Seasoned long distance runners Ma Viro of Cambodia and Jill Hamill of Great Britain proved a cut above the rest in the men’s and women’s 21 km charity run as the 7th Sihanoukville Angkor Beer Half Marathon.
The half marathon and its added attractions, as was widely anticipated, recorded just over 2,000 entries for the first time, including 150 overseas runners from 28 countries.
With the route for this year’s event modified to include nearly seven kilometres of a newly built road through the city, the runners went through some residential pockets while enjoying the early morning breeze and the beauty of the coastline the rest of the way.
One of the most visited beaches in the city, Ochheuteal once again served as the start and finish point near the recently installed Beautiful Bay statue as the 140 men and women involved in the half marathon faced a 5:30am start.
The men’s and women’s 10k events and a 3k fun run for all ages and athletic abilities followed at regular intervals as the city marked the first of five runs for charitable causes in the national calendar.
Multiple half marathon winner Viro has found himself either in the shadow of the country’s most successful long distance runner Hem Bunting or Japanese turned Cambodian Neko Hiroshi.
But in the absence of any real threat emerging from any of the overseas runners in the line-up, Viro enjoyed a trouble-free run to complete the course in one hour, 20 minutes and 25 seconds.
Coming in nearly four minutes later was Germany’s Frank Adelmann (1:24.32), with Russia’s Andrei Cenenov Semenov third in 1:26.10.
Triumph over adversity
There is no better example of courage and perseverance triumphing over adversity than Jill Hamill’s inspirational story of life and long distance running.
The 36-year-old from Great Britain was matchless when it came to stamina and determination. She took the women’s event with absolute ease at 1:32.04, slightly over seven minutes ahead of Japan’s Sa Saki Natsuko (1:39.08) and Sara Bawden of the United States (1:43.56).
Hamill has made her mark in several charity events like these over the past few years. But what sets her apart from the rest is her incredible journey from almost losing her life, not once but twice, to being a strong-willed long distance runner determined to succeed whenever or wherever she breaks into her stride.
Two devastating road accidents, the first in 2003 back home in Northern Ireland, and the second, a hit and run involving a car while she was crossing the road just months after emigrating to Cambodia in 2010 left Hamill fighting for her life, and then wondering whether she would even walk again.
But none of these life threatening incidents could rob her of her passion for running.
After finishing seventh in the Belfast marathon before coming to Cambodia, she was declared the winner of the Phnom Penh half marathon in 2011 under unusual circumstances when a group of runners headed by Cambodia’s Ly Nary took the wrong route. She went on to claim the same event in 2016. Since then she has proved her stamina and determination by winning more, including the Bokor Mountain half marathon.
The Cambodian pair of Thul Chandavuth and Cher Somphors took first and second place respectively in the men’s 10km event, with Ethiopian Andarge Ayal Tamiru finishing third.
British 13-year-old Thomas Ammeliese took the women’s 10k, with 16-year-old South Korean Hu Seo-young back in second place. Eng Muanyin of Cambodia managed a podium finish.
“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.