Race Review: Taiwan Rice Heaven Tianzhong Marathon 2017 台湾米仓田中马拉松 (Race Day)

Event: Taiwan Rice Heaven Tianzhong Marathon 2017 台湾米仓田中马拉松

Date  : 12 November 2017

Race Route

I would say that the 42km race route at Taiwan Rice Heaven Tianzhong Marathon 2017 is very well planned.

It allows runners to run passed interesting places: country side to the forest trail  and town area.

Runners get to witness the beauty of nature and agriculture that Tianzhong has to offer: rice field, farm, river, nature. Not only that, the route also leads to Tianzhong Forest Park, allowing runners to enjoy the fresh air of the forest running up and down the trail road. Of course, towards the end of the full marathon, participants would run back into the town area back to finish line.

Overall the race route is pretty much flat except the 3km uphill forest trail climb at Tianzhong Forest Park from K26 (26th kilometres) to K29 (29th kilometres). After which, there is a steep downhill forest trail from K29 (29th kilometres) to K31 (31st kilometres) returning back to flat route.

Water station is provided every 2.5 km along the whole 42km race route.

1. Running with the nature

a. Country side with rice field, farm, river and cycling path

It was a rainy day on race day from the start!

Initially I decided to wear my Adidas cap to run but later I decided to run "free" without my cap. I wanted to be close to nature - be it the rice field, the farm, the river, the forest, the sun or the rain! :)

Due to potential slippery road due to rain, I decided to wear the newly bought ASICS Thartherzeal 5 on pre-race day during the expo to run instead of New Balance 1500v3. Without any mileage locked on ASICS Thartherzeal 5 prior to this, I still felt like doing something different and taking the risk! 

For the 42 km full marathon, it attracted 4,286 participants from all over Taiwan (who needed to go through balloting!), Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia and other countries. I didn't see any Kenyan runners though! :)

The race flagged off sharp at 6:20 am. I stood slightly far from the start line because that was the only place with shelter (from the rain). 

With the cool weather of 22 degree celsius and the rain, I got really excited the moment we were flagged off.

After 6.5 months of recovery from ITB band injury and no races, I wanted to find the joy of running in this race. I already told myself from the beginning that I would not want to look at my time. Rather, I would want to "run free" and "run by feel". 

From the start line, we turned right and run towards the country side on a very good-conditioned road. Along the road, I could also see very clearly designated cycling path along the whole stretch. And even the walking pavement is made into jogging track with EPDM rubber

I told myself that if I don't run a full marathon here, I would be very happy to cycle around Tianzhong with such conducive environment and cycling path!
Even though I switched on my Garmin Vivoactive GPS watch, I didn't look at it through out, especially the first 35 km or so. 

My "run by feel" strategy?
  • I would pace a runner who is slightly faster than me as long as I could. If I couldn't keep up with him/her anymore, I would then pace a slower runner who is still faster than me. 
  • And if I feel good about the run and I could run faster, I would then over take that runner and pace a faster runner. And again, if I can't keep up with the faster runner, I would then switch back to pacing the slower (but still faster than me) runner. :)

I told myself I needed to enjoy the whole race - especially the local culture, beautiful scenery and uniqueness of Tianzhong Marathon!

With such mentality and mindset, surprisingly I didn't feel any pressure to achieve a good time at all! ha! ha!

In fact, as I ran, I kept having a smile on my face throughout the raceThe rain on my face and body felt really good!  I really enjoyed it! The cool nice weather also made me feel very refreshed!

After about 10 kilometres of running on main road, we would then run into a small road with cycling path.

It's a very interesting path because on the left and right hand side of the road,  we were running in parallel with a river flowing downstream on one side, and the beautiful rice fields and farm on the other side.

The scenic view is simply breathtaking!

I felt so close to the nature!

The rice field is inches away from me! I could literally touch it!

I could see clearly the vegetables and fruits in the farm!

I could smell the fresh fragrant of the trees, the grass and the plants!

I could hear the river flowing down the stream of Eight Fort Ditch (八堡玔)which was parallel to the road we were running. 

I could smell the fresh air of the nature!

Believe it or not, I also spotted two snails and a worm on the road that we ran. In fact, I almost stepped on the snails!! haha!

