Kerati Charoenwattanachai, a Real Inspiration of Track and Field

By Su

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In Thailand’s running circle that is expanding every day, many people are familiar with the name “Ti” or “T” and recognise his face that always looks happy and his smile even after a hundred miles of trail running. Apart from his respectful endurance, Kerati is well-known as being an elite runner, who is also a real inspiration for all his running fellows as he has a disabled right arm but so far has rocked all the challenges he wanted to achieve, including his recent race, Sky Runner World Series, Solomon Ultra Pirineu 2016, a 110-kilometre mountain run with 6,800 metre evation gain held on the magnificent Cadí Moixeró Natural Park of Spain.

Kerati is the youngest child in his Thai-Chinese family. He was born with poliomyelitis on his right arm but this didn’t make him any different from the other friends at school. After having graduated from high school at Wat Suthiwararam, a top school in Bangkok, he continued his Bachelor’s and received two Master’s degrees in IT and Management at Assumption University.

Not only did he completed his academic aspect, he also played a lot of sports. Kerati was a playful boy when he was young, playing a lot of football.

“I love sports since I was young. I love watching it. I felt that sports news is fun to watch,” he recalled. “My high school was also one of the top 5 leading schools in the Bangkok school football league. It became a routine that I did every morning, at lunch break, and after school.”

However, after entering university, studying got harder and social life gradually took him away from sports.

“I got exempted one year earlier from my class mates to the university so, everyone I met there was new for me plus, the study was more difficult and came with more responsibilities. I quit doing sports and exercise for about 7 years since then.”

“I was a skinny kid until about 9-10 years ago when I moved from my grandmother’s house to my parents’ house. As people know, Thai-Chinese families love making their children eat well [which means eat a lot]. Even when I played football, I was chubby and had to change my uniform every single summer.”

“My diet continued without control until I was doing my Master’s degree. I then found myself holding weight at 108 kilogram (238 pounds).”15033975_1347000758664224_1323231779_o

“Before I reached my peak, I tried to lose weight from time to time but always failed because I set my goal in days or weeks. I didn’t know how it worked and expected to see a solid result in such a short time. I was impatient and when I couldn’t see the result, I just quit.”

“I later found out that. What made me fail is nothing but my own self, my own mind. I only set the final goal but never looked at the small achievements along the way. I tried doing workout for weight loss without knowledge, anyone to guide me or even friends to train alongside so, after few days of pain, I just stopped.”

“I could focus more on the training as I finished my master and I also changed the mindset. I wanted to see myself as a better one.”

During the first month, he lost seven kilograms and continued to lose about 25 kilograms in three months. The more his weight was getting down, the more he would enjoy doing exercise.

“As I was trained for a one hour walk-only for few months before started running on the treadmill. So, my only thought was I had to run for one hour, too, without checking how far I went.”

“I ended up running about 10 kilometres every day which I thought was average distance for people. The trainer was entertaining, and he kept challenging me to go further.”

“My exercise activity was only limited in the gym, including running and body building. I continued like this for about 4-5 years without knowing that there were plenty of other things such as marathon, triathlon, trail running or Ironman.”

“My turning point was when my wife (Kiranee Narabal) showed me her medal from her first 10-kilometre run. I was wondering what kind of event was that. She continued a few more races on her own before I started to join a 10-kilometre road running. I then leant that indoor and outdoor running were very different. Even though I finished the race with a good time, I had to stop a few times to walk, which I never done on the treadmill.”

“Since then, I’ve become more interested in running outdoor. I started with having no friend to run with and then I have built a whole new circle. It was the time when I was collecting some cool medals from the races,” he laughed.

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He said road running was more challenging than indoor training. However, it was more fun and he forgot running in the gym completely.

“One day, my wife came up with the idea that we should try marathon. I thought marathon was just for crazy people but before realizing how and why, I found myself getting ready at the starting line of our first marathon, the Bangkok Marathon in 2013. She was representing Thanyapura at that time. It was not easy at all but we made it to the finish line.”

“I enjoy every running event I went. There’s no better one than another because I go to all of them for fun and all of them are impressive.”

“After competing marathons for a while, I started a new challenge by joining trail runs, still accompanied by my energetic wife, at the Columbia Trail Master race in Ratchaburi. I had no clue about how and what to prepare, I took only one bottle of water. It was hot and dusty and torturing. I didn’t like it at all.”

“Though I didn’t like the first trail, I found myself joining the next trail in Khao Yai. I don’t even remember why.”

“This time, it was way different. It was muddy because it rained right before the race. This event was the turning point making me fall in love with trail run. It was shady in the middle of the lush jungle. The tropical humidity, the smell of the morning grass after rain, the good vibe that ran along and waited at the finish line or even the delicious Pad Kaprao at the finishing point (laugh). Now trail has become a part of my life and the running circle has become my new social.”

“I prefer trail run than road run now as it’s more challenging, more difficult, more unpredictable and more life risking (laugh)”

His passion in trail run and challenge brought him to many fields inside and outside the country while he gradually prepared for the ultra trail, a crazy jungle run competition in tough geography with over a hundred kilometres to go through.

“The beautiful challenge about ultra trail run is that you have to plan very well ahead about what to do along the day; how to spend the food, drink, energy. It’s a survival game that has limited time that you have to remain on speed.”

