Race report: Hatyai Marathon 2017- สี่ชั่วโมง S̄ī̀ chạ̀wmong?

Hatyai Marathon 2017
Yes, I know. I should have rested to nurse my ITB injury after Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon 2017 the week before.

But hey - I already registered for this 11th edition of Hatyai Marathon 2017 months ago. And I also already paid for the hotel accommodation and airfare!

Don't tell me I would go to Hatyai in Thailand without running the full marathon? 😊

I was thinking, "I sucked at SCKLM 2017. But how worse could it be with the flat route at Hatyai Marathon and the daily foot massage that I would get prior to the race? I should just run freely to soak myself in Thai culture. The worst scenario would be for me to walk the whole 42 km."

With such single-mindedness, I was as stubborn as a mule to bulldoze myself through my third back to back (B2B) full marathons in my running life at Hatyai Marathon 2017. And this round, my physical condition was at its worst with ITB band and burn-out syndrome.

Nonetheless, I still went ahead!!

I was glad I behaved like a mule - a stubborn one!! 😀 This stubborn mule managed to enjoy the 11th edition of Hatyai Marathon 2017 held on May 28, 2017 thoroughly!.👌

Pre-race day

Race entry pack collection (REPC)

I would say race entry pack collection was rather a "warm, sweaty, body-touching" experience!! Ha!ha! 

Why I said so?

The REPC place was held in a small little congested hallway. I thought by arriving earlier in the day, I would not see much crowd. Additionally, it was not a large-scale event like SCKLM. Therefore, I didn't expect to have the sandwich-packed experience!

I believe it was largely due to the collection process that caused some havoc during the REPC! Firstly, registered runners were required to queue up in the small hallway to verify their participation. After which, we would be given a small little piece of paper note with a manually written number. Only then we were allowed to bring the small little written note to the race entry pack collection tables to get our race entry packs. The small space for registration and no clear indication of the queues made everyone hot and sweaty. 

Oh, I also noticed there some runners still managed to register on the spot. I was told that previous years the on-the-spot registration were more expensive than online registration but this year it was cheaper by 50%. I'm not sure why since it was my first time experience in Hatyai! I was assuming perhaps it was due to the start of Ramadhan fasting month this year with smaller than expected turnout? 

I took the small little hiccups positively. It somehow reflected the warm hospitality of Thai people in a boutique marathon event!! It also allowed me to mingle with some runners and also bump into our famous ultra-runner Yimster! 

In fact, I received some running tips from him (thanks Yimster!!). 2 most notable tips are:
  • Run freely and enjoy the run. Sometimes you will be surprised by the timing. 
  • Run for yourself and your own pace. Don't care what other people expect of you.

Race Entry Pack Collection on pre-race day

Free buffet-style Thai dinner provided by event organizer

Hatyai Marathon was so special! Can you imagine? Free buffet style Thai dinner provided by event organizer to all participants and their families at the race venue as carbo-loading? Wow! Simply amazing and irresistible!

I remember when I ran at Chiangmai Marathon 2014, a free buffet-style Thai dinner was also provided. It seems that it's quite a tradition for marathon events in Thailand to have free carbo-loading for all runners on the evening of pre-race day!! Perhaps this is one of the best ways for our beloved Thai neighbors to express their friendliness and warmth to all! I love it!!

Unfortunately, I stayed in downtown area, a 1.8 km distance from the race venue. Hence, I didn't have a chance to go whack all the free delicious Thai food. I heard from Yimster and Raymond Foo that it was a food galore!! All you could eat with lots of variety especially Thai street food!

If you ever go for Hatyai Marathon or any marathons in Thailand, please don't miss it for the experience!!

Carbo-loading for energy

Well, even though I didn't go for the free Thai food galore provided by event organizer, I didn't feel that I was left out!

