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Stepping up for the long run

Kerati Charoenwattanachai, 43, is well known for his Kitti Duck Noodle shop In Samkong, the authentic recipe that he brought to Phuket from his family in Bangkok. However, his patrons are fast learning that not only does he have a talent for making tasty noodles, but he is also an athlete who has conquered many road and trail runs, and even ultra marathons.

By Nattha Thepbamrung

Sunday 2 April 2023, 02:00PM

Earlier this month Kerati completed the ‘Phuket 100K’, a 100-kilometre road run that took place in Mai Khao. He was a solo finisher with a time of 14 hours 6 minutes. He placed 46th in the Men’s category and 57th overall from a field of 147 ultra athletes.

Kerati was born and raised in Bangkok in a caring Thai-Chinese family. He was born with Erb’s palsy, which left his right arm paralaysed. He shared that he was a big newborn, weighing in at 4.7 kilogrammes.

His condition dominated his early years, and Kerati graduated carrying more than 100kg in body weight. Yet, that was all about to change. Kerati shed the weight and today is an athlete.

He started his running journey in 2012 and has now completed some 50 races in and out of Thailand.

How was your latest race?

This one was part of a series. Four runs including Khao Yai (Nakhon Ratchasima), Chiang Mai, Nakhon Pathom and Phuket. It was the first time this race was held in Phuket.

I am a solo finisher (not running as part of a team) with 14 hours and 6 minutes. There were about 300 people taking part in the run (which also had a 60km race).

The cutoff time depended on each category and the 100km cutoff was 18 hours. This race was a good one. The day after the run, I was not injured at all. I could still work normally. Good practice before the race helped me with this.

Actually, I was aiming to complete the race in 12 hours because I wanted to challenge myself, and from my training I estimated that 12 hours was possible.

Because of the COVID pandemic, I had not raced in an ultra-run at all for three years. This is the first race in a while.

The first 50km is the easiest, with everything under control, but after that anything can happen, such as the Phuket heat taking its toll. However, the route was very well designed. Each lap [of 20km] was designed around Splash Jungle. If I were jogging, I would take about three to four hours per lap. So it was a real run.

Another good thing about the race circuit was at the centre there was food, drinks and friends to cheer us on. Each time we passed the centre, we could recheck our body and what was not right during the run. In my case, I could change my shoes, which were not comfortable, and take care of physical issues that arose during my run.

How did you train for the race?

Before the run, I practised online with Coach Nini. She is a top triathlete in the country and graduated in medicine in Leicester (in the UK). She was an athlete for a while before returning to her career during COVID.

She gave me a training program that I followed, and I sent the results back to her. Her schedule was challenging but flexible. For ultra-running, we usually do just basic training. We focus on endurance, not speed. I usually train at Bang Maruan (in Srisoonthorn). One lap is less than one kilometre, and I just keep running without counting the laps. I start with a slow run and keep increasing my speed to train my muscles for endurance.

Thanks to my trail run experience as well as other runs, I realised that this type of run [100km ultra road marathon] is all about endurance, it requires consistency while avoiding injuries.

What do you like best about running?

I really like trail running. I am from Bangkok and I have been surrounded with concrete buildings and pollution, so I enjoy trail running amid nature, especially runs through the night to early morning when I can smell the dew and smoke from local people in the area starting to cook breakfast.

I recently did a run that passed Ton Sai Waterfall [near Thalang Hospital]. I could smell the wood burning from villagers, hear the gibbons, and see mist on the mountain after a rainy night.

Is your disability an obstacle to your trail runs?

I have had a disabled right arm since I was born, so my perception is that I have had only one usable arm all my life, but yes, it does create a problem, especially with imbalance. This causes issues not just when running, but also at the gym. When I want to do a ‘plank’, I can do it but my right arm cannot stay in place as long as my left.

For weight training, I also have to balance my training by lifting the same weight for both arms, which means I cannot lift weights that are too heavy for my right arm. Some stretching is also difficult when the right arm is needed in the action.

Which trail run has been the most impressive race for you?

I like them all because they all have their own attractions. However, I would say I like Pong Yaeng Trail ‘zero edition’ in Chiang Mai (first time at that location) the most because it was the first-ever ultra trail I ran in my life.

It was only 66km, not too long. The facilities, management, food and drinks were great. The trail was on lateritic soil, so it was soft for running. Also, there were not a lot of runners. If I remember right, there were 63 runners, and most of the runners were friends.

What do you like most about running?

For me, there are many moments I like about it. When I am running and I see other people stop, I can cheer them on. When I run out of energy, other people cheer me on. It may seem boring to some people, but I can be all by myself and be very focused.

Along the trail runs, I have to be focused on the path and on every step to avoid falling. It is like meditation. It is also like the Buddha teaching about the Middle Way. If I am too extreme with the run, I will be injured; and if I am too slow I will not finish the run in time.

When running in the middle, not too fast and not too slow, while listening to my own breathing, my brain is clear and I am very concentrated. My legs move all by themselves.

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