Life’s a Beach for Record-Breaking Winner
It was a runner more accustomed to sub-zero temperatures who scorched to record-breaking victory in the balmy tropical heat of the 2011Laguna Phuket International Marathon.
But while rocket Russian Vsevelod Khudyakov was setting the island course ablaze, thousands of other runners were content to simply enjoy the occasion of this unique destination marathon and “Run Paradise” at more sedate paces.
The sixth edition of the marathon on 12 June drew its biggest-ever field, with runners of all ages representing 45 nationalities from 39 countries taking part in a medley of events that included the full 42km marathon, 21km half marathon, 10.5km run, 5km community walk, and 2km kids’ run.
Since its inception, the Laguna Phuket International Marathon, with the tagline “Run Paradise,” has been both an international draw card for the holiday island and a focus of local community initiatives by its host, the Laguna Phuket destination resort.
Its reputation as a fun event in an attractive holiday destination has spread regionally and worldwide, attracting growing numbers of international runners whose enthusiasm has earned it the accolade of Asia’s fastest-growing destination marathon.
Each year Laguna Phuket uses the marathon as a fund-raising vehicle for its community charity efforts. Recent marathons have raised thousands of baht from sponsorships and donations for Laguna’s on-going Developing Sustainable Schools programme.
This year was no exception, with Thai film star Mario Maurer the appointed Charity Ambassador to focus attention on the programme’s current school in need; Baan Klong Mai Daeng School in Surat Thani province, which recently suffered extensive flood damage.
The popular celebrity’s presence sparked scenes reminiscent of Beatlemania as he led 10 children from the school on the 5km community walk around Laguna Phuket’s lush parkland and seven deluxe hotel properties.
The celebrity ambience was also evident with three contestants from TV reality weight loss show The Biggest Loser Asia – who between them shed around 150kg – running their first-ever half marathons thanks to their new fitness lifestyles.
More attention was on another celebrity runner, Julia Thorn – the only Australian woman to complete 100 marathons – as she clocked up Number 115 at Laguna Phuket.
And with larger-than-life American MC Whit Raymond whipping up the finish line atmosphere with a barrage of non-stop commentary against a booming backdrop of rock anthems, the casual observer could have been forgiven for thinking this was a music festival rather than a sporting event.
MC Whit, a veteran commentator at major sporting events worldwide, was able to name check each and every runner and their times, using race registration computer technology.
One marathon runner said: “I was 5km from the finish line and really struggling when I began to hear the music and Whit’s announcements in the distance – it really fired me up and got me going again. When I ran over the line, with Whit bellowing my name and time, it was just a fantastic feeling of achievement.”
Debbie Dionysius, Assistant Vice President Destination Marketing of Laguna Phuket, said: “It’s the good-time atmosphere generated by everyone that makes our marathon so popular.
“We’re not a serious running event; it’s all about enjoying a run on a paradise island and celebrating the occasion.”
Vsevelod Khudyakov – who arrived in Phuket direct from Vladivostok just the day before the marathon and registered with minutes to spare – managed to get into the offbeat spirit, despite his feat of seriously fast running.
A complete stranger to Phuket, Vsevelod was afraid of getting lost and missing the 04.30am full marathon start.
So he slept on nearby Bang Tao beach, waking to race around a course he’d never seen before in a record time of 02:33:51 – slashing almost six minutes off the previous record and finishing more than 17 minutes ahead of his nearest rival.
“What a great story with a fantastic ending,” said Debbie Dionysius. “It’s characters like this that make our marathon special. We seem to keep attracting them and it just gets better and better each year.”