Run day Monday: The Ping River

Ping river: 10km

Ping river 10kmMap courtesy of Route 469681.

Landing on my feet in a beautiful rented house courtesy of Airbnb for the duration of my time studying here in picturesque north Thailand, I found myself living next to a river that is just perfect for running along.

The afternoon I arrived from my week off in Tokyo (Tales of the City to follow next week) I felt the need to start exploring, having lived on fried food and noodles for the whole of my holiday week. I ran north: no go. A large ring road cut me off within a kilometre of home. I ran south: great! Following the river it’s possible to run a clearly marked five kilometres, a clearly marked 10 kilometres, and even a clearly marked 20 kilometres, which so far I have only done once in three weeks, despite supposedly still training for the next half marathon.

This is a great, flat, easy run. If you set off from the easy-to-spot landmark of the Sheikh Istana hotel and run south, within 2.5km you’ll come to a junction where the road continues straight ahead, but the river curves away to the left. Follow the river and run a further 2.5km, where the outer ring road (route 121) crosses over the river with a double-layered bridge.

Turnaround point - Route 121 bridge

Turnaround point – Route 121 bridge

It’s handily located at exactly the 5km mark, so just turn around and run back! 100m beyond the bridge there’s a basic outdoor gym area if you want to interrupt your run with a few sets of flys, or to release your knees with a go on the elliptical trainer. You could also continue on and run to a charming dam and footbridge at the 7.1km mark, or to a neat crossroads at a village a further 5km beyond if you want to stretch the run to 20km. This route will also take you past a really peaceful temple.

While generally incredibly pleasant, running in Chiang Mai presents a new set of problems I haven’t had to face in the outdoor sports heaven that is Seoul. The first is traffic. Beyond the tourist area of the Old Town and outside of the inner ring road, pavements do not exist in this city. The route is entirely on a two lane road shared with motorbikes, SUVs, and everything in between. Fortunately, Thai drivers on the whole seem relatively considerate so this isn’t a problem other than for the fumes. I also get a number of funny looks from passengers on every type of vehicle which indicates how rare it is to see people using the roads in any other way than on wheels.

The second problem is dogs. Dogs in Seoul are cute, pampered toys. Dogs in Thailand are there for a reason. The reason is to keep their property safe. These dogs don’t like unknown people running near their property. These dogs will bark furiously at people running near their property. These dogs will run after anyone running near their property. One of these dogs is going to get a kick in the teeth if he does it again. Actually, I’m a) too scared and b) too much of an animal lover to really kick the dog, but I might start running in full metal plate armour from knee to ankle.

The third problem is also wildlife based: snakes. On my second day out running alongside the river on a quieter stretch of road I noted the riverside jungle that stretches from riverbank to roadside. “What kind of semi-tropical creatures would live in a place like this?” I asked myself. I quickly answered myself and started running a half-step further into the road.

Within a few days, I’d been proven right. Mid-run I stopped as I noticed a thin green strip coiled ten metres or so ahead of me. It was happily watching the traffic from the side of the road, tiny head erect and alert. A passing motorbike saw it swiftly off back into the bushes, but it keeps me very much on the alert on all my runs now. A quick search once back home revealed it to be a pretty harmless Trinket snake. The same quick search also highlighted how many bloody snakes there are in Thailand. Fortunately, local people tell me it’s rare to see them, even rarer to see a worrying one, and extremely rare to get bitten by one unless you’re doing something stupid, or very unlucky.

Other than fumes, dogs, snakes, and incredible heat and humidity if you set out any later than about 8.30 or 9am, this is a relaxing and very easy to run route full of gorgeous sights and welcoming store owners who will nod a friendly, “sawadee kaa” as you pass by. And if you’ve a handy set of greaves, even the wildlife shouldn’t trouble you.

What are your biggest Running Gripes?

by the Ping!

by the Ping!


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