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Men's Cross Country/Track and Field
December 12, 2018
One of the most important aspects of cross-country is patience. The virtue of patience is obvious in racing but its even more important in training. The cross-country season starts in late June when we start building up our weekly mileage with the purpose of building a strong base for our most important races in November. In the summer it's easy to get too excited and burn yourself out by November, so being patient and not over exerting yourself early on is key. As my coach always tells me, “We want to keep training vanilla.” But this past summer after setting the 5k and 3k Thai national records, I was invited by the Thai national team asking if I wanted to run in the Asian Games. A little background, I am half Thai or as they call it in Thailand, a luk khrueng (directly translated as half child). We moved to Thailand when I was 3 years old and stayed there for most of my early childhood. The Jakarta Palembang Asian Games in Indonesia would be held in late August and racing a hard 10k in the Indonesian summer wouldn’t exactly be “Vanilla.” But it seemed like an opportunity too good to pass on. After talking with my coach, we agreed that there could be a way to race in Indonesia and still be fresh in November for the collegiate cross-country championship season.
I flew to Thailand about 10 days before my race to join the national team at the training camp held at Thammasat University, my dad’s alma mater. To avoid the heat, my distance running teammates and I would wake up at 5:30 to begin training. Luckily, I was so jetlagged that getting up around 5am was easy. Even with the early start, I felt like I was swimming in sweat by the end of my run. Thailand is experiencing a running boom and I was honored to be teammates with the older Thai runners who inspired the nation. Outside of running I spent most of my time at the athlete dining hall, meeting my teammates and enjoying the authentic Thai food!
About 4 days before my race we flew to Jakarta to stay in the athlete village. It had been an interesting experience staying at Thammasat University and seeing a foreign Uni, but the athlete village was unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. Flags from every country in Asia flew from the 7 high-rise buildings and hundreds of athletes roamed the grounds. The athlete cafeteria was a congregating point for all the competitors and a true amalgamation of people of all different ports. My first day in the cafeteria I stood in line next to Yao Ming and the Chinese Basketball team, and I’ve never felt so small in my life! Additionally, spending time training around the village gave me a better perspective on the wide variety of sports and the comparable passion and dedication many of us share.
Competing in the 10,000m was an equally memorable experience. When the announcers introduced the Indonesian runners, the crowd erupted in cheers. It was the loudest crowd I have ever experienced. The race itself was tough. We ran at 8pm to avoid the heat, but it was still 90 degrees and humid. My competition included some very talented runners, including the 5th fastest half marathoner in history, Abraham Cheroben, from Bahrain. I was outmatched but managed to hang on for 4th place and the race inspired me to continue improving.
I’m grateful to the Harvard coaches for being so accommodating and giving me ample time to recover from the Asian Games even though it meant sitting me out the first race of the season. I am also thankful to my teammates for keeping me calm in my first international competition and all the support I received from the Thai people. I never imagined I would be able to reach that many people through the sport of running.