Hundreds of adults and children make a quick getaway at the start of the Pursat fun run.
Nearly 300 children and adults, some barefoot or wearing rubber flip flops, entered
a 10 km "fun run" to raise money to buy sports equipment for seven schools
The November 3 run organized by the Pursat Provincial Department of Education, Youth
and Sport raised $425 to buy new running shoes and socks, footballs and volleyballs
for local schools.
The race initiator and main sponser Steve Harnett, a UNICEF worker in Pursat for
the last four years, said the idea was to get support for sports that don't get as
much recognition as football and boxing.
"It was great seeing all the smiles and looks of amazement on the faces of villagers
along the way. People were really getting into the spirit of it, throwing water over
us and offering us bottles of water as we ran," said Harnett, who finished 14th
in the event.
The winner was 21-year-old marathon runner Sean Sopheak, currently ranked No. 2 in
Cambodia. It was Sopheak's first professional race in his home province. Family and
friends traveled from the countryside to cheer him on, some following closely on
motorcycles or waiting on the sidelines with sprays of water.
"It's a big project for Pursat," Sopheak said just before sprinting off
from the starter's line. "I hope this program will help students in my province
to love sports."
The son of a rice farmer from the remote commune of Kanhchor, Sopheak began running
as a school boy, and twice has traveled to Singapore to represent Cambodia. In December
he will again compete in Singapore in a trip sponsored by the Cambodian Olympic committee.
He is studying engineering at Norton University on a scholarship from the Ministry
of Defense who he now represents in international marathon competitions.
His sister Sean Sopheap, 15, came in first in the 5km women's challenge.
With her 150,000 riel in prize money she said she plans to buy some ducks for her
Unmatched was the enthusiasm from the Sna Ansar middle school, which entered 37 of
its students from 10 to 16 years old. They traveled from Krakor to participate. Their
coach Sum Sorn, their maths teacher, said he trained with the children for one month
prior to the race.