Cambodian runners swept the first three places in the inaugural Sihanoukville-Angkor Beer International Half Marathon which snaked its way through the coastal town yesterday morning, even as the women’s event was dominated by foreigners.
Setting a pace of his own, Ma Viro built up such a huge leeway midway through the men’s race that there wasn’t the slightest prospect of anyone catching him.
As the sun was beginning to bear down, the 25-year-old passed the winning post at Ochheuteal beach in a time of 01:23:37, nearly four minutes ahead of second placed Chan Than Svay.
A further three minutes back, Theourn Kang trotted in third with the rest of the field a respectful distance behind.
“I am very happy to be the first time winner of this race. It is a great honour,” Ma Viro told the Post after the race, confirming that when he looked over his shoulder for his pursuers downtown, he was confident he could pull it off.
During the loop via the sea port and beachside lines of Victory, Independence and Sokha, no one gave challenge to his sizeable lead.
Meanwhile, casual Phnom Penh runner Clementine Tanouide of France comfortably beat her “Informal Runners Club” friends, Pip Miner of Australia and Laura Watson of Britain, in the women’s 21km run.
“We run for fun every Sunday. There is no competition and that is just about my running experience,” said 27-year-old Tanouide after her win in a time of 01:43:04.
The men’s 10km run was also an all-Cambodian affair with 40-year-old Keo Da winning the event in 43 minutes 20 seconds ahead of 17-year-old Len Veansam, with Buntet Heng finishing third.
It was an American quinella in the women’s 10km run with Robin Martz finishing ahead of compatriot Nicole Hoagland, while Kila Rener of Canada finished third.
Local lad Sidin Sin won the 3km fun run in a time of 12 minutes 8 seconds, ahead of Mom San and Heak Chamroeun.
A 60km bike race, which was held on Saturday as part of this weekend’s action, was won by an aptly named Cambodian Meas Samnang, which translates as ‘Lucky Gold’.
Local riders Seing Makara and Kheng Ty finished second and third in a race that was trouble-free.
As many as 1,150 runners, including a thousand locals with the rest from 22 different foreign nationalities, turned up at the Ochheuteal Beach to mark Sihanoukville as the third city in Cambodia to stage an international half marathon for charitable causes after Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.
“I am very happy with the success of this event and our aim is to find a fourth city in the North of the country to stage a similar event as part of a strategic Tourism drive,” Tourism Minister and President of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia Thong Khon told the gathering at the prize distribution ceremony.
Environmental issues such as global warming and health for all were made aware at the charity run, which also raised funds for various other social causes.
Sihanoukville Governor Sbong Sareth set the competitive spirit among the runners high by taking part in the 3km race.
“I am proud of our city staging this event. I hope it gets bigger and better next year,” the Governor told the Post.
Meanwhile, NOCC Secretary General Vath Chamroeun said such charity runs not only helped to build awareness about social causes but they also played a key role in helping communities and vulnerable sections of society.
“The tourism initiative in Sihanoukville is as big a success as the Angkor Wat Half Marathon and the Phnom Penh Half Marathon. I am looking forward to the day when we can have a similar run in Ratanakiri or Mondulkiri,” he said.