Race Report: Yoma Yangon International Marathon 2017 (YYIM2017) - friendly, well organised boutique race

I decided to register for 5th edition's Yoma Yangon International Marathon 2017 (YYIM2017) because: i) I haven't stepped foot in Myanmar before and it's one of my resolutions to experience running in a new foreign country every year; ii) I have read good race reports about how warm the volunteers and locals are as well as the flat route from previous participants.

And here I'm in Yangon, Myanmar for the very first time - having my first runcation of 2017 - experiencing the culture, people, food of Myanmar - and running my first full marathon of the year in a totally new foreign country. 

A refreshing start of 2017 indeed! :)

About Yoma Yangon International Marathon 2017

Held for the 5th year, Yoma Yangon International Marathon 2017 is the city's only marathon event. Weaving through the unique blend of modern and rustic Yangon, runner will be treated to a visual feast for the senses.

The website didn't mention how many participants for this year's Yoma Yangon International Marathon. But according to the volunteers during race kit collection, I was informed that there were about 8,000 registered participants for 3 km, 10 km 21 km and 42 km events.

I did a little CSI myself through some checking on the race results. Below is the exact participants on the race day itself for 10 km, 21 km and 42 km, totaling 3,006 runners.

10 km : 1,799
21 km : 1,026
42 km : 181
Total    : 3,006 (without 3km participants)

If this is the number to go by, that means probably there were 5,000 runners who joined the 3 km run for the total 8,000 registered participants. 

And guess what? There were only 181 runners in 42 km category! :) It seems that probably the volunteers, marshals, traffic police might even outnumber the 181 full marathon runners. 

Wouldn't you like that kind of pampering in such a boutique race? :)

But please don't underestimate the quality of the event as well. I overheard some of the organizers talking at the venue. They speak Singaporean English. So I presume the race director is from Singapore. And I'm sure it will be a very dependable, well organised event from the start.

Race Kit Collection

Myanmar people are very friendly and nice. Look at the smile of the volunteers at the race kit collection counter. There wasn't any queue at all, making the race kit collection a breeze.

I was truly impressed and surprised by the quality of the goodies in the goodie bag. It would also be my first time to run in a Skechers-sponsored race. 

I love the shirt - the neon green color and the well-designed YYIM 2017 logo. 

With The Face Shop from Korea being one of the main sponsors, surprisingly I found Face Mask, Rich Body Milk,  BB Cream,  Body Gel Lotion, Moisture Cream in the goodie bag. Wow!! I was truly impressed. Probably the sponsors knew that runners would be exposed to the hot scorching sun and a facial would be in order after the race! haha!

Race Kit - plenty of goodies - most impressive ones being from The Face Shop!! Can do facial after run! haha!

Took a photo at the well-marked 42km distane marker during race kit collection, right before turning into the finish line at the Stadium

Run strategy - run by feel / run naked + run green

As a first timer in Myanmar, I was full of curiosity about everything in Yangon and the race. This excitement has also given me the courage to try out new things in a full marathon. Even if I make mistakes during the race, it's ok as it would be part of my learning. 
For the last 1 month, I have been training to run by feel, or rather to run naked. :) What I mean is that I decided not to listen to running music, not to carry water bottle while running, not to over drink at hydration stations, and not to look at my GPS watch's pace so often. Basically, I wanted to learn to listen to my body and understand my body better.

Hence, for Yoma Yangon International Marathon, my strategy would be to run naked - or run by feel - my first in the last 2 years in a full marathon race to run without running music, without water bottle and little focus on GPS watch's pace. :)

Scary thought indeed because it might affect my timing. But I have set up my mind to be adventurous in trying new things to see if I can have breakthrough and improve further.

The 42 km race journey

Full marathon race started at 5.00 am local time, which was 6.30 am Malaysia time. It would be better to start at least 1 to 1.5 hour earlier to avoid the sun. But hey - nothing is perfect. 

One positive note was that the morning air was rather cooling. It was about 21-22 degree celsius and then the temperature rose to 30 or so degree celsius during noon time.

I was rather surprised by the small crowd of 181 participants. I have not seen such empty start line before. haha! It also meant that I could stand very close to the start line yet I could feel the ample space between me and next runner at start line. How wonderful! :) Oh - I saw 2 Kenyans - trying to grab the top 3 prizes in the only Open category for male and female. (Note: no veteran categories at all). 

