More than 1,500 runners participated in the inaugural running of the newest event on the UTMB international ultramarathon calendar over the weekend. Thailand by UTMB featured five races, with distances ranging from 12K to 170K, all on and around the country’s highest mountain, the 2,500m Doi Inthanon, which is also known as “the roof of Thailand.” The event faced a pair of monstrous obstacles (COVID-19 and the risk of a typhoon), but ultimately managed to go ahead as planned, resulting in an unforgettable experience for everyone involved.
Thailand by UTMB had five races, all named after the mountain on which they were run. The Inthanon 10K was actually a 12K race that featured 560m of elevation gain. Inthanon 1 was 24K, and runners climbed 900 vertical metres. Next was the Inthanon 4, which had a distance 80K and total elevation gain of more than 4,000m. Inthanon 5 was 120K with 5,400m of climbing, and, finally, at 170K with a vertical gain of more than 8,300m, Inthanon 6 was the biggest undertaking of weekend.
As outlined on the event website, each of the five races show runners the “peaceful Hmong, and Pga-Gan-Yaw, Karenic tribe ways of life,” as they make their way through various villages and towns. The mountain is reportedly one of Thailand’s most popular national parks, and tourists come from all over to see its waterfalls, trails and wildlife, as well as spectacular sunrises and sunsets (which runners in the longer races undoubtedly got to see). The races all started and finished at the Doi Inthanon National Park Headquarters.
The weekend’s main event was the 170K race, which Thai athletes Sanya Kanchai and Phitchanan Mahachot won in 26:40:06 and 36:16:38, respectively. Kanchai also won the Thailand by UTMB test event, which race organizers held in February, just before the pandemic put the global racing season on hold.
It might be a while before Canadians have the opportunity to travel for races once again, but based on the success of the first-ever Thailand by UTMB, it looks like the event is here to stay. With this in mind, it’s a race that trail and ultrarunners will want to check out in the coming years.