Great strides: Phuket
The name "Phuket" comes from the Malay word for "hill" ( bukit), and true to that moniker, much of the island's interior is dominated by lush, green hills. Thais call Phuket "the Pearl of the South", and its 40 kilometres of white-sand beaches have been attracting holidaymakers for many years.
In more recent times, runners and triathletes have begun to discover its allure.
The combination of a holiday destination and an international-standard running event, together with the Thai hospitality, makes this seem like paradise.
"What better way to unwind after a tough marathon than to head to Surin beach for a few hard-earned Singha beers? You can enjoy quality Thai cuisine at a great price," says two-time Phuket International Marathon winner, Australian Stephen Paine.
Whether you come to Phuket for the marathon or triathlon, or just a holiday, here is a list to get the most out of your running around the island. To get to the respective places, it's best to hire a taxi or tuk-tuk - and expect to bargain for your fare in advance.
Best running spots
Bang Tao bay (Laguna)
Home of the Phuket International Marathon and the grand estates that surround many of the island's premier five-star resorts.
Away from the hustle and bustle of Phuket's residential areas, Bang Tao bay offers kilometres of lush tropical gardens, golf courses and wide boulevards that are popular with runners throughout the day.
It's a good idea to take a map to find your way around the area's maze of winding lagoons, bridges and resorts.
Nai Harn beach
The island's southernmost beach. The area is much less developed and has a bucolic charm. There are some quiet back roads that wind through rolling green hills. My favourite spot here is the 1.6-kilometre lap of Nai Harn reservoir, just a few hundred metres from the beach. It's completely flat, and has a solid path for those interval sessions.
The beach at Kamala is pleasant to run along. Just to the south is Nakalay Road. This follows the water for a few hundred metres until the beach runs out. Then it clings to the side of the hill, and weaves up and along the rugged coastline. On the 10.5-kilometre return route, you can enjoy a stunning sunset over the Andaman Sea.
Yot Sane 1 (Giant Buddha)
From here, you can see the Giant Buddha on the south of the island. Perched atop the Nakkerd Hills between Chalong and Karon beach, red signs with "Mingmongkol Buddha 45 metres high" indicate the turning from Chalong, and the start of the only access road, Yot Sane 1. It's a no-through road, so it has minimal traffic. It's quiet, apart from the occasional tourist or trekking elephant.
It's a steep five kilometres to the Giant Buddha. You run over a well-made concrete surface, with sharp turns and panoramic drop-offs. The main event
Run Paradise! Laguna Phuket International Marathon The Laguna Phuket International Marathon, which is held each year in mid-June, is the fastest growing destination marathon in Southeast Asia. The event, which will be eight next year, is being promoted as one of the Top Three Destination Marathons in the World.
The marathon course runs along the coast, and takes in a typical Thai village market, rubber plantations, and buffalo-ploughed rice paddies before finishing in the resort of Laguna Phuket. Each step of the 42.195-kilometre marathon course has been officially measured, and it is sanctioned by the Association of International Marathons.
Marathon and half-marathon runners follow the course out of Laguna and rubber plantations. The 10.5-kilometre, five-kilometre and two-kilometre races all take place within the Laguna Phuket resort complex.
Race director Roman Floesser, of organiser Go Adventure Asia, says of the event: "It reflects Phuket's family-friendly atmosphere. It's a fun event with a range of courses to suit all abilities from families wanting to participate in a five-kilometre walk to those who want the challenge of a full marathon."
Although the organisers encourage runners to strive for a personal best time, there is no prize money for elite runners. "We simply want everyone who takes part to run for fun and fitness, and enjoy a run in paradise," Floesser says.
Whether you enjoy nature or nightlife, there's plenty to do.
- Visit the setting for the film
The Beach with a speedboat day tour to Phi Phi island where you can snorkel in crystal-clear waters.
- Travel by jeep to Siam Safari camp in the Chalong highlands where you can put your feet up and let an elephant carry you through the lush tropical forest.
- Phuket's night-time entertainment includes live music, pumping Bangla Road bars, night markets and several shows, including the family-orientated Phuket FantaSea embracing Thailand's ancient culture in dance and magic.
- Finally, when you need to escape, a day spent at a spa, or a two-hour Thai massage is a brilliant way to unwind.
Great Strides is a part of a series of city running guides by Troy de Haas, a sports travel manager with Flight Centre who represented Australia in orienteering, mountain running and tower running