May 18, 2017
Marathon tourism is booming, with early retirement, pay-offs and lay-offs helping propel the second wave of fun-running into a major industry. In a move spearheaded by sports and music group supremo Boonperm Intanapasat, the Thailand tourist business is about to join the action, and offer a series of exotic locations, beginning with the inaugural Bangkok Midnight Marathon this Saturday, May 20.
Intanapasat, known universally, like most Thais, by a nickname, in his case Pom became a media favourite in Bangkok over the last half dozen years by organising celebrity football matches featuring probably the four most famous clubs in the world, the ‘Clasico’ rivals, Barcelona and Real Madrid, and the north-west England giants Manchester Utd and Liverpool. When Liverpool was in Bangkok in 2015, Pom managed to combine his own recent passion for running by organising a 5k race; and calling it the Kop Run, named after the most famous section of the Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium.
With close to a dozen marathons to his credit, the idea of organising a local marathon began to germinate, and the culmination of that arrives Saturday night at 23.59, with the Bangkok Midnight Marathon. Beginning and ending on the spectacular Rama VIII Bridge with a course taking in other of Bangkok’s most celebrated landmarks means the runners get their own tour on foot. But Pom freely admits that the midnight start also has a lot to do with Bangkok’s daytime traffic and the heat and humidity of the Thai capital in late May.
“The police have been really helpful in agreeing to close the streets,’ says Pom, ‘and at that time of night, it’s going to be around 27C (80F). With temperatures like that, we know that we’re never going to be a London or a Boston, but we think we have a lot else to offer. Which is why this is only the beginning. We intend to organise a series of races around the tourist destinations throughout the year”.
A large group of athletes arrived early to acclimatise, but one of the favourites for the men’s race, Igor Olefirenko of Ukraine isn’t sure how he’ll cope. “I’ve raced in heat but never this high humidity, so we’ll just have to wait and see”. Thirtieth at the Rio Olympics the Ukrainian has a best of 2.12.04, while just a half minute back on paper is Silas Muturi of Kenya. Former Olympic silver medallist Elana Meyer has sent one of her protégés, Bonginkosi Zwane of South Africa, alongside US based Cape Verde Olympian, Ruben Sanca. On his first trip outside Ethiopia, Gosa Meskelu is expected to feature, along with compatriot Danny Abera, younger brother of Sydney Olympic champion, Gezahegne.
Esther Macharia of Kenya, a former winner of the Dublin Marathon, is the standout in the women’s race with her 2.30.50 from Bregenz, Austria. But she can expect a challenge from Sayo Nomura of Japan, and Ethiopian newcomer Gadise Gemechu. Sheri Piers and Nicole Camp, both US Olympic trialists make up the leading contenders.
There will be a ‘half’, a 10k and a 5k along with the marathon; and once the Bangkok event is over, attention will turn to the Thai holiday resort of Phuket where Pom’s MOVE group will organise a three-day festival of running, December 8-10, to be known as the Phuketthon.
NB: Bangkok is currently seven hours ahead of GMT. Thus, midnight is Saturday, May 20, 18.00 in UK; and 13.00 ET in USA.