“The first ultra trail run I attended was 100km. Duo in Thailand North Face (TNF) 2015 with my wife, and the second one was 100km solo TMBT (The Most Beautiful Trail) on Borneo Island, around the Mount Kinabalu.”11250149_1087112447973564_460251166135532791_n

“I had a very short time to practice before this race as I had a hamstring injury for many months prior to the D-day. However, I did it. I finished my first ultra trail run.”

“My running fellows made many challenging races, and I really want to discover as many of them. Some of them went to Craze Ultra, an insane 100-mile trail run in Singapore. One of them made it to the finish line and I was proud of him and this pushes me forward.”

Following the first ultra race, he continued his amazing journey to completed 100 Miles Thailand, the country’s longest road race (166km) from Chiangrai to Chiangmai in 2015, and continued to one of the highest landmark in Spain to compete a Sky Running, thousands of metres above the sea level.

Because of the tough location of a sky high mountain together with the lack of experience in trekking in Europe, he didn’t make it before the cut off time but had an inestimable lesson.

“Recently, this year, I was invited by a running fellow to join the Thai team at Solomon Ultra Pirineu 2016.”

“It was 110 kilometres long with the elevation gain at 6,800m. It wasn’t just a trail but also an altitude matter, we had to climb up and down over mountain rocks in the rain and the cold, during the day and the night, and we were the first Thai people attending this above-the-cloud run.”

One of his team member finished the competition very closely to the cut off time which made them realise that there’re a lot more for them to develop.

“It was a valuable experience competing far away from home. There was a trekking way which I thought I took fast but got overtaken by the locals who trek more in this location. It teaches us a lot of lessons which we can use to develop ourselves more. I did 98 kilometre before the cut off time at 29 hours and a half but one of our group was the finisher. It made us realised, we were just a little spot on the planet.”

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His trail journey always continues with joy thanks to the beauty of the different natural surrounding. However, no path is perfectly smooth. He faces problems many times according to his body condition.

“Every trail has its own uniqueness. Trail running is like world exploring. Every part of it; trees, grass, weather, temperature, ground have always been different.”

“In the beauty, there’re some obstacles. Sometimes, it’s a single track, a very narrow way that only one person can walk through. It was the path around a mountain; on the left side was a high cliff while the right side was filled with rocks. I can only use my left arm so, I had to try to bend my body and catch the rocks with the left hand.”

“Sometimes there’s also robe climbing up and down a cliff. I don’t have much problem getting down because I use gravity and just sit and slide down but the way up is complicated for me. I had to put my feet very tight with the cliff before moving the left hand forward.”

“One of the trail that I want to conquer is HK4Trails. It is a run across the four grand mountains of Hong Kong and the finish line is the green mailbox. The distance is over 320 kilometres within the cut off time of 60 hours. It takes a long run without sleep and after three night without sleeping, the body starts to malfunction. It is hard to make speed or even focus.”

Because of the popularity in cycling that spread around the country as well as his neighbourhood, he started to look for practicing cycling as well.

“I never had a chance to cycle since I was young. A guy I know gave me a bicycle but it was abandoned in my noodle shop for a long while. My employee once teased me, “Bro, why did you take the bike from the guy? You never used it at all.” Then I made a promise that I will seriously try to ride it.”

“Because my right arm doesn’t work like others. It can only hold or clip light items but cannot do complicated things like weight lifting, driving, riding, swimming, etc. There’s a limit for me whenever I wanted to try riding the bicycle. It is challenging to try.”

After falling and getting back up several times, he decided to join his first duathlon event, Roboman in Utapao, Rayong province.

“There were so many athletes and coaches from Thanyapura including Ricky (Ekkerat Phanthip). The race was 5k run – 40k cycling – 10k run and I wasn’t worried about running at all while the bicycle shouldn’t be a problem because I practiced quite a lot.”905907_1069860436357331_1746674025606571392_o

“Unexpectedly, with no experience in the transition phase, brick was the difficult part. I didn’t understand that it used the different part of leg muscles. I felt like cramp was about to come as soon as I touched the pedals and I had to try many times to get on the bicycle.”

“As soon as I got up the bike and continued, I heard the crowd cheering me up. It was a memorable moment. After cycling, I started running again and this is when I had a real cramp around my knees and I had to pause for like 5 minutes; it taught me that brick training is very important.”

By joining more duathlon events, people started to know Kerati more. There was a team called Shutter Running which also publish a blog about impressive moments and people in running events.

“The photographer and writer said he was impressed by my will without limit. Even though my arm doesn’t work, I never give up on myself. People in the running circle remember me as the runner who always smiles.”

12189837_10153381247849401_8710668011397208638_nNowadays, Kerati is still cruising in the endurance sports circle, especially ultra and trail run. Not only does it strengthen his body but trail run and all sport he has done also train his mind and changed him to be more organised.

“I plan ahead about the race and implement the plan while racing. At the end, when the result is issued, I check if it works to follow the plan or if there’s anything to fix. This can also be applied to daily routine and work. I learn to develop myself with no limit. If I stay at the same level and field, my body and mind will never improve.

“I learn that if we don’t put limit in what we do, we can go unexpectedly further. There’s no excuse for not trying harder to succeed. I believe, if I can do it, you can do it, too.”

 “For me, apart from the health boost, I like to challenge myself. I like to attend every field to see my potential. I’m targeting to do triathlon. I can’t swim yet but I strongly believe I can and will start practising next year (2017).”

 

 

 

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