One of Cambodia’s well known long distance runners Ma Viro won the 6th Sihanoukville-Angkor Premium Beer International Half Marathon with a measure of comfort, as Lois Woodward of Great Britain took the honours among the women in the port city’s annual charity run yesterday.
A little over 2,000 participants including 200 overseas runners from 32 countries, set out early in the morning for the 21 kilometre run, and added attractions like the 10km and 3km fun runs, on a route offering a lot more sea breeze over longer stretches of shoreline following the removal of several barriers along the beach front.
The lowering of barriers along the Independence Beach section of the road that was blocking the seaview enabled the runners to soak up the scenic beauty and enjoy the cooling breeze. Almost all the participants were appreciative of the new experience.
“Removing the blockade of the sea-view on many beach fronts during the Sea Festival had created a better environment for the runners,” secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee Vath Chamroeun told The Post yesterday.
“I strongly feel that once word spreads about this new experience we can expect more overseas and local runners after this event,” Chamroeun added, expressing hope that more foreign runners take part in next year’s edition.
In a race he dominated from almost start to finish, Viro, who has several half marathon wins across the country to his credit, set his own pace and won in 1hour 21minutes 39seconds, well ahead of Brendon Thomas of the United States (1:25.29) and James Happell of Australia (1:27.55).
In sharp contrast to this well spaced out finish, the women’s event saw the closest call in recent times, with Woodward touching off Hilary Smyder of the United States by a mere second. The 36-year-old Briton won in 1:44.53 ahead of the much younger American, who clocked 1:44.54. Sara Bowden of the United States finished well off the pace at 1:52.56.
Cambodian runners swept both the men’s and women’s 10km runs. While 20-year-old Van Pheara won the men’s race in 38.40 just ahead of Chea Samphors, experienced Heng Meng Chu took the women’s event in 49.03, finishing well clear of Samnang Bo and Anelise Thomas of the United States.
While Sihanoukville as a tourist hotspot continues to attract visitors in great numbers, the patronage for the half marathon has been pegged 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.
One of the reasons as to why foreigners had been somewhat put off is the non-availability of direct international flights to the town, which inevitably means additional costs and extra travel. The current domestic scheduling of flights has not been convenient either.
The Sihanoukville run marks the first of the long-distance charity events on 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.