The road was very wet with puddle of water every where!  I was glad that ASICS Thartherzeal 5 provided good grip hence I wasn't too worried about slipping due to the slippery road condition!

I did my best to jump over some puddle of water as much as I could! I actually had fun doing that! I felt like a small kid playing with the water!

In fact at one part, the photographer asked us to purposely step hard on the puddle of water so that he could take some nice shots of us! (I tried to look for these photos of mine after race but I couldn't find them! sob sob!)

My hair was soaking wet

My face was soaking wet.

My physical body was soaking wet.

My running shoe was soaking wet.

But my spirit was super duper high

I felt very very happy!

I could feel the joy of running again which I lost it at Standard Chartered KL Marathon and Hatyai Marathon earlier this year.

Yay!! Awesome feeling indeed! 😀

Seriously, I felt like singing John Denver's song, 

"Country Roads, Take Me Home! 
To the place, I belong! 
Tianzhong Taiwan, Mountain Mamma, 
Take Me Home, Country Roads!"


How fast did I run? 

Oh well, I didn't really look at my GPS watch. I only followed by "run by feel" strategy. 

But I did manage to catch up with 4:30 pacer, then 4:00 pacer after 10 km.

At around K22 (22 km), I saw 3:45 pacer in front of me! I was like wow! How come I could catch up with the 3:45 pacer? 

I was enjoying myself running on the wet road while admiring God's creation of the beautiful scenery and eating the yummy local food and fruits at the water stations!

Then I decided to follow behind the 3:45 pacer from 22 km onwards.

b. Forest park with uphill and downhill trail road

Oh I thought it was a flat route throughout!

No! No! We were running into Tianzhong Forest Park's trail road at K26!

And from K26 to K29, it was a 3 km steep uphill climb!

I didn't complain about the hill! 

I was glad in fact that this run brought me to see another side of Tianzhong and nature - the forest!

Yeah it was a tough uphill climb indeed! I saw some runners starting to walk up! I decided to keep running in smaller steps but higher cadence

Even though it was raining and road was slippery, I still saw some hikers and trail lovers walking on the trail roads. I said hi to a couple of them along the way! :) 

The 3:45 hour pacer was still in front of as we we were running uphill. He kept encouraging me to press on and follow him as closely as possible.

But the hill was too steep for me! His pace didn't drop! But mine dropped drastically! 

I was panting! But I couldn't figure out whether it was my sweat or the rain!

I started to feel tired!

The funny thing was...... this trail road is called "Road to Heaven 天堂路” in Chinese. haha! It really felt like running on a road to heaven to meet God!!! No joke!

The moment we reached the top at K29 (29 km), it was a sharp turn on the left down the hill. 

Oh my - the downhill trail looked more like a cliff! It was so steep that some runners actually fell!

The 3:45 pacer was super good! He continued to run at his pace and in fact he started to speed up as he ran downhill!

As for me and another runner who were supposed to follow behind the 3:45 pacer - we were going down the hill so so slow - almost at walking speed, zig-zagging our way down the 2 km stretch.

We smiled at each other while paying close attention to the steep downhill road. With the rain and slippery condition, we could fall easily! So, we were extra careful about it!

I was glad that when we reached K31 (31 km), we were back to the flat road! Phew! What a relief! 

By then I couldn't see the 3:45 pacer anymore! He was way in front already!

I also started to feel tired. 

Anyway, I wasn't chasing for time. So I continued to run by feel, stopping by water stations along the way, enjoying the scenery, and looking at other runners running on the other side of the road, etc.

c. Town area with "kampung" feel

Before we reached the finish line, we had to run passed a few main streets in the small town of 50,000 people. I remember I ran passed the hotel I stayed as well as the Tianzhong Train Station. By then, the supporters jammed up the street! So many supporters! 

I felt as if the whole town people had come out to cheer for us!!! 

There were many interesting things to look out for too - violin playing, dancing performances by aunties, singing, etc.

I was also tired by now. I looked at my GPS watch and I knew I might still make the cut into sub 4 hour. So I decided to stop to give high-fives, drink the lemon jelly drink, etc.

So nice to be welcome back to the "kampung" after running in the country roads and the forest trails.

2. Endless supply of food and drinks at water stations

Oh my! Oh my! Oh my! Oh my! 

