San Mao (centre) competes in the 2.6-kilometre fun run with his carbon-fibre artificial limb Sunday. Sreng Meng Srun
Fresh from his modest performance in Japan’s Kasumi City marathon last month, part-time long distance runner Horn Samnang made his experience count by winning the inaugural Phnom Penh Thmei Half Marathon on Sunday morning at Phnom Penh’s Chamkar Pring Park.
A tailor by profession but a passionate runner at heart, 30-year-old Horn Samnang took the lead within the first of the five laps around Samreng Andeth Pagoda which he never relinquished, extending his advantage throughout the 21-kilometre event. When he turned for home, Samnang had a comfortable cushion over his nearest rival, Mok Bunthoeur, who finished a minute behind Samnang’s time of 1 hour 26 minutes and 42.46 seconds. Seven minutes adrift was Defond Yann of France in third.
“I am not a specialist,” declared after the race. “I love running, and I train at the Olympic Stadium whenever I find free time from my work as a tailor. I have taken part in many long-distance races here in Phnom Penh and also Siem Reap. That experience in Japan last month has really helped me to build on my confidence.”
Samnang finished 15th amongst a sizeable field in Kasumi City, after receiving an invitation from the organisers. National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC) secretary general Vath Chamroeun, who accompanied Samnang in Japan, described the performance as “highly encouraging.
The NOCC official presided over the half marathon Sunday, and triggered the starting gun for the runners, who numbered only around 40 from a pre-event registration of nearly 300. “I expected a bigger turnout than this,” noted Vath Chamroeun. “Maybe the location is a factor in that it is not very well known. But overall I am happy how the day has gone.”
Two women participated in Sunday’s run, with Emily Woodfield from England among the first dozen finishers, while Australian Alisha Arnott completed the course further back.
“One day I want to run in the London Marathon,” stated Woodfield, who works in Phnom Penh and is a keen distance runner. “Overnight rain had created numerous puddles on the way, and it really restricted free running and maybe made the race itself a jot longer, but I enjoyed every bit of it,” she added. Both female runners received special prizes.
Two more categories were run concurrently; the men’s 10-kilometre run and a 2.6-kilometre fun run open to everyone.
Stockily built Kieng Samorn, who employed a free running style, duly stamped his mark on the men’s 10-kilometre race with a runaway victory. Samorn led from the start and finished three minutes clear of Som Samphors in second, with third placed Van Sidero a further two minutes away.
Alice Wang of the US won the women’s division, with local runner Chansi Chhay in second and Dhuez Amara of France third.
Meanwhile in the fun run, Kuch Chanrath, a student from Svay Rieng province, was the impressive victor as he crossed the line a street ahead of Vann Myta and Khon Khet. Eleven-year old Kuch Chanrath had made his distance running debut at a Siem Reap event last year.
Alicia Romanowski and Anne Horodyski made it a memorable 1-2 for team USA in the girls division, while local hope Mon Chansyvutha finished third.
There were at least half a dozen participants running with a disability in the fun run, most notably Phnom Penh’s version of Oscar Pistorius – the South African Blade Runner who competes with carbon-fibre artificial limbs. San Mao, 35, who lost his right leg in a land-mine explosion in Battambang, ran the 2.6-kilometre course Sunday along with Thimse Nieghon and Srey Mach, both victims of bomb blasts at young ages. The girls received special mention and gift hampers.
Further highlights from the fun run included the participation of a Phnom Penh grandfather pushing 60 and a young enthusiast not even 8 years old.