Australian Fraser Thompson, who lives in Singapore, came down to Siem Reap as a weekend getaway with his wife but will return home as the winner of the 20th running of the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon that attracted the biggest ever field yesterday.
As a pleasant co-incidence, 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.
The participants began to mill around the frontal portion of the Angkor Wat Complex, the start and finish point for all the road races, long before day break and by the time Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An pulled the trigger of a shot gun to signal the start of the half marathon, as many as 3,208 runners broke into stride for a winding run that would take them around the worlds richest archaeological treasures.
The men’s event resolved itself into a three-cornered contest by the time the seasoned began to put day light between themselves and the casual type. Spaced out within sight of each other were Thompson and his Cambodian rival Neko Hiroshi, a native Japanese who sought and got the Kingdom’s citizenship three years ago. Not far from this pair was another Japanese runner Hiratuka Jun with Cambodia’s last year’s winner Ma Viro, leaving himself lot to do.
But in the final few kilometres, Thompson’s greater reserves of stamina began to play out and he turned in with a sound advantage to finish the race in one hour, 12 minutes and 20 seconds.
Hiroshi, a famed Japanese Comedian who had the honour of winning Cambodia’s first full marathon last year, clocked in second at 1:13.46 not more than a shoulder length ahead of Hiratuka Jun at 1:13.47. Ma Viro ended up a distant fourth.
“It is a wonderful feeling. Unfortunately It is hard to soak up the visual delights since the pain of finishing the job kicks in. But it is an amazing experience”, Thompson said. “Oh sure, I will be back”, was his parting shot.
In one of the closest ever women’s events barely three seconds split the top three. Vivian was home in 1:29.09 ahead of Maike Nic Amhlaoibh of Ireland in 1:31.43 with Caroline Pleasence third in 1:33.28.
French teenager Agotha Pech was a popular winner of the women’s supporting 10km run. The 15-year old scampered home in 43.25, leaving Heidi Selch of USA behind, a fraction of a second slower. Adding pep to this grand finish was Lauren Cook also of the USA who was shaded out by her compatriot.
Japan’s Daisuke Fukai topped the men’s 10km with 36.12, nearly 27 seconds ahead of the Cambodian pair Thoeun Kaing and Seyha Lon back in second and third places respectively.
Minister for Tourism and President of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia Thong Khon said Cambodia will strongly push for clean and green initiative to attract more number of runners.
“Safety and Security is also a key factor and together with the environmental drives we can create an atmosphere that would be wonderful to enhance international appeal.
This will continue to grow as a major sports tourism event”, Thong Khon said.
“The unprecedented numbers this year stand testimony to the popularity of this event. There is also a marked improvement on the organisational front and we continue to work hard to raise our sports profile”, NOCC secretary-general Vath Chamroeun told the Post.
According to the numbers released by the organisers, 2,991 runners took part in the men’s and women’s 10km run while 2,294 set out for the 3km fun run.