Bagan Temple Marathon

Where & When:

Bagan, Myanmar, November 2016.

Breathtaking. the local communities, the food and all the mysteries of Myanmar (the parts I was able to visit) and the the town of Bagan kept blowing my mind. You know those places you go where you are speechless and think its the best thing ever, then the next day you get the same feeling again and the day after, its one of those places. Bagan itself is littered, no that sounds wrong, blessed with thousands of unique temples providing visitors with a truly enriching experience.

Why I ran this course:

I had an itch. I scratched it. It had been about 18 months since the Kili marathon and I was coasting in life, no real challenge or adventures of note. It needed to change. I needed to fill the void so started looking for another marathon and thinking about the other continents on my list. Google led me to stumble across the Bagan Temple Marathon website and as soon as I saw the pictures I was sold. There was no changing my mind after seeing those pictures of thousands of temples and the mysteries that awaited in Myanmar. Google it now and plan your trip!

The Course:

Truly a feast for the eyes. I genuinely have no idea where I was at any one time as the course seemed to wind its way through various roads, paths, dirt tracks and sandy areas through and around Bagan. Like the pictures led me to believe, there were temples everywhere! Big ones, small ones, some as big as your head and some massive structures which I cannot even begin to comprehend how they were built. I must admit, although fairly flat, there was far more sandy stretches than I anticipated and these could be felt in the legs throughout the run.

The Organisation:

I was initially a little put off and irritated that, as part of signing up for the race you have to register on one of the fully supported excursion packages. I like to consider myself an independent traveler and I wasn’t not keen on the idea of paying someone else to book trips and hotels that wouldn’t normally appeal to me. I must say though, Albatros Adventures were fantastic. Every little detail was accounted for and the trip went as smoothly as it could. I was so thankful for the trips and excursions to sites and locations  I wouldn’t have otherwise seen and I made some great friends through the trip. Race day was also perfect with excellent organisation and a superb ‘pasta party’ and post race ‘celebration evening’. I wouldn’t hesitate to sign up to run of the other races they run across the globe.

bagan the gang
This was the first time running became something more for me. Friendships and community.

The Atmosphere/Support:

Another smaller race meant the support is pretty much non existent for this race. However, given the surroundings it isn’t something I even noticed whilst running! You don’t go to Burma for the cheers and cow bells!

My Race:

I’ll fast forward through the training, you know how it goes by now. I stuck to what I already knew was a tried and tested approach for me. The morning of the race saw runners from the hotel shuttled for an early start beginning outside the Htilominlo Temple.

bagan before
It was too dark to get a decent photo of the temple, so have a standard pre-run pose instead.

Within 30 minutes of beginning the sun started to rise and tens of hot air balloons started to take to the sky. Its not often I’m looking upwards whilst running!

bagan-balloons.jpg
Not a bad start to a run!

I again chose to run with my own water in a hydration pack given the relatively low number of water stops available. Definitely a wise decision as temperatures soon reached over 30 degrees C. About 13km in I caught up with my room mate who was running the half marathon race, I was a little envious at this point as the sweat was becoming relentless! Soon after the course turned onto some dirt and sand tracks. I wasn’t prepared, nor experienced, for running on sand and to my surprise there was rather a lot in Bagan. I found this tough, very tough. I felt I was running quite strong though and, using my trusty Casio F-91W was constantly calculating my average pace and expected finish time. I felt I was on course for a sub 3:30 finish time and kept pushing. After about 30km though I accepted this time was gone as I started to slow and feel the effects of running on the sand. Since seeing my room mate I’d spent most of the run on my own and the isolation was also getting to me a little. As I reached the 40km point I caught up with another runner (it had been sometime since I last saw one!) and I decided to settle in behind him at a more comfortable pace and keep pushing for a PB time. To my surprise and confusion though, the finish line soon loomed up ahead and we both chased down the end. I later realised I’d been calculating my finish based on a 44km distance. I have no idea why. It did keep my mind occupied though with the calculations. I decided I’d invest in a sports watch (Garmin F235) as a result of my cock up when I get back to the UK!

bagan
Back to where it began, only now with a medal.

The goodies:

A nice T-shirt, a medal and a ridiculous amount of food and drink the whole week.

Time/Standings:

  • 3:28:56 (PB)
  • 6/100

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