The route was rather flat without loops. 

1 - 11 km (downtown of Yangon)

We would run passed busy streets of Yangon down town / old town with the sights of morning markets, local cheerful supporters on road side, the port, Sule Pagoda and Customs House, etc. This was also the time to have a glimpse of the night view of Yangon before sun rise.

I didn't pay much attention to my GPS watch. I was running by feel and then I spotted 1 Japanese runner in black running vest whose pace was slightly faster than mine. I then decided to pace behind him.

There were hydration stations every 3 km or so with 100 plus and water supply. The volunteers were so nice to even carry the water cups to pass to the runners. I decided to run green too - throwing the water cups into the provided trash cans or leaving it to the volunteers.

12 - 32 km (suburb, university, aung san suu kyi resident, Inya Lake)

I loved it the moment we entered this stretch because this was the beginning of the outskirt of the city. 

Less cars. Smaller roads. More local people coming out to cheer.

I noticed that beautiful people in Yangon, Myanmar are rather reserved. The local supporters would stand there looking cheerfully at us runners but most of them didn't make any loud cheering noise. I guess it's due to their lack of exposure to foreigners. 

I then decided to take the initiatives to wave my hands at them, and even ran towards them to give them high five - kids and adults. To my surprise, they responded to me well. Suddenly their faces all brightened up with even bigger smile - as big as the sun flowers. :) No kidding! I could see their faces full of joy and appreciation. I truly admire their simple way of life - easily finding happiness in simplest, smallest things in life. (whereby we who live in city like to complain and complain lots... haha!) They would also cheer me on, give me high five in return. I was really touched by their innocence, and genuine personality

Oh did I mention that besides hydration stations - the locals also would offer free mineral waters and small little mandarin oranges to runners? Well, I saw at least 4 such groups offering the water and fruits. 

Can you imagine how tough their life is? Most of them are poor. Yet their heart is rich! They offer for free the best they could to the runners in support of the event. As I ran passed them, I couldn't help myself but to remind myself to be grateful of things I have been given by God. At that particular moment, my respect to the Myanmar people raised a notch up!

Towards the end of this stretch, we ran into a university campus. The campus was huge and beautiful. I love this stretch because there was no car and we could literally run on the middle of the road. 

I couldn't remember at which point that I passed by aung san suu kyi's resident close to Inya Lake. I tried to look for it when I reached Inya Lake but somehow I couldn't local her resident. How I wish I could witness it during the run.

I also noticed that the houses in this suburb is much bigger and nicer than the earlier stretch. I believe this is the rich suburb of Yangon. 

It was also during this time that I overtook the Japanese runner whom I have been pacing behind him. It seemed that he had been slowing down. And I was still trying my best to keep to the 5:20 min / km average pace.

Then I saw an Australian runner who hit the wall and started to walk. I said hi to him giving him encouragement and I continued to run on. 

32 - 38 km (Inya Lake, rich suburbs of Yangon)

Welcome to the beautiful Inya Lake and rich suburbs of Yangon! I enjoyed running this stretch despite the weather getting rather hot. I also started to slow down - not because I wanted to see the beautiful views but because my legs were tired. haha! But anyway, I took the opportunity to have a much longer look at the lake and landscaping in this area. It's really beautiful - and clean too! I was very impressed by the town planning! Never would I think that Yangon has such a nice neighborhood. 

To my surprise, I tried to look for another runner in front of me but I couldn't see anyone. I guess either those in front of me were very very fast until I couldn't even see them' or there weren't many runners and all runners were all spaced out over the course. 

It was rather demotivating when I could see no other runners. And I was getting tired too. Then I remember what I was taught by my running friends - the breathing "medication", the cadence, the "chest up", the hand swing forward, etc. Then I started to put them into practice to take my mind off from the long road. And it worked. I kept pushing myself to ensure I didn't slow down too much.

39 - 42 km (busy streets leading to finish line at stadium)

Boy - this stretch was the toughest. It was hot. And the merging with 21 km runners didn't make it any easier with the narrow road. Traffic was rather horrible too. But thanks to the wonderful work of marshals and traffic police, I still managed to squeeze out my last ounce of energy to reach the finish line in my best full marathon time ever - 3 hours 48 min 53 sec - my first ever sub 3:50. 