See - there are so so many places for Thai street food in downtown of Hatyai!! I was pretty much aware of my ITB condition and Hatyai Marathon was a back-to-back marathon. And I wanted to just enjoy my Hatyai trip! Hence, with a relaxing mind and a holiday mood, I was like a hungry ghost - eat, eat, eat, eat, eat!! What more to the irresistible Thai street food? I didn't even bother if I would eat too much, or consume wrong food that might cause stomach discomfort on race day.  Oh oh - did I mention that I also drank Thai beer? lol!!

Yummylicious!!! Burp!!!! So so full! 😁

Did I eat too much for carbo loading? haha!

Foot massage for relaxation

I arrived on Friday. The race day was Sunday. And I had foot massage 2 days in a row!! Yup! 2 days in a row!! With 1 hour foot massage at only 200 Thai Baht, the price was half of what I would get in Kuala Lumpur. Besides, Thai foot massage is famous worldwide!! And with my ITB band, no excuse not to have it every day I was in Hatyai!! lol! So syiok and enjoyable!!! 

Famous Thai foot massage - so relaxing and nice! 

Race day

42 km race route

The race route was rather flat - running past some landmarks in Hatyai city and padi fields!

There was a u-turn around K26-28. At around K30, full marathoners would be joined by 21km runners making their u-turn there back to finish line on same route. Lastly at around K35-36, 42 km and 21 km runners would be joined by 10 km runners.

It was too dark to see anything along the route as the flag-off time was 3:30 am (Malaysia time 4:30 am). But after the u-turn, with the run rising, then I could see beautiful padi fields before entering the Hatyai city again to finish line.

There were plenty of water stations with some stations providing refreshing cut water melon, bananas and cold jelly! (I stopped and ate all three!! lol). No power gel was provided during the race because power gel was already provided in the race entry pack the day before.

The 42km race route itself wasn't one of the best I have ever run at. Flat no doubt but not as scenic as some other races. It was also a bit chaotic after u-turn, and even more chaotic after merging with 21 km runners and 10 km runners at later part. Reason? We were running at a shoulder lane. Even though the road was blocked for runners but somehow we would be facing 21 km runners running towards us in a flock as 42 km runners were running back to the finish line at the same shoulder lane! So I managed to witness all the 21 km runners running towards me before they made their own u-turn!! After which, the fast 21 km runners would then catch up with me and zoom past me on my left and right!!

Interesting and exciting though!! It allowed me to see the faces of 21 km runners, especially Thai runners. I noticed most of the Thai runners love to wear colorful running vests (yes - the Hatyai Marathon 2017's running tee and finisher tee are all very bright and colorful!). It gave me a glimpse into the runner's world in Thailand.

Hatyai Marathon 2017 - 42 km race map

Follow สี่ชั่วโมง S̄ī̀ chạ̀wmong (4:00) pacer and red balloons 

At the start line, I was very happy to have bumped into some familiar faces from Malaysia - Jerry Young, Darren Lee, Teh Kok Peng, Raymond Foo, Mr Tan Wah Sing, Yimster, etc. I was also introduced to a sub 4 runner from Malaysia Khoo Kay Hao. I was so impressed by their passion for running!! Standing next to them - I felt honored and pressured at same time!! haha!

Even with the help of Thai foot massage and the extra carbo-loading the day before, I knew I wasn't fully recovered from ITB and I still had the burn-out-from-race syndrome. Therefore, I decided to listen to my body very closely, taking a "depending on my body condition" approach for the race!! 

I wanted to feel the joy of running again without worrying too much about the time, especially at this new route and experience in Hatyai!

I wanted to run freely

I wanted to run for myself!

With that mentality and mindset, I literally felt my body was "lighter" - with no pressure to achieve a self-imposed sub four hour (4:00) finish!! 

What a great feeling!! No more tension!

So I ran off slowly but surely. 

At around 1 km into the race, I spotted 3 red balloons.

On the 3 red balloons, the mark said, "4:00." In Thai, 4:00 hour means สี่ชั่วโมง S̄ī̀ chạ̀wmong.

