Staging any major running event takes far more than just a start/finish line and a stopwatch.
Runner hydration, road and traffic management, certified timing, accurate route measurement and dedicated medical facilities are just a few of the many requirements to be juggled by the modern-day event organiser.
Yet despite the frustrating challenges of the Covid 19 pandemic, for Rut Jiroajvanichakorn, Managing Director of MICE and Communication, it’s all in a day’s work as he continues his quest to establish Thailand as one of the world’s leading running venues.
The man behind the Bangsaen10, Bangsaen21 and BANGSAEN42 road races saw his team’s efforts rewarded when the 2019 Bangsaen21 ticked all the boxes required by World Athletics (formerly the IAAF) to guarantee Gold Label status for the 2020 event.
World Athletics Label Road Races are races designated by the world governing body as the “leading road races around the world.” The classification was first introduced for the 2008 running season upon the suggestion of the IAAF Road Running Commission.
“For years running events in this country suffered from poor planning in terms of safety, management, insufficient water and cups… it was happening time and time again and things needed to change,” says Rut, who is currently working on plans for this year’s BANGSAEN42, scheduled for November 7, and the Bangsaen21 to be held on December 19 as well as a new cross-country race in Kaeng Krachan in September.
“I noticed that when I started exercising seriously just over five years ago, various events weren’t getting it right with even the basic things such as the actual race distance not being correct – a 21km run that is actually only 19km,” he adds with a smile.
“Drink stations are also vital – it’s no use having a station at the 4km mark that has run out of water before everyone has passed. Or have stations where the cups are not ready and runners actually have to stop to pour their own water.
“When I saw this happening too often, I felt that it was a management problem so I thought why not create our own half marathon?”
And with the valuable support of Tui-Narongchai Khunpluem, Mayor of Saen Suk, Chonburi Province, the event – known as the Bangsaen21 – has grown to such an extent that today it ranks among the world’s best road races.
“When we started out, thousands of runners completed the event and said it was as good as running in Japan and even better than the standard running events in Singapore.
“When we heard this, we began to wonder what the world standard is for such races so we decided to learn more about the IAAF (now World Athletics).”
Once Rut examined what was required to elevate the Bangsaen race to a world-class standing, he soon realised he and his team weren’t far from reaching their own racing goal.
“I knew our standards were very close to Gold Label standard – almost 90 percent of what the IAAF was looking for. Where we were lacking was in the provision of professional drug testing, several medical points and the presence of world-class international runners.
“Our aim wasn’t just to solve problems and improve races in Thailand but to take the country to a new level on a world-class platform. By the standards in Asia, we knew we had a great race but we wanted to go even further.”
That desire to improve saw the Bangsaen21 go from World Athletics Silver Label status – one of only five global half marathons at that level – to its lofty position in 2020 as a Gold Label event thanks to those final few criteria being met by the organisers.
Unfortunately, due to the current pandemic, no races will be eligible for Gold, Silver or Bronze Label status in 2021 and the Bangsaen races will operate under Elite Label status with a view to all three becoming Gold Label in the future. However, it remains a remarkable growth in such a short space of time.
And while Covid 19 measures will continue to provide challenges for event organisers, Rut and his team will work on following the success of sporting properties such as the recent Honda LPGA Thailand and stage a race featuring many of the world’s greatest elite athletes running alongside everyday runners on the streets of Bangsaen later in the year.
* For further information on the forthcoming races, check out the Facebook pages of Bangsaen10, Bangsaen21 and BANGSAEN42.
Alan Ewens is an award-winning independent Media/PR Consultant based in the Middle East who has managed media and communications programmes for many worldclass events such as the FIFA World Cup, the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon, the Volvo China Open, the FEI Endurance World Championship, the Commercialbank Qatar Masters, the Globe Soccer Awards and the DP World Tour Championship. On the editorial side, he has written on a wide variety of topics for global organisations including books for Emirates and Dubai International Airport, a 24- episode TV show for Red Bull and yearbooks for the UIM and the Dubai International Marine Club. He has also provided voice overs for the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby 7s, produced Video News Releases (VNRs) for brands such as Ford and Volvo, and produced oncamera interviews for the UIM and the Volvo China Open. Alan is also the host of the UIM Annual Awards in Lausanne and Monaco.