My jaws dropped seeing plenty of food and drink offerings at all the major water stations by ever smiling volunteers and local Tianzhong people.

Now I understand why my Taiwanese friend told me that he ate and drank (including beer) so much so that he felt so full after completing his 21km race last year. haha! 

I thought he was joking until I witnessed it with my own eyes!

Here's a list of the endless supply of food and drinks at major water stations:
  • Isotonic drinks 
  • water 水
  • watermelon 西瓜
  • tangerine 柑橘
  • cherry tomato 番茄
  • lime 
  • cut guava 番石榴 / 芭乐
  • sour plum powder 酸梅粉
  • hot ginger tea 姜母茶
  • barley drink 意米水
  • bananas 香蕉
  • locally made biscuits 饼干
  • noodles with soy bean paste 炸酱面
  • grass jelly drink 仙草饮料
  • Taiwan beer 台湾啤酒
  • Roast pork 乳猪
  • Salt 盐
  • Goat milk ice cream 羊奶雪糕冰棒
  • Lemon jelly 柠檬爱玉
Can you believe it? 

Even noodles with soy bean paste in a bowl? 

And roast pork (mind you - it's the whole pig, ok? You can watch the video to see the whole pig! 😂)

And Taiwan beers?

Even for drinks - there are so many to choose from: hot ginger tea, grass jelly drink, lemon jelly, and of course the isotonic drinks and water!

And the fruits and vegetable - guava, watermelon, banana, lime, tangerine and even cherry tomato - you can simply have your stomach filled!

Hey - I haven't finished yet! The local farm also sponsored goat milk ice cream!

Hmmm - now I fully understand why organisers discourage runners to run fast! I believe organiser wants runners to enjoy the free flow of good food and drinks! haha!

As for me, I was quite attracted (and distracted) by all the nice food at the major water stations. Every time I ran passed a water station, I would then take a close look at what was on the offer!!

I ended up eating cheery tomato, tangerine, cookies, bananas. The only things I didn't actually eat were the roast pork, the noodle soup, and watermelon. Every else? All in my stomach!! lol!

I also drank grass jelly, barley drink, lemon jelly drink, water and isotonic drinks. I was so tempted to drink the Taiwan beer too but I was worried I might run into the forest and couldn't find my way back!! haha!

Did I mention I ate 2 sticks of goat milk ice cream too at two separate occasions? I believe at K35 and K40 or so on the way back to the finish line. (And I ate two more ice creams at finish line - making it total of four sticks of ice cream in a race day!!! lol!)

Oh yes, the salt was also helpful as I dabbed on it at three separate occasions to replenish my sodium loss in my body.

Seriously, I'm not sure if it's really a full marathon or a full "makanthon" (full "food-thon")! It's unbelievable on how much food and drink being offered to runners!

3. Most hospitable volunteers, supporters and locals

Taiwan Rice Heaven Tianzhong Marathon 台湾米仓田中马拉松 really lives up to its reputation as the most hospitable marathon in Taiwan (台湾最热情,最有人情味的马拉松).

On pre-race day, I already witnessed how friendly, hospitable, supportive all the locals are for the visitors / race participants. And on the race day, I witnessed even more!

Seriously, how can you make someone friendly and hospitable if it doesn't come from his/her heart? 

Their act is so genuine and it's something that can't be made up or pretended! 

I could really feel their genuine expressions of their love for Tianzhong. They wanted to showcase the best Tianzhong has to offer to all visitors and runners from all over Taiwan and overseas. 

This - is what makes Taiwan Rice Heaven Tianzhong Marathon so so special! It's the people of Tianzhong that makes the difference in an otherwise a normal running race!

  • "加油,加油,加油哦!"

Along the route, my ears could be blasted by thunderous cheering sounds of volunteers and locals shouting, "加油,加油,加油哦!" In fact, "加油" or "ADD OILL" / "KEEP GOING" is the most heard word in the whole 42 km.

Most of them carried the plastic cheering sticks making loud rhythmic loud sound to echo their "加油,加油,加油哦!".

In return, I said countless times of "Thank you! 谢谢!” as I ran passed them!

The volunteers and locals are so humble. When I said "thank you!" to them, they replied with a smiling face, "You are most welcome! 不谢!”Some even continued to cheer, "加油哦!" again!

Wow! I was really moved by their endless energy and how excited they were to cheer us on!