I looked at the 3 red balloons, the "4:00" markings, and the 2 pacers with the red balloons. 

Then I checked my average running pace and talked to myself, "Shall I TRY to follow them?"

I put my head down and looked at my feet my new running shoe - a pair of red Saucony Kinvara 8 that I was wearing for the 2nd time (the week before at Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur 2017). 

I then talked to my feet, "Feet o feet! Would you want to try to follow สี่ชั่วโมง S̄ī̀ chạ̀wmong red balloons?"

Somehow, a strange connection was formed between my RED Saucony Kinvara 8 and the RED 4:00 balloons. 

RED RED RED!! Let's connect!😜😜

With this "RED" strategy and a run-freely mindset, I was following closely behind the 4:00 hour pacers. 

Could you spot me? I was wearing black Adidas running cap behind the 3 red balloons!

Yes - followed closely with สี่ชั่วโมง S̄ī̀ chạ̀wmong 4:00 pacers
To my pleasant surprise, I managed to follow the 3 red balloons all the way to around K30. 

But from that point onward, I felt the tightness in my IT band again. I also felt that I hit the invisible wall again in a full marathon!! Surprisingly I didn't feel disappointed at all for not being able to keep up with the 4:00 hour pacers. I felt very happy that I could manage to keep up with them for 30 km. It was a motivating booster for me after experiencing many setbacks in recent races.  

At that moment, I also saw many 21 km runners running towards me in the narrow shoulder lane - left and right. And it switched my focus to observe Thai runners in their colorful running vests. You know - I didn't see many of them wearing fancy compression tights, or branded Nike or Adidas vests! They looked pretty much like "amateur, leisure" runners!! But please don't judge Thai runners by their attire!! Their finish times would have thrown you off your chairs!!

A miraculous 1 km short at K33

As the average pace on my Garmin Vivoactive GPS watch showed more than 5:40 min per km and I was running slower and slower, I knew I would no longer be able to finish within sub 4 hour but I believe I could still finish below 4:30 hour. And I was perfectly happy with that!! It was my aim to finish within 4:30 hour only anyway! :)

By that time the sun had risen and I could see the beautiful padi fields along the route. As I was enjoying the beautiful scenery and checking out local Thai running culture and runners (21 km runners especially), suddenly I spotted a distance marker that read,"8 km."

"8 km" to go? Not 9 km?

I rubbed rubbed my eyes thinking my contact lenses got problem. I looked and looked again at my Garmin Vivoactive to check the distance. Shouldn't it be 9 km more to go instead of what the "8 km" distance marker said?

Oh - that means I might be able to "cheat' and "squeeze" myself into sub 4:00 hour with a one (1) kilometer short!!

This miraculous discovery of 1 km short gave me a shot in the arm! Or rather I should say, "a shot in the feet"!! haha!

I felt excited and did my best not to slow down too much. 

Then I saw the next distance markers"7km", "6km", "5km"..... 

Wow! Som how event organizer shortened the 42 km by 1 km giving me an opportunity to finish within 4 hour!!

Was I complaining? No!! I was glad it was a 41 km full marathon!

I also remember 2 Thai runners in my same age group who kept looking at my running BIB as they ran past me. When I over took one of them, he quickly overtook me again - and glancing at my BIB again!!

Hmm - I guess they were running for the top 10 position in my age group!! I smiled at them and deep inside my heart I said to them, "Please go ahead! Please go ahead!! You are too fast too strong for me to catch up!!" :)

With that, I just followed my own body and pace to run the remaining distance to finish line!!

Thanks to photographer for having such nice shot!! I wish I was the runner jumping up!!

I wish I was the one jumping up in the sky against the beautiful sun rise as backdrop! :)

3 red balloons 200 meters before finish 

I was so shocked to see the 2 Thai 4:00 pacers with the 3 red balloons about 200 meters before finish. In my wildest minds, I thought I would never see the red balloons again as the 4:00 pacers would have reached finish line much earlier. I believe they probably slowed down to ensure a 4:00 hour finish on the dot.

