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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Laguna Phuket International Marathon - 8 June 2014 - 10.5km

Soon after I'd booked myself in the 10.5km race at Laguna Phuket International Marathon, news came of the coup-not-coup-ok-it's-a-coup d'etat by the Royal Thai Armed Forces in Thailand.  Immediately on the heels of this development, Hong Kong raised its outbound travel alert for Bangkok from amber ("monitor situation; exercise caution," which I might add, should apply to all the countries we visit, amiright?) to red ("adjust travel plans; avoid unnecessary travel") to black (the alarming "avoid ALL travel" warning.)

However, more dire for inbound travellers to Thailand is not so much the stern travel advisories from their home countries.  No, ma'am.  The part that impacted them the most was the Thai military's attempt to curb unrest by imposing a nightly midnight to four a.m. curfew in Thailand (and this was already shortened from the original 10 p.m to 5 a.m. restriction.)  This curfew was lifted, to the relief of many tourists, merry makers and marathoners, on 3 June, 2014 for only the resorts of Phuket, Koh Samui and Pattaya.  Five days before the start time of my marathon.  And from the exuberant posts that were left on the organizer's Facebook page, the freedom to revel to the wee hours of the morning or to crawl from the warm bed to the starting line at 4 am - take your pick - couldn't have come any sooner.*

Early morning walk along Bang Tao Bay - at Dusit Thani Resort in Phuket.

Now personally, coup or no coup, I was really looking forward to this short weekend in Phuket to race at Laguna Phuket.  One reason was that I'd not been back to this island in 15 years and I really wanted to see it in its present state; back when I worked for Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts, I used to shuttle from Singapore to Phuket every six weeks or so for a couple of years.  The entire development was an ecological disaster that has since turned into a stunning environmental wonder.  Once an abandoned tin mine and declared by the United Nations Development Programme as "too environmentally damaged to have any development potential" due to the severe chemical leaching of its soil, it has been transformed into a thriving, award-winning and sought-after prime real-estate community with high-end homes and resorts on Bang Tao Bay, one of the best beaches on the island.

Walking through the open hallways of Dusit Thani resort in the early morning.  The Starting line is just across that lagoon.
So readers of this blog will know that I'm now a wee bit particular about the race routes.  (By the way, I couldn't make much sense of the map's markings at first (picture, right,) but I loved all the colourful and detailed illustrations all the same.)  I'm happy to report that the 10.5km route was relatively flat and did not have any U-turns, but that didn't mean it was particularly stimulating, scenery-wise.  More often than not, I felt like the course was designed to showcase the many residences that were for sale at Laguna Phuket, judging from the proliferation of standing banners, billboards and showrooms that dotted our course.  Towards the end, I wouldn't have been surprised if we were made to run through an actual show house and had pacers who doubled as real estate agents, ready to handle  escrow arrangements at the finish line. 

Running round one of the lagoons (a former tin mine) between the 2 to 3km mark.

Some of the real estate banners on our route.

A boon to the banner printing industry in Phuket.

Tempting to check out a three-bedroom villa for sale at the 7km mark.

Another giant billboard, this time for the lux Banyan Tree Residences, at around the 9k mark.

The last 200-metre dash round the lagoon to the Finish line.

My post-race victory saunter: six runs down for 2014; six more to go.
I like seeing what is served at the Finish lines; it always reflects the cultural palates of the destination.  Here in Phuket, it's heaps of rambutans and fried rice with chili.
So would I race this again next year? Probably not.  It was a pretty unforgettable course. And it didn't help that the one time when I succumbed and paid the organizers the princely sum of USD25 for a photo of Weng and me dashing through the finish line, all I got was a crummy blurry image in a low-res JPEG (for crying out loud) file.  Not cool.

Next race in July: Cooler temperatures at The Age Run Melbourne 2014.

(* Note: As of 16 June, 2014, the curfew was completely lifted so all is back to what passes for relative normalcy in the Land of Smiles.)

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