Running for literally hours in sometimes sweltering heat may not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but serious endurance athletes to those simply dipping their toe in a little hard core exercise will be pleased to know the Angkor Archaeological Park provides a stage for doing just this. Not only is there an annual half marathon in December — Angkor Wat International Half Marathon is its full title — but, as of August 2014, the first annual full marathon, officially called Angkor Empire half and full marathon, will be held.
December, when the weather is at its coolest, provides the best temperatures and is almost guaranteed rain-free for the annual half marathon. We would even dare to describe it as crisp. Or perhaps the delirium of waking up pre-dawn (!) to stand at the start line opposite Angkor Wat simply sent us in a spin. Not sure about running? Chances are you’re going to wake to see sunrise at Angkor anyway during your stay. So if your travel falls over the running event, you might as well join in the fun since you’ll be up and out of bed at an unearthly hour anyway.
The December Angkor Wat International Half Marathon isn’t just a half marathon. There’s also a 10-kilometre run and family fun run (or walk, wheel, skip, jump) of three kilometres. There is also a half marathon wheelchair race and artificial arm/leg category for the 10 kilometres. Regardless of what you enter, your commemorative medal and T-shirt – received as part of your entry pack – will still declare proudly you completed the half.
The atmosphere is very positive – at least pre-run, before the pain sets in – as the crowds gather together at the start line. The event has grown in popularity year on year, proving to be a big draw with regional visitors, so it’s definitely worth booking your accommodation in advance.
It is an organised, professionally-run affair: electronic tags to record your time, which were accurately and correctly listed online shortly after the event, markers on the road so you knew where to go should you be at the front leading the pack, and water stations along the route to keep you rehydrated. We particularly enjoyed the supply of sugar cane juice at the end, to remind us this was a uniquely Cambodian sporting event.
The August event, new in 2014, is run by the same organisers as the December event. Key difference: you can run a full marathon. But, as with the December event, if that doesn’t take your fancy there are shorter routes of a half marathon, 10 kilometres and three kilometres.
The full marathon route takes in Siem Reap town and the full ‘Grand Circuit’ temple tour. The half marathon covers the ‘Small Circuit’. The 10 kilometre loops around Bayon and the three kilometres covers a short stretch parallel to Angkor Wat, where all the routes start and end. You can use the excuse of wanting to take in the wonder of the UNESCO World Heritage site as to why you don’t come first on the podium.
Entrance fees vary depending on age, race length and whether or not you are Cambodian. Several local tour operators run marathon packages (touring and accommodation), and may be able to handle your entrance forms on your behalf. Otherwise, visit the respective websites of the Angkor International Half Marathon held in December or the Angkor Empire half and full marathon held in August to enter; they also list the start times.
Another option is to run the race on behalf of a charity – in 2013 Angkor Hospital for Children, based in Siem Reap, organised a team. You simply need to help their fundraising efforts by being sponsored for your run – contact the hospital for information on future events.
For the race on August 17, 2014, note that the entry deadline closes on August 7. The December event takes place on December 7, 2014.
By Caroline Major
Last updated on 13th December, 2014.