Well, I was in cloud nine when seeing the red balloons before the turn into the stadium. I couldn't be happier!! I decided to run past them with such great motivation to have my last 200 meter dash into the stadium to the cheers of the crowd.

At the Stadium's red track and field, I could see the digital clock at the arch of finish line ticking 3:59:01, 3:59:02, 3:59:03.....

My heart was bursting with joy

My feet was dancing happily!

I knew no matter what I got to cross the finish line before the digital clock points to 4:00:00. 

So I sprinted as fast as I could. 

My face was beaming with smile.

And as I crossed the finish line, the digital clock read "3:59:42". 

Yohoo! I knew I made it!! I made it! I made it! I MADE IT!!! 😋😋😋

I made it to be below สี่ชั่วโมง S̄ī̀ chạ̀wmong 4:00 hour!! 😜😜😜

Finish Line: สี่ชั่วโมง S̄ī̀ chạ̀wmong 4:00?

สี่ชั่วโมง S̄ī̀ chạ̀wmong! สี่ชั่วโมง S̄ī̀ chạ̀wmong! สี่ชั่วโมง S̄ī̀ chạ̀wmong!

Yes - sub 4:00 hour with unexpected twist of 1 km short with net time of 03:59:33! I was also the last runner in my age category (50-54) to have made it into sub 4. 

Well - technically not exactly a sub 4 full marathon, but with my current physical condition, I couldn't be happier!! Can I at least syiok sendiri for the much needed psychological boost? Haha!!

Even for my age group 50-54, there were 14 people who ran comfortable sub 4 hour. So strong Thai runners! Respect!

Yippie!! I ran the race! I finished the race!!

Beautiful finisher medal with 2 colorful Hatyai Marathon 2017 shirts.

Selfie Time

With so many runners from Malaysia, I went to get my bag and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge for some selfie time!!! I also took some photos with very warm, hospitable Thai runners!!! They were so so friendly and nice!!!! 😍

Congrats to all finishers!! Mr Wah Sing Tan finished #1 in his age category, and Darren Lee finished #10 in his age category as well. And I know Raymond Foo, Khoo Kay Hao and Yimster all finished with strong sub 4. (Yes - theirs were the real sub 4 - unlike mine!! ha!ha!)

The sun was bright! 

All runners were smiling like the bright sun! I could see their teeth!!! 

All seemed to be very happy and overjoyed!!!

Selfie time at Hatyai Marathon 2017 - with Jerry, Young, Jeff Wong, Mr Tan Wah Sing! All smiling from ear to ear!

Selfie time at Hatyai Marathon 2017 - with some awesome runners from Kelantan

Selfie time at Hatyai Marathon 2017 - with all the friendly awesome fun Thai runners!

Selfie time at Hatyai Marathon 2017 - with Raymond Foo

Plenty of trophies for 13 age groups

I managed to go to the stage area to witness some prize giving ceremonies!! Oh wow!! I have never seen so many winning trophies in any full marathons before!!

At Hatyai Marathon 2017, there were a total of 13 age categories:

Male (9 age categories)

16-29 years, 30-34 years, 35-39 years, 40-44 years, 45-49 years, 50-54 years, 55-59 years, 60-64 years, 65 years and above.

Female (4 age categories)

16-29 years, 30-39 years, 40-49 years, 50 years and above.

And the top 10 finishers in each age category would be given a nicely designed big trophy!!!

I looked at the trophies. I could only drool!! Yes, drool!! 😋 It would never be my turn to be at podium even with my age group. Too many elite and fast runners and I'm only an average runner.  I really admire and envy them!! How could they run so fast so strong? I wish I had part of their great running talent! I congratulated all top 10 finishers in each age group. All did a superb job at Hatyai Marathon 2017!!

