The 21st running of the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon, and other added attractions around the sprawling World Heritage site in Siem Reap on Sunday, is set to beat all previous records, with the organisers keenly anticipating the number of total participants to get close to or even surpass the 10,000 mark.
In keeping with the trends of the past four to five years, there has been an unprecedented rush of excitement among both overseas runners and locals for the Kingdom’s most popular and truly global sporting event, which offers no purse but tons of pride as a run for noble causes at the height of the tourist season.
Less than 250 runners from 14 countries lined up for the inaugural run in 1996, but that number reached a staggering 8,500 last year, nearly half of whom were from abroad, hailing from 75 countries, boosting expectations of a five-figure turnout this year.
Jointly organised by the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia in association with several government agencies and sports bodies, the technical and supervisory aspects of the event will be handled by the Cambodia Events Management Group under the watchful eye of the Angkor Wat Marathon Executive Committee.
Over the past 20 years, the event has raised tens of thousands of dollars for social and charitable causes, and the introduction of a pledge system a few years ago has resulted in further donations.
The proceeds of this run will go to charitable institutions like the Cambodian Red Cross and CMAC, an organisation dedicated to clearing landmines. The other beneficiaries include NGOs pursuing social causes.
The traditional half-marathon day card includes a 10km run for men and women, along with a 3km fun run for people of all ages and athletic ability.
The main attraction is the winding trip around the temple precincts. Nowhere else in the world can runners soak up the experience of being in the middle of such spectacular ancient monuments, sights and scenic beauty.
“We would like to keep enhancing this unique experience,” Vath Chamroeun, secretary-general of the NOCC, told the Post yesterday. “We have also realised the importance of ensuring safety for the runners, and also their healthcare and needs, while laying greater emphasis on environmental aspects” he said.
“I do expect more local people, especially students, in bigger numbers this year, taking inspiration from the participation of Nary Ly and Neko Hiroshi at the Rio Olympics’’ he said.
Last year, Australian Fraser Thompson, a resident of Singapore, went to Siem Reap as a weekend getaway with his wife but returned home as the winner of the 20th edition.
In a pleasant coincidence, another Singaporean, Vivian Tang, won the women’s version on a day when a record 8,500 participants swamped the sprawling World Heritage site for the 21km charity run and various other added attractions.