Cambodian long distance running specialists Hem Bunting and Ly Nary have successfully completed their 83 days of intensive training in Kenya’s Rift Valley and today fly out to France ahead of their participation in the 2012 Paris Marathon on April 15.
The pair leave the High Altitude Training Camp (HATC) in Iten with similarly high confidence of attaining personal bests at the upcoming race, while berths at the London Summer Olympics are also a dream prospect should they achieve qualification times.
Hem Bunting needs to shave seven minutes off his record time set at the 2009 SEA Games in Laos in the men’s event to make the required 2 hours 18 minutes for London.
“I feel very happy and excited because I trained in the best training camp with many other world champions,” Bunting told the Post via email from Kenya.
“[Providing there is no] injury or problem before and during the race, I’m very confident to get the qualifying time.”
Ly Nary, meanwhile, needs to cut 19 minutes off her own PB in the women’s run to make the Olympics grade.
“So far is good. It has been a very tough training but we can see progress compared to the beginning and it’s promising,” she said.
However, the 39-year-old research scientist, who grew up in France before returning to her birthplace, wished to remain realistic about her chances of qualifying for the Olympics.
“My last marathon was in April 2011 in Paris ... that will be exactly one year ago. To be frank, I was not in good shape when I arrived at the HATC. It has been stressful to organize and manage the obtaining of sponsorship. It took me more time than usual to get into a good condition and marathon training mode.
“I needed some time to prepare my mind, spirit and body besides the adaptation to the high altitude. However, Bunting got up to speed faster and advanced more quickly into the marathon training program.”
Nary admitted her primary goal was to break the 3-hour barrier, while 2 hours 50 minutes was her secondary target.
“Anything beyond that will be a bonus,” she added.
The Cambodians’ expert trainer in Kenya, Pieter Langerhorst, noted that both had worked very hard and were able to follow the strict training schedules.
“They have been extremely disciplined in their preparation for the Paris Marathon,” said Langerhorst.
“This means getting up early, go for their first training, breakfast and sleep for several hours. After lunch, training in the gym and at 4:30pm, the second run.
Further aqua jogging in the pool, massage, etcetera. After dinner at 8:30pm, sleep again. They followed the ‘Kenyan system’ of hard training and getting enough sleep to recover in time for the next training.”
As well as training numerous marathon champions in the past, Langerhorst coaches his wife and Rift Valley native, Lornah Kiplagat, who holds the world road record over 5 kilometres and 10 miles (16.1km). She has triumphed in Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Osaka marathons and an abundance of world championship titles.
“The motivation and discipline from both Bunting and Nary is at least at the same level, perhaps even higher [than other elite athletes],” he added.
“They have improved a lot during their time in Kenya and I believe there is a good possibility they will qualify for the London Olympics. As a coach who has been to several Olympics, I have to say that both Nary and Bunting deserve a chance to participate in the Olympics and represent their country.
“The Olympics is not only about winning, it is also about representing your country and make your people at home feel proud. They can give people at home the motivation to also start a healthy life style. I believe it is a unique opportunity for Cambodia to have two athletes in the Olympic Marathon.”
The dynamic duo will arrive in Paris tomorrow morning, and will stay with Nary’s adoptive mother in the suburbs until three days before the race, when they will stay closer to the start line.
“One week before [the marathon], we will do short and easy runs with short speed work and rest days,” said Nary. “We will avoid going out but instead be focused on the race, eating and sleeping well.
Thursday April 12 is the first day of the exposition, so we will go quickly to pick up our chip and race number and then rest.”
Nary wished to express her gratitude to her family and friends for their encouragement and faith in her pursuit to be a pioneer Cambodian female marathoner.
“Whatever happens, I will be always thankful to them for helping me on my journey to become a better athlete and to improve the standing of Cambodian athletics.”
Nary’s workplace NAMRU2/PP and CPC was also thanked for granting her leave of absence, while Elizabeth Chambers was commended for her kind assistance and support of the Keila Torsu team.
Nary and Bunting’s tour is sponsored by the Japanese branch of agricultural firm AAP, which has operations in Cambodia.
To contact the reporter on this story: Dan Riley at [email protected]