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I have been visiting Thailand for 12 successive years. Thai people and all the beautiful things that Thailand has to offer have always attracted me. I am from Belgium and in my home country I have been a member of a running club for the past 20 years and ran a lot of mini and half-marathons during this period. But it was only 5 years ago I discovered that Thailand had a lively running scene aswell. Of course I knew about the International Bangkok Marathon but it was a surprise to me that on most Sunday mornings there were so many well organized runs. Fortunately I met Khun Aroon from Khun Tawachai's Highway Running Club. We became very good friends and he introduced me to this Amazing Thai Running World.
In Thailand the approach to running is quite different to what I was used to in Belgium. In Belgium we have many races aswell but most runs don't have a lot of competitors. The majority of people that compete in the run are part of a running club and take running very seriously. Before we can join a club we need a medical check up by our doctor and he has to approve that we are physically fit. Each club has a couple of trainers. A couple of days a week we have access to a track where we have our speed trainings. Where I live in Belgium, in a city called Bruges, we have a lot of running clubs so each club has to rent the track for a couple of hours each week. During the weekends, if there are no races, we run with the club longer distances in the woods or on the beaches - always looking for a course with a soft surface to avoid injuries. Whenever we run a race we are expected to wear the the club outfit (the outfit has to be approved by the National Athletics Federation), if we don't we can get expelled.
Even within the club there is a competition. The running club leaders point out 12 races a year and then you get points for the place and time you run during these races. Each club has it's own running magazine and after each race they adjust the standings and publish this in the magazine. At the end of the year the winners get their celebration during the annual club party. All this doesn't mean that clubs have nothing but fast runners but the majority of the members are all pretty fanatic about their sport. They take their sport very seriously even if they can't run very fast. The advantage of joining a club is that we have an insurance. Whenever we have an injury the club's insurance pays for the medical expenses.
But I have never felt very comfortable about this approach. To me running is having fun and this doesn't have to be serious all the time. The Thai style attracts me a lot more. I am always amazed when I see Thai people having their daily run in Lumpini Park (one of my favourite places on this earth). Thai people take it easy, they talk and laugh a lot while running .It is much more a social event. During mini-marathons whole families and groups of friends join in just for the fun. I have to be fair and also mention the mass joggings we sometimes have in Belgium with thousands of joggers but most of these people only run once a year when they have their local mass jogging and never take part in other running events so they are not really part of the local running scene. As usual I will be back in Thailand early November for my annual 5 months stay. I am really looking forward to have my daily evening run in the Lumpini Park again and to run the minimarathons on Sundays.