Thursday, January 17, 2019

THE KILLER CALLED DOI SUTHEP


Whenever the Thai National tennis teams trained for an important event such as Asian Games or SEA Games, we often traveled to the northern Thai province of Chiang Mai.  

Training up in Chiang Mai helped the players by getting them away from the distractions of Bangkok. It was also ideal because of the opportunity it gave us to run up Doi Suthep, the mountain that overlooks Chiang Mai. 

It’s a daunting run but it always meant that my players were in the best possible shape when competition time came around. Doi Suthep was our endurance building block and I would see the benefits of all the hard work done in Chiang Mai come out in the important matches later.

We had two alternative morning runs in Chiang Mai, Either a lap of the city or part way up Doi Suthep. These morning runs were always competitive and although I would be first on the runs in the beginning of our sessions in Chiang Mai, after a week the players would be running past me and I would be finishing back in the pack!  

Running Doi Suthep was one of the toughest runs I have ever done but there were other runs almost as tough.  

Marina Beach in Chennai, India, was difficult because of the length of the beach (reportedly the second longest in the world) and the extremely soft sand that made it difficult to get a good footing. But Doi Suthep was tougher.  As you climbed higher up Doi Suthep the air also became thinner and the incline steeper.  It was every bit as much a test of character as it was a test of fitness.

I can honestly say that I remember my runs in the various countries I visited with better recall than the matches played there. 

While in Tel Aviv, Israel I went running through the streets with a female player I was coaching on the tour at that time.  We unfortunately got lost and as darkness began to fall she began to panic, fearing that we would be stranded miles from our hotel with no way to find our way back. After many wrong turns and numerous stops to ask for directions we eventually did make it back to the hotel! 

While I was still playing competitive tennis in New Zealand I had a regular Sunday run from the township of Bluff at the very southern most tip of New Zealand, to Invercargill.  My Mother would drive me to Bluff early on a Sunday morning and I would run the 15 miles back home. It seemed to always be either cold, wet or windy, and often all three conditions on the same day was the norm. 

Over the years I must have run around Lumpini Park in the centre of Bangkok several hundred times.  It was never boring as the thousands of people in the park kept you motivated with their running styles, unusual running attire and crazy warm up routines.  

You had to plan your run in Lumpini Park so that you finished before 8:00am or that you started after 6:00pm so that the playing of the Thai National Anthem didn’t break your run. The whole park would stand still as a mark of respect for 2-3 minutes. As soon as the National Anthem was finished the whole park would again snap back into action once the music had finished. 

This ritual is repeated at the same time in parks and government buildings everyday, mornings and evenings, throughout Thailand.

But for sheer difficulty Doi Suthep was the toughest. It was a true test of character and fitness but it made sure that Thai teams during my time as Thai National Coach were the fittest in the competitions we were part of.  I’m glad I don’t have to do that run anymore.