Interview : Luang Prabang Half Marathon

17 Jun 2016 19:40
Jean-Loup Fenaux
Focus on a race Interview

Hello, on October 23rd 2016, you’ll be organizing the Luang Prabang Half Marathon. Can you tell us where it is located?

The race is located in Luang Prabang, Laos, a small town in the mountainous northern part of the country, designated a UNESCO world heritage site for its charm and preservation of both French colonial architecture and historic Lao-style Buddhist temples. 

How old is the race and why was it created in the first place?

This year will be the 4th running of the race, which was created to allow runners to enjoy the majestic town while supporting locally-based charities. Previously, the race was organized by a volunteer committee and collectively raised over $250,000 for various charities supporting children’s causes. This year the Lao Friends Hospital for Children (a previous race beneficiary) will take ownership of the race as an annual fundraising event for the hospital which provides free medical care to over 15,000 Lao children annually. A new feature of this year’s event is that any runner that independently fundraises USD $250 or more will have their entry fee waived.


What kind of route have you set up for the runners? How would you describe it?

The route weaves through quiet leafy streets in the heart of the UNESCO-preserved heritage area of Luang Prabang, past glistening Buddhist temples and monks collecting their morning alms, skirting the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers as much as possible. As one of only a very few road races each year in the whole country, locals of all ages come out to watch the annual event, with many school children lining the streets to cheer on the runners.

What are the distances on the agenda? 

The route consists of a 7km loop which runners can complete 1, 2, or 3 times for 7km, 14km, or 21km (half marathon) race distances. We love the ‘non-traditional’ distances which allow 5 or 10k runners to challenge themselves to step up to a 7 or 14k distance. Because of the loop nature of the course, it’s easy for spectators to spread out throughout the whole course and cheer on familiar faces as the half marathon competitors come around each time.

How many runners do you expect on Sunday morning? What type of runners do you plan to attract?

This year’s race expects about 800+ runners, up from 500 runners the previous two years. At least 50% of the participants are local Lao runners, many of whom are getting the chance to compete in an official road race for the first time in their lives! The other half of the runners are residents of neighboring countries – we get many Thai, Japanese, and Singaporean runners plus nationals of other countries (e.g. Europeans, UK, etc.) who reside in Southeast Asia.

Credit : Iwan Gabovitch

At that time of the year, what kind of weather can we expect?

The average daily temperatures in October are around 25°C, with slightly cooler temperatures (20°C) in the early morning when the race takes place. With a 6am start time, many runners will finish by 8am, allowing them to enjoy this charming town the remainder of the day.

Have you planned festivities around the event?

There will be race expo that will be held the Friday and Saturday before the event, with many of our local sponsors offering discounts and other special offers at restaurants, spas, tour packages, etc. for those that are in town a few days. We may also hold a special event to thank all runner-fundraisers who reach the $250 mark in their fundraising for the children’s hospital. 

The race finished, what advice would you give a runner who has never been to Luang Prabang before? A good restaurant, a fancy sightseeing?

Much of the charm of Luang Prabang is in simply walking the streets, absorbing the tranquil beauty of the town. For active travelers or those who want to get out of town, the Kuang Si Waterfalls are less than an hour’s drive away and offer the opportunity to swim in refreshing turquoise reflecting pools in the forest. There is also a bear rescue sanctuary and a butterfly park on the same site as the waterfalls, making for a delightful half-day trip showcasing the natural beauty of Laos. Another option we love is a hands-on cooking class at one of the restaurants in town, including a visit to the local market to learn about the produce on offer and finishing off with a delicious homemade local meal.

In a single sentence, what would you tell the readers of ahotu Marathons to make them register for the Luang Prabang Half Marathon?

This destination race is in one of the world’s most charming and beautiful towns (just do a Google image search!) with an amazing local flavor to the atmosphere – everything from the local runners to the cheering squads of young school children, and of course the face that every dollar generated from the event directly supports free healthcare delivery for many Lao children who would otherwise not have access to it.   

Interview with Jennifer Brown. Jeniffer originally came to Luang Prabang to work with Lao Friends Hospital for Children as the hospital’s Deputy Director and also volunteered with other members of the community on the Luang Prabang Half Marathon Committee in 2014 and 2015. As a runner herself, she is delighted to take on the management of her favorite race in Asia and help continue to build support for the amazing work of the hospital.