Report and photos by Dermot Sullivan
As soon I heard that there was a half marathon taking place in Angkor Wat our travel plans quickly formed around being in Siem Reap on December 3rd.
The race weekend approached quickly while trying to squeeze in a few longer runs to adjust to running in the tropics. The day before the race we collected our race packs and then proceeded by tuk-tuk to our guesthouse closer to the start line as a 6am race start meant a very early morning. Initially, the morning plan allowed a quick warm from our guesthouse to the start line but it was put out of reach by a last-minute course change. This also meant that we wouldn’t begin from Angkor Wat, but from another nearby temple.
So, we boarded our tuk-tuk in the dark at 5am and proceeded down a small dusty dirt road towards the start area. On the way we passed Angkor Wat, specially lit up for the government organised ‘political stability’ event (some bed time reading: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-42219982). Even our tuk-tuk driver who passes the grand temple every day was in awe.
Congestion closer to the start forced us to disembark our tuk tuk and jog the remaining 2km to the start line as dawn approached. 5,000 monks on route to the political event add to this congestion.
The start area was hectic with almost 10,000 runners in a small area (and competing for 10 portaloos!). The congestion delayed the start by almost a half hour, and everybody was eager to get started a few minutes after the wheelchair section.
The course began in front of the Bayon Temple in Angkor Thom (aka Angkor Kinsella) with 216 stone faced spectators. We proceeded up a tree lined avenue towards the victory gate. The most scenic section of the course then routed around and alongside some incredible temples and ruins. conveniently signposted in case we missed them. It then proceeded into a sweeping bend from 7km onwards. Water stops every 2km provided much needed hydration in the 25°C heat, and local kids were on standby after each to collect the bottles.
At around 9km my pace started to slow as the humidity took its toll. Encouragement and high fives from spectators got the spirts back on track after the 10.5km turnaround. Runners who on route to the turnaround point then added to the encouragement on the return leg. The km’s became more labourious in the final third and I was thrilled to see the 20 km marker. My hopes for a Martin Doyle inspired finishing sprint failed as my leg cramped up, and I came over the line with a limp. A mist spray provided cooling as congratulations went around and medals were distributed. Several bottles of water and a much welcomed massage and I was beginning to walk normally again.
All in all, it was the most memorable race I’ve ever ran and I would highly recommend anyone who has the chance to do it to jump at it. It’s also for a great cause, raising funds for the victims of antipersonnel mines still widespread in Cambodia. There was a great atmosphere at the race and around the town where the race was widely promoted.
Later we discovered that the real temple is actually spelt ‘Angkor What?’ and much more conveniently located on Pub Street.
Dermot Sullivan – 1:40:27