An air of excitement surrounded one of the city’s tallest office complexes, The Hyundai Phnom Penh Tower, on Monivong Boulevard yesterday evening as a field of 170 staircase runners stormed the 26-floor building on a 374 step adventure in a unique charity event to raise funds for Child Helpline Cambodia.
“The enthusiasm among charity minded runners was beyond expectations and the event was a far bigger success than we had imagined,” said Alex Hales, the force behind the run and head of marketing and leasing at the tower.
“We chose to support the Child Helpline because this is one service not for just one area or one group of people but for the whole country for ever, and I am deeply encouraged by the response we got.”
There were a few drop-outs from the 180 odd registered “climbers” for the shorter version of a vertical marathon when the first batch of five were flagged off from the sub-level parking lot. The course winded through four sub-level runs and a steep climb of flights to the finish line on Level 22. The field included men and women of all ages, shapes and sizes.
For the record, the men’s section produced a smashing winner in England’s Richard Sirrs, a volunteer teacher at non-profit organisation Conversations with Foreigners. Now in his mid 20s, the Yorkshireman clocked an amazing 4 minutes 22 seconds, with the next best was at least three to four minutes slower.
“I took two steps at a time here and my last week’s experience in the Banyan Tree Tower run over 62 levels in Bangkok came in handy,” Sirrs told the Post yesterday.
Interestingly enough, Sirrs came to know about the Phnom Penh Tower run the day after he had booked his bus ticket to Bangkok. He immediately registered his name here, but went ahead with a 28-hour round trip to Bangkok.
Being from Geoff Boycott country, Sirrs dabbled in cricket a bit as a youngster but his first love has always been cycling and he is stretching that spirit of adventurism on a bike to an incredible level in three weeks time. He is going on a five-month long cycling trip to Australia through, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia in search of a new career Down Under.
“This run will be a memorable moment in my life,” added Sirrs.
On the women’s side, American Teresa Kochel emerged as the fastest with an impressive timing of five minutes and 16 seconds, with her closest rival at least a couple of flights away. Kochel left the tower well before she was called out as a winner and was made aware of her triumph through a phone call from a Child Helpline executive.
The honour of raising the highest amount of funds was shared by Fi Davidson and Paul Makara Thityasak, who both mobilised US$1,000 each. The total amount raised through the run will be known only after the tabulations are completed.
Staff members of the Post also joined hands in making a combined donation to sponsor new sports intern Tong Manika and his younger brother to run. “It was really tough and exhausting,” Tong Manika said after the event, conceding that his brother, who is an athlete in regular training, did far better than him.
The general consensus among the competitors was that the run was too tough and demanding but the cause drove them to the finish line. A couple of runners were found flat on their backs due to exhaustion midway but there were no serious medical alarms.
A child at risk or an adult concerned about a child can use toll free number 1280. The helpline has been in operation for well over a year and is manned by qualified and experienced Cambodian staff who are specially trained and answer over 3,000 calls per month.
Those willing to make a direct donation can do so through firstname.lastname@example.org.