The local and international runners competing in Sunday’s half marathon at the seaside resort of Sihanoukville will get a lot more sea breeze than usual, the organisers have promised.
The 5th Sihanoukville-Angkor Beer International Half Marathon, which starts at Ochheuteal Beach at 6am, will take in longer stretches of shoreline, they said.
The participation numbers are likely to be the same as last year with 100 runners from 20 countries joining around 1,000 locals and expats for the showpiece 21km charity run and other added attractions like the men’s and women’s 10km, and a 3km fun run for all ages and athletic abilities.
The big change for this year’s half marathon runners is the lowering of the barriers along the Independence Beach section of the road that was blocking the sea view, enabling them to soak up the scenic surrounds and enjoy the cooling sea breeze.
For the first time in five years, the runners will also avoid the port area, instead taking a detour towards the home stretch after passing Independence Monument.
“Removing the blockade of the sea view on the Independence Beach area should be quite refreshing for the runners and this redrawn course will be lot more enjoyable for the runners,’’ Vath Chamroeun, the secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee, told the Post yesterday.
While Sihanoukville as a tourist hotspot continues to attract visitors in great numbers, the patronage for the half marathon has remained at the same levels for the past couple of years, unlike the Phnom Penh and Siem Reap versions, which have regularly shown increased participation from overseas runners.
“The main reason why there is not much of a rise among foreigners is the non-availability of direct international flights to the port city, which inevitably means additional costs and extra travel. The current domestic scheduling of flights is not convenient either,” Chamroeun said.
“The government is treating this as a priority and is working with the private sector to establish this connectivity in the not-too-distant future by upgrading the existing airport to handle international flights.”
Also of great significance to the participants this year is a notable addition to the medical services and resources on hand during the running of the event.
As well as first aiders, route marshals and standby medics, the organisers have access to the newly unveiled and well-equipped hospital that has been built with Japanese assistance.
The 21km race starts at 6am, with the other events starting at short intervals thereafter.
The Sihanoukville run marks the first of the long distance charity events in the national calendar that include the Phnom Penh International Half Marathon in June, the Angkor Empire Full Marathon in August and the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon in early December.