The 21st running of the Angkor Wat international half marathon and various other supporting events attracted an all-time high of 9,150 runners at the World Heritage city of Siem Reap yesterday, with China’s Qi Bian and Danielle Hodgkinson of the United Kingdom dominating the men’s and women’s 21km charity runs.
Both overseas and local participation recorded marginal increases showing runners from 85 countries across the board, with the Half Marathon field itself expanding to 3,420 this year with every continent represented.
With more students getting involved, the Cambodian component in total crossed the 4,000 mark for the first time.
The participants began to mill around the front of Angkor Wat, the start and finish point for all the road races, long before daybreak, and when Tourism Minister and president of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia Thong Khon had started the race, thousands had broken into their stride for a spectacular run winding its way through some the world’s richest archaeological treasures
The presence in the men’s line-up of Rio Olympics marathon contender Neko Heroshi, last year’s runner-up, kept Cambodian hopes high, but the 39-year-old comedian could only take fourth place this time as the race evolved into a three-way fight.
A passionate long-distance runner, 27-year old Qi began to dictate the tempo by the halfway stage and the Chinese runner never looked back.
He finished in a smart time of 1 hour and 13.16 minutes, ahead of Cambodia’s Ma Viro in 1:16.27.
Viro’s performance was a striking improvement from last year’s fourth place.
Edward Gumbley of the United Kingdom filed in a minute later to finish third.
Unlike last year’s pulsating finish in the women’s event, when barely three seconds split the top finishers, Hodgkinson proved too classy.
She finished in 1:23.24, a long way in front of Mary McCollay of Ireland in 1:27.52, with Lyndsay Clarke of Great Britain third in 1:33.03
French teenager Agotha Pech repeated her success of last year in the women’s 10km by recording a faster time. The rest of the pack were no match for her as she came home in 41min 37.49 seconds, bettering her previous mark of 43.25.
Cambodia’s Heng Meng Jou finished second in 43.26, while Bailey Miller of the United States collected third, in 45.02.
The men’s 10km was an all-Cambodian affair, with Chea Samphors romping home in 35.37 ahead of Phan Sopheak (37.23) and Lon Seyha (37.40).
“Safety and security are the key concerns, apart from environmental protection [at the Angkor Wat international half marathon],” Tourism Minister Thong Khon said.
“We continue to create an atmosphere that is very appealing to the world. This will continue to grow as a major sports tourism event.”
The secretary-general of the NOCC, Vath Chamroeun, said: “The unprecedented numbers speak for themselves. We expected to break 10,000 participants, but we fell short by a few hundred.
“It is a mark of the growing popularity of this event that we are recording increases at every level.’
Meanwhile, several wheelchair road races added to the competitive fervour this year. The four-wheel version of the half marathon was won by Heng Sa Voeurn in 1:53.35, with Van Vun finishing second in 1:57.36 and Pun Chhun third in 2:08.40.
The three-wheel event was claimed by Sohatti in 1:58.04 ahead of Vita Lork 2:01.29 and Pisey Yuos 2:53.08.