The 22nd running of the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon and other added attractions around the World Heritage site in Siem Reap yesterday morning reached an all-time high of well over 11,000 runners taking part in the Kingdom’s most popular high season charity run.
With a phenomenal increase in overseas interest over the past few years it came as no surprise that the magical 10,000 the organisers had in mind was comfortably surpassed.
Tourism Minister and President of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia sent a field of more than 3,000 half marathoners on their way at the first crack of light on a slightly altered route following the Royal Government’s function which the Prime Minister Hun Sen attended.
China’s Qi Bian powered his way to victory ahead of Cambodia’s seasoned campaigners Takizaki Kuniaki, better known as Neko Hiroshi, and Ma Viro.
Staying strong at the head of the field most of the way, Qi peeled out at the right moment to score by a convincing margin, clocking 1 hour 12 minutes and 44 seconds for the 21k trip.
Rio Olympian Kuniaki followed in 1:14.42 with Ma Viro timing 1:15.35.
Senior physiotherapist and passionate distance runner from Ireland Nic Amhlaoibh Maire, who relocated to Singapore two years ago, scored a memorable win in her running career by beating previous winner Veronique Messina of France in the women’s half marathon.
Maire, with several podium finishes in Singapore behind her clocked 1:28.45 to Messina’s 1:31.29. Clarke Lyndsay of Great Britain finished third in 1:33.40
‘Happy to reach milestone’
More than 4,000 people lined up for the 10km events. Cambodia’s Van Pheara won the men’s event in 34.44 ahead of Tamiru Andarge Ayal of Ethiopia (36.13) and Cambodia’s Chea Samphors (36.41)
Pech Agathe of France took the honours in the women’s 10k with a time of 45.22. The 17-year old Agathe beat 26 year old Hong Socheata (45.39) of Cambodia and Wilson Amanda of Singapore.
Sem Kim Sou of Karona won the wheelchair half marathon, beating Heng Savoeun of CDAF and Sang Makara of Karona.
The men’s 10km for the disabled was won by Chim Phan, with Nhork Kimhor and San Mao finishing second and third
Less than 250 runners from 14 countries lined up for the inaugural run in 1996 but that number reached a staggering 9,000 last year with 85 nations from all over the world represented.
Jointly organised by the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia in association with several government agencies and sports bodies, the technical and supervisory aspects of the event were handled by the Cambodia Events Management Group under the watch of the Angkor Wat Marathon Executive Committee.
Over the last 20 years the event has raised tens of thousands of dollars for social and charitable causes.
The proceeds from this run will go to charitable institutions like the Cambodian Red Cross and CMAC, an organisation dedicated to clearing of landmines. The other beneficiaries include NGOs pursuing social causes and Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital.
“We are very happy to reach this milestone today. It reflects the global appeal of this run, charitable causes it has been advancing and the unique experience it provides. We would like to keep enhancing this unique experience,” Secretary-General of the NOCC Vath Chamroeun said.
Security was beefed up this year following a big increase in the number of participants from Great Britain, USA and France, three countries frequently targeted for attacks in the last 10 months.
“We attach great importance for the safety of the runners and also their healthcare and needs while laying greater emphasis on the environmental aspects,” Chamroeun said.