Meet the young runner who wants to represent Thailand on the global stage.
By Ashima Sethi
As the years go on and the expectations for young people continue to grow, being a modern day high school student is far from easy. From dedicating the time to a programme as intensive as the International Baccalaureate (IB), to the long list of extracurriculars required to secure a spot at a top tier university, one young talent who has embraced the challenges of high school with charm and tenacity is 18-year old Arisara Singhsachathet.
A recent graduate from NIST International School, Arisara has always been one to take her academics seriously, but her love for athletics has led her down an exciting path towards becoming a full-ﬂ edged runner. As she’s currently training with pros who have helped hone the skills of athletes representing Thailand on the global stage, Masala speaks to Arisara about her triumphs and what she hopes to achieve in the near future.
When did you ﬁrst develop a passion for running?
I’ve always been very athletic and at school I played various sports at varsity level. Running is a big component of being good at sport, so I began running recreationally as a means of improving my game. As I eased into running, I would do 20 to 40 minute sessions daily. Initially, I wasn’t thinking much about my pace or how many minutes I was running, I just found that I really enjoyed it.
When did you discover that you wanted to run at a more professional level?
One day during training with the varsity girls and boys football teams, we were made to do the ‘The Beep Test,’ which involves running 20 metres back and forth keeping time with beeps that get faster and faster. It got to a point where there was only me and one member of the boy’s team left, but I ﬁnally outran him at the level of 14.6. My coach then compared my Vo2 max levels to the standard and it was a high, above average score. The Vo2 max is a way to record oxygen consumption, which is a good indicator of aerobic endurance.
Then during one of our sports trips, my teacher took me to a hospital where I did an o ﬃcial Vo2 max test on the treadmill connected to a machine that analyses your expired air, and my score was very high, comparable to elite athletes. After these discoveries, I realised that I should probably look into running more. I then decided that if I was going to pursue it, I wanted to train with a proper coach and that’s when I started training with Coach Deaw.
What was it like starting out your proper training with someone who has so much experience?
Before training with Coach Deaw I had never trained on a proper track, I would almost always just run around the basketball court at my house. On the ﬁrst day of training, I felt like I was going to die but he told me he could see my potential and wanted to keep me on as part of his running team. It’s been good so far. It’s deﬁnitely been tough, but I think I’m handling it all quite well.
How did you balance school with training?
It was deﬁnitely diﬃcult, especially because the IB is so rigorous. I’m someone that needs to fully commit to everything I do, I consider myself an overachiever, so to keep up with my academic and athletic achievements I had to make a lot of sacriﬁces. On a regular day, I would wake up at 4am for running, 6-8am I had maths tutoring followed by a full day of school, and then afterschool I’d have either football or basketball practice. On some days I’d also have running after sports according to my coach’s programme, so I’d ﬁnish after 9pm.
And what do your training sessions look like on average?
I’ve been training every day and on some days I double-up mornings and evenings. Every week there’s a mix of easy recovery runs and two main track sessions: one style is more anaerobic, so 200m or 400m sprints for a large amount of sets (12-15 sets); the second is a combination of aerobic and anaerobic, so an example is the pyramid workout, which starts at 2,000m and then comes down to 1,600m, 1,200m, 800m, 600m, 400m, and then 200m but your speed has to increase every round. It’s a very tough session. We also do a weekly long run that’s between 12km-15km.
How has the pandemic aﬀected your training?
It’s deﬁnitely had an impact. At the start of the third wave, all parks and stadiums were closed so my coach would send me the programme and I’d have to train on the treadmill. It was so diﬀerent compared to being outside because you don’t get variants in terrain and weather, so it was especially hard trying to prepare for an outdoor race while indoors. Now, running outside requires a mask, which isn’t ideal and can be a bit suﬀocating.
At this point in your running career, can you recap some memorable races?
When I joined the varsity cross country team, I ended up racing in the 5km at BISAC and won ﬁrst place. The diﬀerence between me and the second place runner was 1 minute and 30 seconds, and I ended up breaking the BISAC record. I also joined the track and ﬁeld team where I scored ﬁrst in the 3km race with a time of 10 minutes and 48 seconds, which ended up being another record.
After a month of training with Coach Deaw, he wanted to send me to the Buriram Marathon to test my abilities and it was definitely one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had thus far. The marathon sees tens of thousands of runners in total, but I signed up for the 10km marathon that had over 3,000 runners competing. I ended up placing third overall with a personal best of 38 minutes and 50 seconds. The second place runner was part of the Thai national team and there were only 12 seconds between us, so I was really proud of this achievement!
I also competed in a 5km race recently that helps you gather points for the Olympics. My coach didn’t put too much emphasis on it as I’m still very young, but he wanted to put me to the test. On the day, it was really windy and the conditions were so bad that a lot of people felt the race shouldn’t have even gone ahead, but I still did quite well considering members of the national team were competing and I came quite close to them.
What are some of the skills you need to become a good runner?
I think a big part of running is your mindset, genetics and physical build will only take you so far. You have to run with your heart not with your legs, that’s something my coach always says. You need to have the commitment, the dedication, and the guts to push yourself to the limit.
As professional sports is a rare pursuit in our community, how have your loved ones supported you in your journey?
My parents are supportive, they come to all my races but they’re not those parents who push their children really hard, which I appreciate. I do think a part of them worries because it can get quite intense out there.
For example, my dad took me to my race in Buriram and towards the end I was going to pass out and I spent the entire night throwing up. It’s a common reaction from pushing yourself hard, but I understand that it can deﬁnitely worry a parent. Now, they’re growing a bit more understanding of my passion and they still show up to everything!
Do you have any advice for young people who want to pursue sports?
You have to give yourself the opportunity and give it a go. Don’t be scared of the things you feel are holding you back. There’s always going to be a lot of ups and downs in every pursuit, some days I still wake up thinking ‘do I really want to do this?’ but it’s motivation to beat all the obstacles in my way. Go for it with the mindset of ‘I’m going to try and do my best, because that’s the best thing I can do’. At the end, if things don’t work out, there are many other avenues to explore.
What are your goals for the future?
I’m looking forward to the Amazing Thailand Marathon that’s scheduled for the end of the year. I’m hoping it will go ahead as it’s one of the biggest competitions in Thailand and I want to get on the podium for that race too. I’m training very hard for it right now.
Beyond that, I’m focusing on improving my times and seeing where this can take me, so in ﬁve years I’ll have the best 5km and 10km times I can possibly have! I’ve also ﬁrmed Loughborough University to study Sports Exercise and Health Science, which I hope I can put to good use in the future and make an impact on the industry.
Do you think you’ll go on to represent Thailand at global tournaments in the future?
I can’t say for certain that I’ll get to that point, but my coach has spoken to me about registering me as a prospect for the national team. I do hope I can reach those standards. Regardless, I’ll be very happy just knowing that I’m giving it my all.