In terms of prestige and importance to the sport and the athletes involved, it is on par with higher-profile major events like the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, the US Open Golf Tournament, and Monaco Formula One Grand Prix. The race, originating from Chamonix, Switzerland, is well-known and revered among Ultra Trail Runners worldwide.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic causing the cancelation of trail running events around the world, the UTMB Thailand event was the only UTMB branded event in the world in 2020. The Thailand trail scene is already vibrant and booming in popularity and the kingdom regularly hosts many excellent races.
Within just a few weeks of the UTMB Thailand, there was the Ultra-Trail Chiang Rai, the Doi Nhok Trail, the CM6 Ultra, and the Pong Yaeng Trail. All first-class popular events in Thailand, and all within relatively close proximity of each other.
In an extraordinary twist of fate, Thailand’s success in mitigating the Covid-19 pandemic has transformed it into the de-facto world capital of Ultra Trail running in 2020.
Blessed with warm weather year-round, or at least not too cold, every weekend there are professionally well-organized events all over the country. It is also home to the foothills of the Himalayas in the north, giving numerous options for organizing an Ultra Chiang Mai, Thailand’s Northern capital is clearly the epicenter of it all.
1. The trail running scene has been growing exponentially in the last seven years with tens of thousands of runners joining the movement resulting in many races to choose from.
2. Thailand by UTMB has set a new benchmark in the country and it has created an international appeal for trail running, ensuring the trail scene will grow in stature.
3. Thailand’s unique geography is perfect for trail running with an abundance of mountain ranges, national parks, and tropical islands.
4. The weather ranges from hot, wet and hot; and wet and cool, allowing events to be held all year round. Plus, training all year round is always possible.
5. You can take a “runcation” on a stunningly beautiful tropical island, in the northern mountain regions, or in rice paddy field in the central regions.
6. Trail running in Thailand offers unique cultural experiences including hill villages, fishing villages, temples, palaces, and an incredible array of delicious Thai food and so much more.
7. Thailand’s most reputable Ultra Trail organizers offer well executed, safe, and enjoyable race experiences.
8. The Thailand Ministry of Sport and Tourism and the Sport Authority of Thailand are enthusiastically supporting the growth of trail running in The Kingdom.
9. Thailand’s legendary hospitality, hotels, restaurants, Thai massages, beaches, and the plethora of beautiful destinations on offer are rated among the best in the world. Who wouldn't want a relaxing post-race massage while eating fresh fruit smoothies followed by unwinding on a white sandy beach?
10. Trail Running in Thailand is simply a great experience, one that will stay with you forever and have you coming back for more.
Do you think Thailand is the New World Capital of Ultra Trail Running? What would you change or add to this list?
Heading for second place,
As we passed the 2,000 meters ascent at Huay Pla Kub viewpoint, then down to the Telepo waterfall and numerous other beautiful sights, I felt so alive and blessed to be a trail runner. I was focusing on taking it easy with finishing as my goal.
Arriving at Aid station 4 (46 kms) I was in 36th place overall, 3rd in category and had potential for 2nd position well in-hand. Buoyed by my result I knew that I would easily make the cutoff time for Aid station 5 (A5). As the day began passing into night I was in my special zone, where everything feels just right.
On the way to A5, my climbing and pace was near perfect. I was getting excited about the prospect of finishing well. Then suddenly, nearing the end of the down side of the hill, I had multiple hard falls in steep slippery mud and hurt my back. With just a few kilometers to reach the Aid station my back was painful and my running gait awry. As I approached A5, I thought I should check in with medical staff for some pain killers and perhaps physio and continue on my way.
After checking me thoroughly, the medical team suddenly put me onto a stretcher board and strapped down my body and hands. They loaded me into an ambulance and then drove me to a small rural hospital for an X-ray to see if my vertebrae bone was cracked. It all happened so fast that it seemed overly dramatic to me. I nearly vomited while laying strapped down in the back of the ambulance driving on the winding roads.
The X-ray showed nothing broken, but a compressed disc and possible pinched nerve. The doctor recommended at least a week of rest to heal and an MRI scan to see if there was still any issues with the nerve. There’s no good reason to potentially damage a spinal nerve further, so with humility I accepted their decision.
So, it's 2am and I called the manager for maybe 50mins. Getting a bit worried, I was considering the possibility of having to sleep outdoors until staff come for the morning shift.
Finally, the manager called me back and had one of the staff to come to assist me. I got into my room by 3:30am and had a long hot shower. I fell asleep dreaming about how amazing life in Thailand is. It’s a beautiful country with incredible people.
One thing for sure is that UTMB really takes health and safety seriously. Although my UTMB dream was smashed, I always prefer to focus on the positive side of things. Thai people are incredibly kind and helpful, always greeting you with friendliness and a ready smile. Every step of the way from the aid station team to the ambulance, nurses and doctors in the rural hospital, the van driver UTMB arranged to drive me to my hotel, and the hotel team all made me feel very welcome.
Everyone involved made a huge difference and helped make a bad situation not feel so bad. I am very grateful for all of their help.
I’ve got unfinished business.
See you this year in Thailand by UTMB!