Trophies that I can only look and drool!! haha!

Food galore

Did I mention that Hatyai Marathon 2017 provided free buffet dinner the evening before? Oh and after the race, you would have even more food to indulge in!!

You name it - all sorts of local Thai food delicacies. All were free!! Eat as much as you could!

I think anyone who ran at Hatyai Marathon would never lose weight!! Putting on weight was more like it with so much free food before and after race!! ha! ha! 

It was truly like a feast more like a marathon event!!

Eat till you drop!!! lol!

Free massage and supply of deep heat

Thai foot massage for the tired runners!! Wow!! And large tubes of deep heat for the muscle aches and pains!!! Amazingly generous in everything the event organizer of Hatyai Marathon had provided!!
Free foot massage - the Thai style!!

Sports Expo

And yes - there was a hue sport expo too with many booths selling all sorts of sports and running apparel and accessories. They were all sold at such cheap price. But beware though - as i noticed most of them were not originals. For example, Adidas, Nike, etc were not the originals but still carried the logos. Of course the materials would be different. I believe once you touch the material and look closely at the quality, you could easily feel the difference. But if you don't mind, you could end up with some 'branded' sports goods at super value price! But for me, I didn't buy any though.

Shop shop shop at Hatyai Marathon 2017!

My ride

Since the venue was about 1.8 km from downtown Hatyai and where I stayed, I decided to take the motorbike ride to the venue and back to hotel!! Another awesome experience!! :) 

In summary

Hatyai Marathon 2017 - remembered for its food galore (pre race and after race), plenty of trophies for the top 10 finishers of 13 age group categories, and the warm hospitality of Thai people!!

I was glad I still ran Hatyai Marathon 2017 - despite having down with ITB and a poor outing the week before at Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon 2017. 

My running form was still far off from my peak but at least I know I'm on the recovery journey now!! 

For those who plan to experience running in Thailand, please don't miss Hatyai Marathon 2017!!! You will truly enjoy all the food, Thai massage, and of course the well organised event!! :)

I don't think limits!! Try and try.. never give up!!!

Written by Vincent Khor on 11 June, 2017.


  1. Hi Vincent,
    Thanks for the wonderful race recap. I'm planning to run Hat Yai Marathon, but am concern about the transportation to the race venue.
    If we stay in a hotel at city centre, would it be easy to get a tuk-tuk or taxi at middle of the night of 2-3am? Or is it convenient to pre-book one? Thanks again and appreciate it you could kindly enlighten me.

    1. Dear Kok Keon,
      Wow! Glad to know you will be running Hatyai Marathon! You can stay around Le Garden Plaza area (McDonald's is the landmark) in downtown Hatyai city centre. You can easily get a tuk tuk (share with other runners) or hop on to a motorbike taxi to the race venue from there. .. 1.8 km away. Some street food vendors are still open at that hour. haha! So no worries! No need to pre-book if you were to ask me. There are also runners who leisurely walk to the race venue from Le Garden Plaza. Very safe too to walk. You can also fine out more about the area from another post: https://vincentkhor.blogspot.my/2017/08/3-things-you-must-do-in-hat-yai-thailand.html Enjoy your Hat Yai trip and marathon yeah!

    2. Thanks for your kind reply Vincent. And you mentioned that it's quite dark at certain stretch of roafs. Is a headlamp advisable?

    3. Dear Kok Keon, I think headlamp is not required because. It was only a small stretch but still on the main road. Besides, organiser did put up some light to help runners. I saw some runners with the blinker (on their shoes) for safety but I didn't see anyone with headlamp. During that hour, there were not many cars as well. Just be careful where you step. No potholes or manholes on the road. So you should be fine. Just stay close to the inner road. Enjoy! Oh by the way, please don't miss out the all you can eat buffet dinner on pre-race night. It's free! :) Enjoy!

    4. Thanks for all the info Vincent. Really appreciate it very much.


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