Jim Damico, 126
One of the joys of being a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand is that, other than the heat, you can pretty much do every outdoor activity year-round, including running.
But running in Thailand, especially rural Thailand, has its unique challenges.
For example, even though some of Thailand’s biggest races in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Khon Kaen have been run for years with thousands of runners, it’s very rare that you would encounter another runner in a typical Peace Corps Volunteer’s village. I get tons of “thumbs up” whenever someone passes me on their motorcycle, but no one would ever think of joining me.
And I mentioned the heat. I don’t know why, but the sun seems to have a totally different quality here than it did back home in Kansas City. Like Thais, I avoid direct sunlight as if it would burn me in an instant. I can’t even imagine running under full sun here. So to get around that, and the 100+ degree temperatures, I run very early in the morning, around 5 AM. On long run days, I might even start out at 4 AM just so I’m not out on the road too late in the morning.
But running too early in the morning means you have another challenge – dogs. Dogs are not well loved by most villagers so the dogs don’t seem to have much love for anyone else. Like anywhere in the world I guess, most are all “bark” but no bite. Even after running past them for the last two years, they still bark at me. One difference I find in the village is that they are much more likely to be in a pack which changes how they react to a runner.
And yes I have been bitten, by a neighbor’s dog nonetheless. Thank goodness Peace Corps gives us rabies shots so all I had to do was go to the hospital for a booster shot.
One big plus for me in running early in the morning is that it’s improved my eyesight. Yes, my eyes have gotten better and I’ll be taking my driver’s eye exam again back in the US to get the eyeglasses restriction off my license. There are very few street lights in the villages so you get used to running by moonlight and even starlight. That’s the most amazing thing about running early in the morning – running under the Milky Way in all its glory, so bright you feel as if you could almost touch it.
Thais are terrified of ghosts so they think I am crazy to run in the dark. But then they’ll ask if any spirits gave me the winning lottery numbers, just in case.
Even though I start my runs pretty early I usually finish when the villagers are well into their morning routine. When I’ve been away, in Bangkok or at an English camp, I get questioned on why they haven’t seen me. And occasionally I’ll sleep in and get a late start but then it’s nice to see everyone as I run.
Just another crazy Peace Corps Volunteer…..
Jim Damico is part of TCCS 126, extending a 3rd year, and on theT4D Committee
To get started running in Thailand, check out running on PCThailand.org
and consider joining PCV Thailand Runners on Facebook.