  • Drums, tins, cans, bottles and cooking woks

You name it! 

Drums, tins, cans, bottles, and cooking woks - all can be seen along the route at various places used by the local aunties and uncles or school children, or just pure excited volunteers to cheer runners on! They would hit on their drum, tins, cans, bottles, and even cooking woks real loud as we ran passed them!! And they all carried a very warm, nice, friendly smile!

They really touched my heart! How come they would spend so much time cheering us on? What do they gain? What are they doing all that? Such a courageous and uplifting spirit!! 

Every time I saw an old person hitting on drums, tins, cans, bottles or cooking work, I would be so boosted up!

  • High-fives

I also gave high fives to some of the cheer leading locals and volunteers along the route, especially at water station areas! If I didn't respond to them, I'm sure they would be disappointed. I saw a female volunteer who didn't get a high-five by a runner in front of me. Somehow the runner missed giving her a high-five! And I saw her feeling a bit disappointed! Therefore, I purposely ran close to her and gave her a big high-five, cheering her up while she cheered me in return!

It was so much fun being supported by so many people along the route!! My spirit was high!

  • Violin performance, dancing performance, etc

During the last 4 km or so running in the town area towards finish line, more and more organisations, schools, associations stood on the road side either performing, cheering, offering food and drink, and or offering even an interesting hat (you could see me wearing that blue hat for photo at finish line! :)). I saw a school boy playing violin, and few aunties standing on stools to perform in their costumes!

4. Most interesting participants

I must say that it's an eye opening experience for me to run at Taiwan Rice Heaven Tianzhong Marathon 2017.

I could see some interesting characters which I hardly see during races in Malaysia. They make the running event more colourful, more fun, more vibrant, more likely and more interesting!!

I paid attention to some of the interesting runners because to me, running a marathon overseas is also about learning about other people's culture.

Here are notable interesting participants that I could think of. I managed to snap some of their photos at finish area for memory and this article. :) 

  • full marathon dogs, running with their owners

I saw two dogs running 42 km with their owners. The cute dogs even have their own running BIB. So interesting!! This I haven't seen in any other marathon races before. I wonder if the dogs need to pay for registration to have a proper running BIB! :) So cool! I love it!

  • running in office suit

This is an experienced runner. He targeted to finish in 5 hours 43 min, no more no less! And he got a group of followers to follow him to finish line on the dot - 5 hours 43 minutes!! 

I'm very amazed by how he could run in office attire under the rain! Must be very very tough for him! His ultimate motive was to encourage other runners to finish strong! What an encouraging runner! Salute to him!

  • Spiderman

I wonder how he could run comfortably in a Spiderman costume! But surely he has many people rushing to him to take photos!! If I were to wear a Spiderman costume, I might end up coming back in sweeper bus!! haha! Salute to him!

  • Captain America

Another interesting Marvel character that I spotted - Captain America!! Cool!

  • running in swimming trunk 

The weather was cold around 22 degrees with the rain and wind-chill factor. Yet, this runner decided to run in his swimming trunk! Running with him was a girl in her swimming suit. I'm really amazed at how they make the most of their run - making it so interesting and fun!

  • Running in "school uniform"

This runner is so so nice! When I told him I wanted to take a photo of him, he posed a very funny cute pose for me to capture his "moments!"

Mwuaaaaks to you too! haha! 😍

  • Running topless

It seems that it's quite common for male runners to run topless in Taiwan. I saw at least 10-20 runners along the route running topless. I can imagine how free they must have felt running topless in a country side with rice fields, farms, and forest and rivers. 

Wow! Such awesomeness! May be one day I shall try when I run in Taiwan again? :) Why not, right? YOLO!

  • Running in Y-sandals 

It seems to be rather a popular thing for some Taiwanese runners to run in sandals - almost the barefoot running! Y-sandal seems to be the in thing there! Not less than 20 people were wearing Y-sandals to run the full marathons! And some of them even ran sub-4-hours full marathons with it!! So impressive!!

I regretted for not buying a pair at the expo. Otherwise, I could try it out too myself! 

Running should be about exploration and trying new things as well!

  • Running in ASICS and Mizuno running shoes

I paid close attention to what running shoes the full marathoners at Taiwan Rice Heaven Tianzhong Marathon 2017 wore. 

