Japanese entrants dominated the second running of the Angkor Empire Marathon yesterday by winning the men’s and women’s 42-kilometre charity run that wended its way through several spectacular archaeological treasures within the sprawling Angkorian era temple complex in the world heritage city of Siem Reap.
Tall but light-framed 22-year-old Koki Kawauchi, who works for a popular restaurant chain in Japan, turned his off-the-job passion for long-distance running into a memorable triumph in a men’s field packed with some experienced marathoners even as his compatriot, 28-year-old strongly built Sakie Ishiba Shi, who pursues a career in marketing, won her first women’s marathon outside of Japan.
Enthusiasm and participation numbers in one of Cambodia’s most coveted Sports Tourism adventures, were ostensibly higher than last year with the traditional marathon and other added attractions like the 21k and 10k for men and women inspiring as many as 2,700 participants.
Tourism Minister and President of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia Thong Khon sent the 42k runners off to a shot gun start at as early as 4:30am from the frontal portion of the Central Sanctuary of Angkor Wat into a pleasant clime made a lot cooler by heavy overnight rains.
Cambodian interest in the men’s event was pivoted on last year’s winner Neko Hiroshi, a Japanese native who three years ago sought Cambodian citizenship and has since been a part of the national athletics seen.
The 38-year-old Heroshi proved no match for his younger, fitter and energetic Japanese rival Kawauchi who won the race on his own terms in a smart time of 2 hours 36 minutes 57 seconds.
Hiroshi was nearly 10 minutes slower in second place but well in front of fellow Cambodian Ma Viro.
“I am heading to the Osaka Marathon next’’ Kawauchi said after the podium ceremony.
This is Kawauchi’s third success away from his home nation, his two previous victories coming in Timor Leste and Guam.
Distance running has become a way of life for Sakie Ishiba Shi who won two similar events in Japan earlier this year.
“I am excited that this is my first win away from Japan.
I really enjoyed the breath-taking beauty of the route.
It was a great experience,” said Ishiba Shi who has now set her sights on September’s Sydney Marathon.
The half marathon offered as a side show also saw Japanese runners take the honours.
Chikara Yanada topped the men’s field, while Yuka Aoyamma came out best in the women’s.
In an interesting triangular fight, Yanada (one hour, 20 minutes, 59 seconds) shook off China’s Xu Wenbing with Emile Bobiyama of Japan filling in third barely seconds behind the runner-up.
Cambodia’s Khieng Samorn, who has often performed well in both the 10k and half marathons, finished a gallant fourth despite carrying a five-day-old ankle injury.
The free-running Aoyama won untroubled in one hour 22 minutes, opening up a two minute gap over her compatriot Yukari Nomura, the Japanese pair pulling a long way ahead of Xiomara Templeton of the US.
The men’s 10k saw a Cambodian one-two with Lon Seyha winning the event in 38:19.45 seconds ahead of Ouk Roheth. Hong Kong’s Tin Sang Nam finished third.
Great Britain’s Clare Magaee emerged the winner in the women’s 10k in a timing of 51:58.25 with Americans Metissa Macay and Sara Spears completing the podium finish.
“We are indeed very happy with the overseas response for the Marathon.
It is heartening to see the numbers go up. I do hope this sports tourism adventure will bring more tourists.
We are proud to be part of that 100 nation league staging marathons in the world” secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia and an adviser to the Ministry of Tourism Vath Chamroeun told the Post.
But for slight alterations, the running route remained the same as marked out by the Association of International Marathons and Road Races (AIMS) for the Inaugural run last year.
The marathon will be a regular feature in the National Calendar for the low season while the immensely popular Angkor Wat Half Marathon, traditionally run on the first Sunday of December will continue to be one of the star attractions during the peak of the high season.