Angkor Wat’s ancient temples towered over Beijing residents Eyee Hsu and Irene Hong, but they had little time to take in the majestic scene. Their breath wasn’t so much taken away by the impressive view— instead, they were left panting from their 21km marathon.
The renowned Cambodian historical site, and beloved tourist destination, was also home to a special event this past Sunday: The Angkor Wat Marathon, a charity run designed to raise funds for land mine victims. It was an ideal destination for Hong, an American born, Beijing based expat who works as the managing director for China eCaptial. Back in August, she had decided to make her annual “girlfriend’s weekend,” trip a more health conscious occasion, and persuaded Hsu and her other pals to sign up for the marathon.
"I don’t like to run, but I have done the Beijing triathlon for the last two years. I can’t do a triathlon without running. It’s my weak sport,” Hong says, adding: "I knew people from work who ran through Angkor before, and said it was fantastic. Plus, it’s for charity.”
Hsu, who currently hosts Up Close for CCTV News, was also a little reluctant to take part, but only initially.
“If Irene had said ‘Let’s do the Beijing marathon,’ I wouldn’t have. I had a huge resistance of running, I detested it,” Hsu says, before adding that she couldn’t resist the Cambodian twist to Hong’s “let’s get fit” proposal. “When Irene said ‘Let’s do this in Siem Reap and run through the temples of Angkor,’ I said ‘Ok, this sounds cool.’ To be able to run through one of the most important archeological sites in the world, it’s completely inspiring. And it was a fun run, a charity run, that wasn’t too serious. Everyone was supportive, and the Cambodian children even came out to cheer us on.”
Hsu added that she was also thrilled to see other parents partake in the family friendly event— she especially recalls two fathers running the marathon while also pushing their little ones in carriages, and somehow still managing to stay well ahead of the pack.
Despite those perks, Hsu admits that preparing for the marathon was no easy feat. “At the age of 40, my body doesn’t work the way it used to,” she says, adding: “All of us encountered some sort of injury. My knees hurt right away. Thanks to the P.T. at the SOS Hospital, I was back running in two weeks. But it was also tough to find the time for these runs. Especially once we had to do 18 km later on in the training— that’s two hours being away from the family, which can be tough.”
But Hsu’s fellow runners supported her all the while. Hong says: “It was very rewarding to do this, particularly with friends, and especially for land mine victims. They also have a wheelchair run that was really inspiring.”
Hong says she hopes to partake in a similar marathon in Myanmar next year. Hsu adds that, despite her earlier aversion, she is now more than happy to continue training for that future marathon.
“I found that I’ve really come to enjoy running, which is something I never expected,” Hsu says, adding: “As I’ve ran more and longer, I’ve found I get into a bit of a zone, and I listen to podcasts while I do it, which makes me feel like I’ve learned something new. It gives me some time away from the kids and work. I do other workouts like palates and the gym, but now I find there’s nothing quite like running in Chaoyang park.”
Hsu adds that her little ones have also grown to love their Mom’s new hobby. “My kids were excited that I ran in Cambodia and got a metal. My daughter asked ‘Did you win?’ and I had to tell her no,” Hsu says with a laugh, before adding: “But that didn’t seem to matter. My kids seemed to really still feel my sense of accomplishment.”
Photos: Eyee Hsu