I noticed that most of them wore either ASICS or Mizuno! 

Occasionally I saw Saucony, New Balance, Adidas, Under Armour and Nike.  But I would say 80% of the running shoes in the full marathon race were either ASICS or Mizuno!

This new findings is actually a pleasant surprise to me as I would see more Adidas and Nike on the races in Malaysia. Interesting findings!

5. Awesome finisher experience

With only 1 km to the finish line, some volunteers offered me another goat milk ice cream! I was contemplating to eat or not to eat since I already ate one earlier!

But hey! Why not? The ice cream was made with the goat milk squeezed out of the farm in Tianzhong. Even though the weather was cold and I was close to the finish line, I still decided to take up the offer of 2nd ice cream!  haha!

And yes! I ate the whole ice cream (2nd already by now) before I started to run into the stadium to the finish line! 

I was glad I have made it back to finish line full of running joy!! That was the feeling I lost for a while earlier this year and I wanted that feeling back!

The bonus was that I still managed to deliver a decent net time of 3 hours 49 minutes 11 seconds. Not my PB but who cares? I had great joy of running without pressure of time at such awesome marathon!

Running joy 
unique 42 km running experience in Tianzhong 
decent time 
😀 H A P P Y     M E! 😀

And hey! The emcee managed to shout out my Chinese name on my BIB when I was about to cross the finish line! Felt as if I was the champion!! ha! ha!
The moment I crossed the finish line, I was passed with mineral water and a finisher goodie bag with the finisher medal and lots of goodies inside.

  • Finisher goodie bag

    • finisher medal
    • cookies
    • instant noodles with soy bean paste 炸酱面
    • enzyme pack 
    • 1 towel with Taiwan Rice Heaven Tianzhong Marathon 2017 printed on it
    • 1 pair of socks by DKGP
    • 6 locally made bar soaps
    • 1 pair of shoe laces
    • "Taiwan's Rice Heaven" environmentally friendly bag

Look at how creative and thoughtful the bar soap sponsor is.... printing 6 different finisher medal designs representing 6 years of Tianzhong Marathon! I really love it! Wish I could collect all the finisher medals! :) 

    • Instant certificate printing

    In Taiwan, there is this so-called instant finisher certificate printing service! I experienced it in Kaohsiung Marathon about two years ago. Similarly, Taiwan Rice Heaven Tianzhong Marathon 2017 also provided such awesome service!

    I went to the booth and instantly they printed out my finisher certificate with a laminated plastic cover. How cool!

    It looked like there were 3,614 male full marathon participants and 672 female full marathon participants, totalling 4,286 full marathon participants out of the 14,500 odd participants at this year's 6th Taiwan Rice Heaven Tianzhong Marathon 2017. 

    If the organiser didn't a quota, I'm sure the total participants would have exceeded that number!! I understand there were about 50,000 runners who registered for the ballot with 14,500 runners being successful! I was just blessed that no balloting for overseas runner yet this year! But I foresee in future the organiser might also adapt the balloting approach for overseas runners too once it gets more and more popular with overseas runners!

    • hot rice lunch box and dumplings

    And yes yes yes!! This is what I have been missing since I ran Fubon Taipei Marathon a few years back.

    A hot rice lunch box with sausage, chicken, vegetables!

    Oh man!! It tasted so so good especially after running 42 km!!

    For the 21 km finishers, they were given a big dumpling! I was so tempted to ask for one too! ha! ha!

    • free flow of ice cream

    Guess what? More ice cream?

    Yes! More ice cream in this rainy day but different flavour!!

    After eating two sticks of goat milk ice cream during the run, I still couldn't resist the friendliness of the Taiwanese!

    I ended up eating two more sticks of ice cream while waiting for two other friends to finish their full marathons.

    I would have turned into an ice cream man myself!!! lol!

    • free flow of grass jelly drinks

    Oh - more to eat and drink! This was a warm grass jelly! Super delicious! And I have been taking so much grass jelly drinks that I was glad my legs didn't turn into jelly when running!

    • Free flow of canned energy drinks

    Tianzhong Marathon 2017 really attracted many major sponsors who were very generous in giving away free goodies, food, etc.

    There were workers walking around at finish line area giving out cans of energy drinks!! I took one! haha! 

