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More runners for Angkor half

091202_24a
International School Phnom Penh students train on the running track ahead of Sunday’s 3-kilometre Fun Run, part of the 2009 Angkor Wat International Half Marathon event.

Organisers of the annual Angkor Wat Interntional Half Marathon this Sunday expect to see a larger field this year despite missing Cambodia’s top runners

Siem Reap

NUMBERS of Cambodian and foreign runners registered to race in the 2009 Angkor Wat International Half Marathon this Sunday are up from last year, according to race organisers, although top local athletes will sadly not participate due to international duties at the Southeast Asian Games in Laos.

Muy Lath, project officer of Heart of Gold – a Japanese-based charity that helps organise the event with the cooperation with National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC) – said that so far there are 1,374 registered foreigners, up from 1,186 the previous year, and expected this number to rise to around 1,500 by the closing date this Saturday. A similar number of Cambodians are also slated to compete, up from 1,407 that ran the year before.

NOCC official Chhuon Leng stated that this year’s half marathon event would not match the scale and prestige of former races due to the global financial crisis, the ongoing dispute between Cambodia and Thailand, and the coincidence with the SEA Games.

According to the sports official, fundraising in the last few years has proven more difficult than in the past, when many thousands of dollars were collected for the Cambodian Red Cross to help land mine victims. Chhuon Leng stated around US$3,000 was raised from each of the past few races. Funds are generated from registration fees, with foreigners paying $50 each, and Cambodians paying between $2 and $3 each.

Many runners are also organised sponsorship for their own charities. At the International School of Phnom Penh, 38 fourth- and fith-graders committed themselves to a 10-week training programme ahead of competing in the 3-kilometre Fun Run Sunday, and have been busy collecting sponsorship for local NGO Friends International.

“[The] children have worked very hard, and completing the Fun Run will be fantastic opportunity to take part in an international event,” said Matt Kimber, ISPP teacher and trip leader. “We are looking forward to an amazing weekend.”

Seav Koaw Ing, 11, said: “I am looking forward to running as a team, being away from my parents and eating pizza.”

Kris McDonall has raised around US$2,300 from friends and family for the purchase of 300 helmets from Thailand, which meet Thai Industry Standards for safety currently not in place in Cambodia. The 35-year-old Australian plans to distribute the helmets to five schools in the Siem Reap area under the banner Helmets for Kids Cambodia, and hopes to raise awareness of the issue of road safety.

“Traffic crashes are the second highest killer in Cambodia behind HIV/AIDS, with motorcycles accounting for 68 percent of road deaths in 2008, and head injuries responsible for 86 percent of motorcycle fatalities, according to statistics collected by Handicap International Belgium,” McDonall said by email.

Ouk Sareth, secretary general of the organising committee, noted that the event not only benefited charities, but also helped promote tourism in the area.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DAN RILEY IN PHNOM PENH

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