Ever popular Cambodian long-distance runner Hem Bunting carried his reputation to a bloodless victory yesterday in the inaugural Thansur Bokor International Half Marathon, a charity run jointly sponsored by Thansur Highland Resort and the Sokha Group of Hotels to raise funds for the Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital.
As many as 550 runners, including 80 from overseas, figured in four different categories in the country’s first of its kind mountain run in pleasant weather conditions in Kampot province. The hairpin bends, climbs and slopes along the asphalt road providing participants a spectacular view of forestry and heritage sites.
An SEA Games silver medalist and the winner of multiple half marathons in the Kingdom, Bunting set a tempo of his own and there seemed no prospect of anyone catching him the moment he hit the front, even as the others were sorting themselves out well within the first half a mile.
Never before had Bunting attempted a competitive mountain run, although he trained at high altitudes in Kenya last year, the experience of which clearly stood him in good stead in tackling this challenging route.
“Speed was not a factor. The uphill climbs were quite difficult but the weather was fine and the road very good. So it was indeed an exciting experience,” Bunting, who clocked in a rather leisurely 1hr 22min 34sec compared to some of his faster times in the past, told the Post.
“I never look back to see who my rivals are. I always stick to my pre-race plan and set myself a target for every kilometre. I happily managed to do that.”
The 27-year-old also confirmed his participation in the Angkor Wat Half Marathon in Siem Reap on December 1.
Young and energetic Kang Thoun raised a cheer from Cambodian onlookers by finishing second behind Hem Bunting in a time of 1hr 25 min.
Pegged back into third place was Frenchman Yann Defond, who is somewhat of a celebrity in locals circles due to his numerous appearances on TV as a Cambodian-speaking comedian nicknamed Neay Yan.
Harmill wins women’s race
The healthy rivalry that has developed between Jill Harmill of Ireland and Cambodia’s Ly Nary in the last three years played out again in an exciting fashion.
But the Irish runner, who recovered from a ghastly car-hit while she was training in Phnom Penh two years ago, proved the stronger of the two this time, clocking 1:37:52 and pushing Nary into second place. The winning margin of five minutes was wider than in previous years. Canadian Daniese Lisar finished third.
“I decided to hit the front as soon as I could. Nary is very good; my best chance was to make her do the catch-up,” Harmill, who previously played second fiddle to Nary in the Phnom Penh Half Marathon, said.
Incidentally Nary came into this run on the back of a good showing in October’s Manila Marathon where she finished second while Harmill had a go at a 50km event in Singapore two months ago in what she regarded as a
Shorter races find winners
The supporting event, the 10km run, produced a Cambodian winner in the men’s section and a German on the distaff side.
Chum Buntheon and Sman Matly made it a memorable one-two for Cambodia while Jason Judd of the United States came third.
In the women’s event, Marjarie Green of Germany was a comfortable winner ahead of Hiromi Kudo of Japan and Nicole Morica of the United States.
The 5km event produced a Spanish double. Alvaro Banderas got home the winner ahead of the Cambodian pair of Touch Silong and Kim Ratana in the men’s section. Lara Mora Grege beat Japanese runner Ayano Goto into second place with Canadian Heschuk Sherry taking third, the top three finishing one second of each other.
“We would have been happier with a larger turnout, but we are more than pleased with what we saw this morning. The excitement and the thrilling expectations and never before experience for the runners will all add up to make this a popular sports tourism destination,” Vath Chamroeun, National Olympic Committee of Cambodia secretary general and advisor to the Ministry of Tourism, told the Post.
“This is Cambodia’s fourth international half marathon. We have a diversity in these four charity runs that is so appealing to overseas runners. I am confident this mountain marathon will attract a lot more visitors next year.”
Thansur Bokor Highland Resort general manager Michael Brabsche said it was a privilege to sponsor a sporting event that gives participants a unique feel.
“You can almost touch the cloud, you pass through spectacular landscape, there is forestry in abundance and heritage is all over – an ideal sports tourism destination in Cambodia,” he added.
Ngul Lech goes up a gear
Ngul Lech of the Flying Bikes team pedaled his way to glory in the Bokor Cycling Challenge Elite Class competition for men held on Saturday as a thrilling prelude to the half marathon.
Navigating the hilly range with great dexterity Lech, who is among five Cambodian cyclists heading to Myanmar for the SEA Games, set a new record of 1:39:50 for the 45km trip.
Hong Chanmakara of Off-road Bikes finished second. He will compete at the Tour de Bintan International next month.
The men’s B category event was won by Ty Ponlok of Offroad Cycling ahead of Simon Gadient and Pen Yusak while the C category was claimed by Silas Everett. Tang Tek Hour finished second and Tony Malino third.
The women’s event turned out to be a family affair with sisters Heng Sivlang and Heng Sivgech, both SEA Games hopefuls, taking the top two spots in that order. Third place went to Heng Sivgech’s daughter Vong Souhong.