Distance                 : 42.16 km
Time                      : 3:48:53 (first sub 3:50)
Position                  : 22/181
Average pace          : 5:26 mi/km
Best pace               : 3:37 min/km
Avg Run Cadence    : 182 spm
Avg. Stride Length  : 1.01 m
Elevation Gain        : 86 m
Elevation loss         : 87 m
Min. Elevation         : 6 m
Max. Elevation        : 38 m
Running shoe         : Saucony Kinvara 6 (Orange)
GPS watch             : Garmin Vivoactive
Running vest          : Adidas
Running shorts       : Karrimor 

I was elated. I was overjoyed with the timing!! The cool weather in early morning helped. The low humidity helped also because I found myself sweat less too. 

It has also given me a confidence boost about my new running strategy. I shall try a few more times with this new running strategy to see if it works out well for me consistently. 

The next challenge is to also see if I can run a sub 3:50 in Malaysia - with the sun, the sweat, the heat. :) It's definitely not going to be easy but I would like to embrace the challenge. At least it would give me motivation and target to work towards. 

Final Words 

Race venue
Every race has its uniqueness. And I love Yoma Yangon International Marathon for the following reasons:

  • boutique race with probably number of volunteers, marshals and traffic controllers outnumber the full marathon participants. :)
  • friendly locals offering mineral waters and fruits
  • warm genuine locals offering their warm smile and cheering sound as well as high fives to runners
  • the most beautiful female traffic police ever (really - they are beautiful - fair skin, tall, in the most beautiful police uniform I have seen in any races)
  • Plenty of hydration stations with friendly volunteers bringing water to you
  • well marked distance markers - even for directions to turn, etc
  • awesome traffic police - stopping the cars way ahead of time to let runners run pass busy streets
  • flat route passing through old and new of Yangon city 
  • Awesome goodie bag with The Face Shop's face mask!
  • well organised - international standard with race director from Singapore

Areas for improvement

  • The last few KM entering into the busy street before turning into stadium can be a horrible stretch. This can be further improved if the road was blocked properly. The 21 km runners walking out from race venue could also potentially slow down full marathoners wanting to do their last dash to finish line. 

I would always remember the beautiful things of Myanmar! And when I am back to Malaysia - I will see Myanmar nationals working in Malaysia differently from now onward. A very good eye opening and perspective change for me!!! 

Thank you, Yangon for such an unforgettable memory, helping me to achieve my PB and allowing me to know city, people and culture of Myanmar better!! 

Finish line - celebration

Runners taking photos
resting under the shades

Podium finishers
Good bye, Yoma Yangon International Marathon 2017. thank you for the wonderful memory!

Written on 2017.01.12



  1. WOWowowowowow!!!!!!!!!! You run marathons under 4 hours?!?!?! Who are you!??!?!
    I'm lucky if I make it to the marathon start line in 4 hours! I'm very impressed! Way to go! Oh...and I read your Vivoactive post....That's my choice of weapon too!!! I'll send you a pic via email soon. That's my baby that got me through my 70.3 :)

  2. Savitre, haha! Actually there are many many many runners who run much much faster than me! I just barely made it through the under 4-hour window! Phew!! Every single time, I almost vomit and pass out! lol! I don't think my time can be much further improved with my age catching up! lol! But I will still try my best - even 1 second better will be great for me as a motivation for training. :)

    Cool! You use Garmin Vivoactive too! that's wonderful! Yeah it's a nice watch indeed! Can't wait to see some photos of yours! :)

    Btw - I just checked my email and replied to you. My apology for reading and replying it late.

  3. Anonymous04 May, 2018

    Hi Vincent,
    I am also planning to do the Yoma Yangon Half Marathon next year for the same reasons you did (run & travel). May I ask if you stayed near the starting venue? If yes any hotel recommendations?

    Dennis from Malaysia.....

  4. Dear Dennis,
    The start venue is right next to a stadium. There is a hotel at the stadium which you can stay. Across from traffic light there are a few more smaller budget hotels you can stay. I stayed there 1 night on pre-race day on.y There is nothing much to see near the venue. For the rest of my stay in Yangon, I stayed at Clover City Hotel in downtown Yangon. And most people stay in Downtown and take a cab to the race venue. If so, I recommend Clover City or nearby hotels. Very convenient and close to tourist attractions and transport to race venue. I hope this helps. Enjoy and all the best!