When I first ran a half-marathon back in the 2017 Great North Run, I couldn’t sleep on the evening because of the euphoria shooting through my body. The atmosphere is well-known for being electric, welcoming and addictive for those who are lucky enough to experience it and if I still lived in the northeast of England, I’m pretty sure I’d talk myself into running it every year.
2 years later, I limped past the finish line at The Marathon Des Sables for my 6th marathon in 6 days in the sweltering Sahara Desert with my extreme adventures partner-in-crime Johnny Ward. As exhilarating as that achievement was, I repeated a lot of naughty words not so long after, vowing to never again run more than a jolly 5k jog on a lazy Sunday afternoon!
Yet here I am, aiming to run an obscene amount of distance again.
But this time it’s for a cause much more important than my ego.
After a scary incident in Argentina last year I was forced to slow down my pace of life, which resulted in me taking stock of what is really important. The timeline of this enforced lifestyle change correlated pretty much bang on with the current dystopian nightmare that is the Covid-19 pandemic, with me being incredibly fortunate enough to be in Thailand when the world decided to go on full lockdown.
I never lose sight of my blessings and try to practice gratitude as part of my morning ritual, but this situation really did hammer it home even more. Like most people, my personal circumstances of course took a nose-dive due to the domino effect of Coronavirus, but it would be wildly inappropriate to compare it to what some folk are going through at the moment and instead of feeling hopelessly guilty about it, I am going to take direct action by running a 109 miles (188kms) ultramarathon with two friends for the Klong Toey Slum in Bangkok, partnering with the Thailand-based non-profit ‘BKK fights Covid.’
Relatively speaking, Thailand is fairing well compared to the rest of the world, but it’s not currently in a position to be handing out furlough schemes and welfare as liberally as some nations are, resulting in an even greater disparity, so there lot of impoverished families who are struggling to feed themselves during these uncertain times. The team at ‘BKK fights Covid’ have been working hard since the pandemic to distribute free meals to families and we have set up a Just Giving Page to hopefully raise £2000, to fund over 6000 meals (click here, every little helps.)
Who is Running?
It’s no surprises that the first name I’m going to mention is Johnny’s. Hell, if he wasn’t engaged to be married next year I think most people would assume that this is a couple travel blog. After watching a documentary together of Youtube hybrid athlete Nick Bare running 100 miles, we started talking about whether it was possible for us to do the same.
At the time I was admittedly enjoying the lazier life and focusing more on strength-based exercise. But after a couple of phone calls weeks later where Johnny and I discussing possible logistics, we decided it would be really cool to run one Thai icon to another; Doi Suthep temple of Chiang Mai to Wat Rong Khun (AKA “The White Temple”), which goes over the 100 miles mark by a cheeky extra 9 miles.
Joining me and Johnny is our friend Gareth Maunder who has done amazingly well to shift a lot of pounds in recent months to become the lean, mean, running machine that he is today.
Will Donations Count Towards Running Kit and Travel Expenses?
No, we are covering the expenses of the kit and logistics ourselves. 100% of the donations goes to feed the families in Klong Toey. Every $10 will pay for 30 meals.
Constant Running for 100+ Miles?!
Much like the Marathon Des Sables, this will involve segmented running, some trotting, limping and we will stop for food and drink breaks tactically as Thailand is hot and ruthlessly humid. During training you wouldn’t believe the amount of liquid I put back after a 15K run out here!
We have booked a halfway guest house where we will have an hour for admin and about 3 hours to get our heads down for some rest before going at it again.
From Where to Where?
For those not in the know, Doi Suthep is the most famous temple of my new home, Chiang Mai. Legend has it that the King of Thailand at the time put a relic of Buddha’s on a white elephant, which was then released from the jungle. The king and a gang of monks followed the elephant for miles and miles, who stopped at modern day Doi Suthep, trumpeted 3 times before dropping down dead. The king immediately ordered a holy site to be made at this point and so the temple was made.
Wat Rong Khun, known as “The White Temple” is a heavily refurbished old religious site in Chiang Rai, which is now a privately owned art exhibit in the style of a Buddhist temple. It’s not an official ultramarathon with any governing bodies or any fancy bells and whistles. Just a trio of plebs trying their best to get it done and hopefully raise some money for a good cause while we’re at it.
The consistent theme with these challenges has been “last minute” and this one continues the pattern. We’ve been training pretty hard for the last 4 weeks in terms of running and I’ve learnt two important lessons from past long-distance challenges:
1.) Cardio is not enough.
2.) Adequate rest is part of the workout.
To deal with the first issue I am incorporating calisthenics workouts to keep my core and lower back strong on top of active rest mobility workouts on days that I am not running. I’m trying to rest more when not active by getting to bed earlier, having more massages and listening to my body more.
There’s one thing being uncomfortable to push yourself for the road ahead, but I think I’m getting better at knowing warning signals. For example I felt an old shin splints issue reoccurring last week so I removed one running day for that week and added a mobility session in instead.
So for now it’s about training hard, resting well and staying focused for the big day on November (Friday) the 13th (good job I’m not superstitious). I hope you’re managing to stay sane wherever in the world you are right now during these uncertain times and thanks in advance to anyone kind enough to donate to our Just Giving Page.