my promise to myself, I figured I could probably still swing a 10k if I trained, so out to the track I went, slowly plodding around in the heat.  Hmm, definitely not as light and free as I expected to be feeling.

Two weeks later, I got two of my wisdom teeth yanked out of my mouth, which landed me back in bed for 10 days.

Up, down, up, down. Mostly my own doing.  Part of me didn’t really think I’d follow through.  More excuses: It wasn’t hard to run in the new running shoes, but it also wasn’t easy because you have to train your body to run in a different way so you don’t mess up your Achilles.  My left heel was aching.  My face hurt.  Why was I doing this again?

ready to run

ready to run


Then one day Blake reminded me to look at my bucket list, and there it was: my original plan for a 10k.

It was just sitting there, lonely, waiting, begging to be crossed off as an end-of-the-year achievement.

I sighed.  Then I looked up whether I could walk a 10k in 90 minutes, the allotted time for the race.

All signs pointed to yes, so I told myself that if I needed to walk the whole thing, then I could.  In no way would it hurt my ego to walk.  In fact, I’d be happy to do it slow.  Why not?

With another two weeks to go and  “10k walking is still 10k” in mind, I went out to the track on a Sunday morning.  “Run this mile, then walk,” I thought.  So I did.  I counted my foot strikes like a good barefooter, and then walked.  Still on track.  Then I just did it again.  And one more time.  By the time I got to an 45 minutes, I was feeling okay.  Surprised, I returned home with new hope that I could actually do it.

The next Sunday before the race, I figured that if I could run/walk 60 minutes without hurting myself, I could probably manage 90 minutes of walking and running.

It was on.

race bib

race bib


We went to Chiang Mai on Saturday and collected our race packets at Taphae Gate.  Though there was a ‘free’ dinner planned, they took too long so we bailed and found pasta to eat.

We were in bed by 8 pm, up at 3:30.  Blake’s 1/2 marathon was first so I went out to see him off at 4:30 am, then hurried back to the room to get ready for my run.

early morning start

early morning start

I luckily got back in time to see him come around the other side of the gate around 5:00 so I cheered him on.  In hopes of good karma, I waited for the stragglers to come and cheered them on, too.

The 10k runners piled into the starting area around 5:25 and we got moving around 8 minutes later.  There were lots of high school kids who took off sprinting immediately.  It felt surreal to be running at that hour with so many people, but still I was pretty much on my own.

A few monks walked by, holding their bowls for alms.  One guy pushed his friend in a wheelchair.  Some people wore costumes and ran in groups; a group of soldiers ran in time and sang.  I quietly counted my footstrikes, closely watching the seconds on my watch.

chiang mai marathon

mission complete!


By the time the sun came up, I was somehow still running.  And occasionally passing people!  Definitely didn’t expect that.

I hit 5k around 35 minutes, and then each kilometer after that started feeling longer and longer.  I tried heeding the advice to increase the number of footstrikes when I felt tired, instead of decreasing.

It must have worked, because I got to the finish line in almost double the time of my 5k – 1 hour and 11 minutes!  With no walking!  Huzzah!

I immediately saw Blake waiting for me, so I jumped up and hugged him — then started feeling like I needed to puke.  I quickly started walking away to avoid disaster, and luckily my stomach settled shortly after.

after the race with our participant medals

after the race with our participant medals

Blake knew he’d done well, bud we didn’t know just how well because we missed the medals ceremony (the only thing Thailand has ever started on time!).

When we got back to the room, though, we looked on the website and his name was sitting at number 8 in his age group, number 39 overall.  Not too shabby for a guy who’d only trained for 5 weeks.

Plus, he raised over $2000 for the organization he volunteers for.  What a stud.

First place 5000 baht

First place 5000 baht

Cute little kids who ran a 3k

Cute little kids who ran a 3k

After we felt like we could walk again, we ate breakfast and later on got our prize: McDonalds.  Embarrassing? Yes, but DELICIOUS.  No qualms there.  We earned it.


Though I haven’t done any running since, I’ve got my sights set on a new resolution this year for March – to improve my 5k time to under 30 minutes.

And then?  Maybe another 10k.  We’ll see.


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