Stepping up to the energy-sapping 42km run for the first time in their lives, Neil Burns of Great Britain and Corbella Carlota of Spain far exceeded their own expectations by topping the men’s and women’s sections respectively in the fourth Angkor Empire International Marathon in Siem Reap yesterday morning.
A record turnout of 3,400 participants in the much coveted charity run also saw the number of overseas runners hit a new high of 1,500.
In the slowest timings recorded in four years, Briton Neil Burns outstayed the rest to win in 3 hours, 8 minutes and 56 seconds, way ahead of Tiancai Zhou of China (3:23.46) and Kiwai Ng of Hong Kong (3:24.23).
“I had never run a marathon before. I had done a few half marathons,’’ said Burns, who has been a resident of Sihanoukville for the last two years of the four he has spent in Cambodia.
For Spaniard Carlota, who has been in Cambodia for around eight weeks doing an internship, the victory was a true reflection of her grit as she had never gone past 10km events.
A long way from home, Carlota was sighted as the winner having established a sizeable lead over the rest. She clocked in at 3:19.03, with Muriel Heidegger Denzier of Switzerland a distant second in 3:46.23 and Renshaw Kerri of Australia back in third in a time of 3:51.51.
The two Cambodian athletes heading to the SEA Games in Malaysia, Kuniaki Takazaki, aka Neko Hiroshi, and Ma Viro, skipped the marathon and preferred the 21km instead as a preparatory run.
Rio 2016 Olympian Neko Hiroshi was narrowly beaten into second place by Yamasaki Takemaru of Japan, with the winner clocking 1:14.04 to the Cambodian’s 1:15.10.
Ma Viro filled in third at 1:19.17.Germany’s Kathrine Puff (1:45.02) won the women’s 21km, edging out Okamura Yasuko of Japan by 15 seconds. Chiu Kitman of Hong Kong came in third at 1:48.51.
After a string of disappointing results in the past few months, Kieng Sammorn was back to his best in the men’s 10km, clocking a smart time of 36min, 56sec for the trip. Phan Sopheak in second place and Chea Samphors in third completed a Cambodian clean sweep.
Phnom Penh’s Ethiopian running chef Andarge Ayal Tamiru was happy with a top 10 finish, in a respectable time around the 41-minute mark.
The women’s version was taken in style by Japan’s Matsugi Mina in 49.25, ahead of Lecca Alice of France and Veland Rita of Norway.
“We are greatly encouraged by the increase in participation this year. This is a major sports tourism drive during the time of the year when tourist arrivals normally drop.
“I hope it continues to grow and give the runners the unique experience of passing the architectural beauty of the Angkor Wat temple complex every yard of the way,” said Secretary-General of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia Vath Chamroeun.