    • Free flow of bottled water

    Look at the beautiful friendly Taiwanese ladies offering free bottled water drinks to finishers!

    I couldn't resist to take a photo with one of them too! haha!

    And do you love my special hat? It was given out for free towards the last 2 km or so! I couldn't resist to be as local as possible!! Therefore, I ended up wearing one for the fun of it!! 

    • timing chip exchange (2pairs of socks, 1 pack of Tianzhong rice or NT100)

    Since the timing chip is the old technology which needed to be tied to shoe lace, runners needed to return in exchange for NT100. 

    If runners didn't want to get NT100 back as refund, they could also exchange timing chip with either 2 pairs of high-quality socks or a pack of Tianzhong rice.

    I decided to exchange for 2 pairs of socks. 

    Oh boy - I think I have all my full year supply of socks already from this marathon alone!!! :) I would think of Tianzhong Marathon and friendliness of Taiwanese whenever I wear the socks to run in Malaysia!

    • Baggage Area

    The baggage area is very well organised. When they know I'm from Malaysia, they gave me a very warm welcome! They asked me to enjoy the event as much as possible and eat as much as possible!

    Noticed my red bag? It's a bag by Taiwan Road Runners Association which I got during Fubon Taipei Marathon. I brought it along this round so that I could be as "Taiwanese" as possible! haha! I wanted to follow local culture as much as I could!!

    While resting, I did some selfies for memory! :) 

    • Fun-filled expo area

    Due to the rain, the whole place was rather muddy

    My ASICS running shoe turned into yellowish color with all the mud!

    Yet - everyone was in high spirit despite the unfavourable weather condition!

    I for one continued to enjoy the rain, the wetness, the mud, and the people!!

    I think there is a child in me!! And the child in me came out to play on that day!!! 😀

    Oh yes! I felt good after running 42 km!! All smiling!! 

    And of course, another photo with the lovely beautiful Taiwanese lady would be nice!! :)

    • Rubbish collector

    One thing I must highlight here - Taiwanese people are very environmentally friendly! I didn't see any disposal on the floor throughout the whole 42 km run. All were thrown into the designated rubbish bin along the route.

    Even at the finish area - as you can see - there were volunteers going around collecting rubbish - keeping the place as clean as possible!!

    Awesome act!

    In Summary

    Phew! I couldn't contain my excitement and joy about Taiwan Rice Heaven Tianzhong Marathon 2017. I hope you could feel my joy of running there too! I had my face smiling throughout the whole journey! I remember the last time I had such great joy smiling from ear to ear was during Bali Marathon. The atmosphere, the people, the culture really made me so so happy and overjoyed!!

    To do a recap, here are the 5 reasons why you shall run Taiwan Rice Heaven Tianzhong Marathon - "one of the top ten marathons in Taiwan", "The most hospitable and friendliest marathon in Taiwan", "Tokyo Marathon of Taiwan":

    1. Connection with the nature and agriculture
    2. Endless supply of food and drinks at water stations
    3. Most interesting participants
    4. Most hospitable and friendliest volunteers, supporters and locals
    5. Awesome finisher experience

    As it's gaining popularity every year, please register as soon as possible. I would say this is a "MUST RUN" full marathon in Taiwan!

    Planning a running vacation soon? Please don't look further than running the Tianzhong Marathon!

    You won't regret it!! I guarantee you!! 😀

    Note: Please also read my race review for the Pre-Race Day by clicking here.  It's the first time that I am writing 2 race reviews for a single race!!! :) 

    Taiwan Rice Heaven Tianzhong Marathon 2017's video by Taiwan Running Biji 

    See, I am still not having enough of Tianzhong Marathon. I am doing all th recommendations as much as I could for this marathon with strong reasons.

    Perhaps Taiwan Running Biji has captured the spirit and essence of 6th Taiwan Rice Heaven Tianzghong Marathon 2017 台湾米仓田中马拉松 2017 very well in this video below. Please take a look at the video below so that you could also feel participants' great excitement and joy at the most hospitable and friendliest marathon in Taiwanone of top ten marathons in TaiwanTokyo Marathon of Taiwan.

    Thank you very much for reading my experience sharing. You can also follow updates at Instagram and Facebook . 

    Words    : Vincent Khor
    Date.     : 19 November 2017.


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