I might not have tried barbequed unhatched baby chickens during my trip to Siem Reap, but I did run my first full marathon there.
I signed up for the Angkor Empire Marathon months before the race, but the summer heat in Beijing almost sucked all my energy, so I’ve been basically estivating during the time I was supposed to run like a crazy thing as pre-race training.
The marathon took place on August 5 and kicked off at 4.30am to avoid the unbearable midday heat. I got up at 3, giving my body time to totally wake up, and arrived half an hour before the race for some walking around and stretching.
Started and finished at Angkor Wat, the 42-km route spans forest, rice fields, old villages, and ancient temples. The first 15 km went pretty smoothly, but I got tired, and my pace slowed down after 20 km, to the point where I started to think “Why am I doing this to myself? I should be lying on a comfortable couch in an air-conditioned room, doing some reading or watching a comedy movie.”
The rest of the race for me was more a test of will than of body strength. I broke the distance into smaller sections and thought of things to keep me motivated. Thankfully the beautiful, changing scenery acted as a great distraction which took my mind off from the tough task ahead, and kids stood along the road giving high fives to the runners, which gave me extra energy.
Though the last 10km was a real struggle for an amateur runner like me, the feeling of pride and happiness when I reached the finish were beyond words. The thought that “I will never do this again,” which came so often during the hardest miles, soon vanished.
Running a marathon is definitely a great way to explore a place and develop an understanding of the area which you wouldn’t get otherwise. For those who missed the race, and would like to explore Angkor Wat in a way you’ll remember for the rest of your life, there is another international half marathon in early December. Also, below are some other marathons around Asia that will be coming up soon.
Myanmar: Bagan Temple Marathon, Nov 24
The Bagan Temple Marathon starts and finishes at Htilominlo Temple, built in 1211 and known for its fine plaster carvings. The challenging route will meander through the lush plains of the ancient city of Bagan, showcasing the incredible temples and taking runners through traditional villages and settlements.
Vietnam: Halong Bay Heritage Marathon, Nov 25
The course has been designed to run over Bai Chay Bridge, the longest single span bridge in Southeast Asia, to provide a spectacular view over the magnificent landscape of Halong Bay. The route continues through picturesque spots of mountains and coastlines.
Thailand: Chiang Mai Marathon, Dec 23
This race in Thailand features an out-and-back route, starting and finishing at the Thapae Gate and mostly along Canal Road. Along the way, runners will pass the Ratchaphruek Flora Festival near the airport, the Chiang Mai Night Safari and the Three Kings Monument.
India: Ruggedian Kolhapur Run, Feb 10
The Kolhapur marathon in India is a big event with loads of entertainment and a dedicated crowd. You can expect to listen to live DJs, check out professional dance troupes, and listen to famous Indian artists along the Kolhapur Run race route.
Cyprus: Logigom Cyprus Marathon, Mar 17
The Logicom Cyprus Marathon starts at the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite (the Greek goddess of love and beauty), and follows a coastal route beside the Mediterranean sea. The picturesque finish line is the Pafos Medieval Fort Square, right next to the beautiful Pafos Harbor.
Photos: courtesy of marathon organizers