Whatever the circumstances, talent is likely to prevail. And so it proved, when Silas Muturi and Esther Macharia of Kenya won men’s and women’s races at the inaugural Bangkok Midnight Marathon early on Sunday morning, May 21. Their winning times were 2.30.23 and 2.53.31 respectively; some 18 and 23 minutes slower than their bests. But there is good reason for that.
Both Muturi and Macharia train in Nyahururu in Kenya, formerly known as Thomson’s Falls, which is 2,300 metres above sea-level, and as such enjoys temperatures which rarely stray above 23C (73F), with negligible humidity. With the early Sunday morning Bangkok temperature locked in at 29C with over 90% humidity, the local meteorological office helpfully explained that that was more like 38C (100F).
“It did feel hot,” said the 29 year old Macharia, with admirable understatement, “but not too much. I didn’t have any problem. I didn’t have any special plan, but when I started out, nobody followed me, so I was able to run my own race. I’m not happy with my time, because I’ve never run over 2.45 before, even when I started in the marathon, and I’ve run six. In any case, even if it had been hard, I would have thought of my children (Abigail, nine, and Brian, eight). I have school fees to pay and a family to take care of. That’s more important”.
Macharia walked away $5000 richer for her night’s work, as did Muturi. But if he had it harder, and his virtual collapse at the end suggested he did, it looked for the first 12 kilometres that Muturi was going to have big problems with co-favourite Igor Olifirenko. The Ukrainian powered away from the start, with Muturi and Bonginkosi Zwane of South Africa in his wake.
Zwane dropped off shortly after the 10k mark, but Olifirenko and Muturi sparred for the lead until 17k when it became clear that the Ukrainian’s left leg was beginning to cramp. He hung in until close to 20k but then dropped back rapidly and shortly after halfway sought the sanctuary of the following ambulance.
He was not alone; several of the more fancied runners overreached in the torrid conditions, which permitted Nicholas Boehlke of the USA and Ruben Sança, a US-based Cape Verdian to pick them off after a more discreet start. Referring to the lights and music accompanying the start, Boehlke said, “Maybe it was that hype at the start, but it seemed like some of the elites were anxious, not relaxed. Silas, Ruben and myself were the calmest. When the gun went, we knew Igor (Olifirenko) would go out hard. It was pretty fast, and the field didn’t settle; so we ran together, Ruben and myself in around eight and ninth place. It was so hot out there, and we moved through as the other started to suffer. By the time we got to the bridge (28k), Ruben had dropped his water bottle twice, and needed to stop for a drink; so he dropped back. I knew that only a disaster could stop Silas winning at that point, so I didn’t hammer it over the final kilometres”. Boehlke finished second with Sança third in the elite race.
In the parallel men’s mass race, three SE Asian based Kenyans took the top spots. After a close race, Daniel Kiprotich Kogo finished first in 2.46.40, with Denis Isika second in 2.46.56, and Hillary Koech third in 2.47.38.
Over 8000 runners contested the marathon, half-marathon, five and ten kilometres races; and the MOVE Group organisers are planning a further running festival in the cooler month of December on the holiday island of Phuket.
1 Silas MUTURI KENYA 2.30.23
2 Nicholas BOEHLKE USA 2.42.31
3 Ruben SANÇA CAPE VERDE 2.53.17
1 Esther MACHARIA KENYA 2.53.31
2 Sayo NOMURA JAPAN 3.06.06
3 Yayesh FIKRE ETHIOPIA 3.08.56