The ever growing popularity of the Angkor Wat International half marathon globally is well reflected in this year’s all-time record entries as the annual charity run for glory comes under starter’s orders at the world-famous temple complex at the first break of light tomorrow morning.
Less than 250 runners from 14 countries took part in the inaugural run in 1996, but 19 years on the number is likely to reach a staggering 8,500, nearly half of whom will be overseas competitors drawn from 75 countries, with the rest locals, students and visitors from other provinces.
The rush of excitement and enthusiasm for the milestone 20th edition has been unprecedented for what is truly an international event, albeit one that offers no purse but the pride of participating in a run for charity through one of the world’s most inspiring architectural achievements.
Jointly organised by the Khmer Amateur Athletics Federation, the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia and Angkor Wat Marathon Executive committee, the half-marathon day’s long card is crammed with several other attractions like a wheelchair race, a run for the handicapped, a 10-kilometre event for men and women and a three-kilometre fun run for families.
It is a measure of its stature that runners from every continent will be represented when the field is sent on its way for the 21-kilometre winding trip around the Angkor Wat complex.
“It is a striking improvement in numbers this year. As many as 7,100 took part in the various events last year, and we expect that figure to be around 8,500 this year by the time the trigger is pulled for the start at 6am,” secretary-general of NOCC, Vath Chamroeun told Post Weekend yesterday.
Over the last 20 years a huge amount of money has been raised for social causes and the introduction a few years ago of a pledge system has brought in more donations.
The proceeds of this event will go to such charitable institutions as the Cambodian Red Cross and CMAC, the organisation dedicated to the clearing of landmines in the Kingdom, as well as many other NGOs promoting social causes.
The Chinese pair of Zhan Donglin (men) and Wang Xiujie (women) who took the honours in the inaugural event, still hold the record for the fastest times to this day. Zhan’s 1:05:19, Wang’s 1:12:27 and the stunning backdrop will no doubt inspire serious contenders to go for it that much harder.