Ma Viro of Cambodia yesterday won the fifth annual Sihanoukville half-marathon and Veronique Messina of France won the women’s event. The 21-kilometre Angkor Beer International Half Marathon charity event took place along a picturesque route in the port city.
In a field of just over 80 runners, 27-year old Ma Viro, who had success here and in Siem Reap in the past few years with podium finishes, successfully fended off a strong challenge from Brendon Thomas of the United States, who is as old as his Cambodian rival, to win in one hour, 17 minutes and 45 seconds,
While the American’s gallant effort saw him get up to within a minute at the finish, the revelation of the race was an other American teenager, Josiah Kangas, who clocked in third at 1:36.47 as one of the youngest to make the frame in any of Cambodia’s international long-distance races.
Just as she had demolished the opposition on previous occasions, Veronique Messina put daylight between her and the rest in the women’s half marathon which drew around 25 runners.
The 37-year-old Messina, who works as a French teacher in Phnom Penh and counts long-distance running as one of her greatest passions, was not hard put to it as she set her own tempo to check in first at 1:38.49, nearly 10 minutes ahead of the American pair of Hillary Shyder and Sara Bawden, who ironically were separated by a fraction of a second.
The other added attractions run along side the half marathon, the 10.5km run for men and women as also 3km fun run for all ages and athletic abilities accounted for nearly 1,200 participants in all.
For the first time, runners from Thailand dominated the 10.5km event in both the men’s and the women’s sections with Cambodian contestants following suit.
Sanchai Namkhet turned in a smart timing of 35:09 minutes to push aside one of Cambodia’s best known performers Kieng Samon to second place nearly six minutes off the pace with Oun Veasna Ma trotting in third a further four minutes away.
In the women’s race, Natthaya Thamavonmawat proved too strong for her Cambodian chasers. She timed 41.05, nearly eight minutes faster than Mey Jou Heng who was a long way in front of Sophie Tang.
“We have to explore ways and means of attracting more overseas runners for the Sihanoukville event.
Participation numbers are not going up since the City has no direct international flights unlike the other venues for similar runs like Phnom Penh and Siem Reap,” The secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia Vath Chamroeun told the Post yesterday.