Phuket resident Mark Gillett redefined the activity last month, however, when he took on the gargantuan challenge of running from Promthep Cape to the Sarasin Bridge in one attempt.
The 36-year-old teacher’s Herculian effort on June 20 was all in the name of a good cause though, raising funds for the One Phuket food drive to assist those in need on the island during these challenging times of the pandemic.
The Phuket News caught up with Mark to get the low-down on his incredible achievement.
Setting off “one minute behind schedule” from the Cape at 4:16am, the first thing that struck Mark were the spectacular views.
“Despite being night, we could see out over the Andaman Sea and the lights of Nai Harn from above, passing Windmill viewpoint and then heading past Nai Harn lake,” commented Mark. “It was a beautiful start to a run.”
He had been joined on the first stretch by a couple of co-runners Jay and Ernst who served as ‘pacers’. Mark said their company helped the first 5km pass by quickly and relatively easily by helping him distract his mind from the enormity of the challenge ahead.
Reaching Karon View Point and the first scheduled pit stop, Mark was greeted by a very eager support crew providing refreshments. It was at this point he realised he had under-estimated the distance from Google maps by 2-3km which meant they were behind schedule.
That meant picking up the pace a little before the next stop in Kata, something he managed to do with another co-runner Erik joining and pushing him on. Back on schedule.
It was at this point that much of the pre-run research Mark did paid dividends when he decided to take some time to tend to a sore toe instead of pushing on, something he described as “a game-changing moment”.
For the next section the cameras were on him as the film crew joined and before long he arrived in Patong, meaning half a marathon had been completed already but the punishing, steep inclines of the west coast hills were yet to come.
This section included the ‘Patong Wall’ where Mark and his co-runner Erik 10 months previously had completed, at that time, Thailand’s first Everesting run.
“It was great to have Erik running with me at that point and to reminisce about that challenge, which helped a few more kilometers fly past,” said Mark.
“Then it was a fast, fun descent, towards the glorious sea where I let my stride open up and my pace rise as Kamala came into view. I was grinning from ear to ear, feeling fast and strong and having a great time.”
On arriving in Kamala he was met by a barrage of people. The support was naturally appreciated but it did make keeping to the schedule challenging.
“I knew it might be difficult to speak to people properly on the day so I had written cards for my pacers in advance to make sure they got the appreciation they deserved,” Mark said.
The next section onto Surin was stunning, he said, with great views across the Andaman Sea and down the coast. A further boost was provided when Mark’s wife and two children drove past waving in support, ready to meet him at the next stop.
After a longer than planned stop at Hugo Hub, Mark pushed on for the final stretch. The morning clouds and hope of rain had dissipated and it became very hot although his pre-run trepidation about beach running proved nowhere near as bad as he had feared.
Once he had cleared the brutally steep hills and a brief encounter with a monitor lizard, he arrived at Nai Thon and another pit-stop. It was here he was greeted by his school principal from KIS school in Kathu Mr Eynon who Mark said has been so supportive of his efforts.
It was then Mark says he made his worst decision of the day by eating too quickly then immediately running again – the initial plan was to walk for a while but feeling pressure from the film crew he picked up the pace and paid for it with subsequent stomach cramps for the next stretch.
Running buddies Raz and Arnfinn helped distract him and lift his mood as he took on the 5km flat to Sirinath in increasingly hot conditions.
“The final stint was always going to be brutal,” Mark said. “It was 11:30am and extremely hot, added to the fact that this section was a combination of soft sandy dirt tracks and sloping beaches. And of course by this point I had run over 55km!”
The final slog was tough, he said, taking on really soft, uneven ground and another stint on a sloping beach, before the final 2.5km along the shoulder of the main road, in the midday heat.
“I was still running, but slow and in pain as stomach cramps were catching up with me,” Mark recalls.
Still, the end was in sight and running onto the Sarasin bridge which “felt amazing,” he said. Up a flight of stairs to touch the sign signifying the official end point, he let out a huge victory yell! All done and dusted, clocking a time of 9 hours and 9 minutes.
“I was very happy with how the day went,” Mark said on reflection. “I had no big low points, and for the majority of the day was in a really happy place. Seeing so many people come out was great, and I was very happy that I ran all the flats, downhills and nearly all the beach segments.
“The most important thing was I reached the fundraising target,” he added proudly. “In fact I managed to raise a total of B146,000 which was 33% over the initial target.”
The challenge has also been officially recognised and entered into The Fastest Known Time, an organisation that records routes and times achieved by a range of outdoor pursuits enthusiasts throughout the world.
The Phuket News congratulates Mark on his fantastic achievement and looks forward to hearing all about his next challenge soon!
You can read all about Mark’s challenge in his own words via his blog here.
Check out Mark’s Instagram page here.
Donations can still be made to Mark’s effort via the One Phuket Facebook page.