SEASONED campaigner Ma Viro led a Cambodian one-two in the men’s 21km Phnom Penh International Half Marathon as 2016 winner Jill Hamill of Great Britain, who survived two horrendous accidents to keep her passion for long-distance running alive over the years, was matchless in the women’s event at the eighth running of the charity-driven event on Sunday.
Apart from the over-5,000 runners registered for the showpiece and other added attractions, like the men’s and women’s 10km and 3km fun run, hundreds more were allowed to join without registration.
Often in the past, Viro had found himself either in the shadow of the country’s most successful long-distance runner, Hem Bunting, or Japanese-turned-Cambodian Takazuki Kuniaki, more famously known as Neko Hiroshi in recent times.
As the race quickly developed into a two-men contest, Viro pulled out greater reserves of stamina to win in one hour, 16 minutes and 30 seconds, shading out Neko Hiroshi’s 1:17.51. Not far behind was was Homma Hiroshi of Japan at 1:18.19.
From the start to the finish in front of the Royal Palace on Sunday morning, Hamill was on her own most of the way, never seriously challenged and clocked a much smarter time than the Sihanoukville effort.
She won by over seven minutes to spare in 1:29.03 over Sasaki Natsuko of Japan and a long way off in third almost 10 minutes behind was Yen Vo Jencks of Vietnam.
Two devastating road accidents, the first in 2003 back home in Ireland and the second, a hit and run while she was crossing the road months after she emigrated to Cambodia in 2010, had left Hamill fighting for her life, wondering whether she could ever walk again. But none of these life-threatening incidents could rob her of her love for running.
In the women’s 10km, Led Keo Inthakoumman of Laos took the top place with a timing of 41 minutes and 39.51 seconds ahead of the Cambodian duo of Bo Samnange and Heng Meng Ju, who were clearly outpaced.
In the men’s version Charnet Stephane of France cut a quick 34 minutes 21 seconds to push back Andarge Tamiru of Ethiopia (36:38) and Van Peara of Cambodia (37.01). The 3km fun run for all ages and abilities attracted by far the biggest field.
“Enthusiasm among locals, especially the youth has grown in recent years. This was clearly reflected this year,” said CEO of Cambodia Events Organizer Sam Phalla.