Despite being lost in a hot and dusty corner of the world, Siem Reap is not short of indoor and outdoor running possibilities. It’s just that the outdoor ones can be a little awkward in places.
There is no shortage of gyms, air-conditioned or not, that can cost you anywhere from $1 to $25 per trip. On the streets outside, plenty of people follow a route along the riverside, heading north of town, where you’ll find a little more shade than other parts of town and, for the most part, less traffic.
Once you’ve got that down, the next stage is taking part in competitions, and whether you’re in it seriously or for larks, Siem Reap now has four large-scale running events that make the most of Cambodia’s iconic temples.
The Angkor Wat International Half Marathon has been running (sorry) since 1995 — when runners could hear Khmer Rouge gunfire in the forests beyond and anyone planning a trip to Banteay Srei still needed an armed guard. Last year, more than 8,000 people took part in the race. This marathon has become a hugely popular event, and is growing every year.
It usually takes place on the first Sunday of December, and the race is 3, 10 or 21 kilometres, weaving around the cool, tree-lined lanes between the temples along the small circuit of the Angkor Park. The longest route takes in Bayon, Ta Keo, Ta Prohm, Banteay Kdei, Prasat Kravan (although you can’t really see it from the road), and, of course, the one and only Angkor Wat.
The fees for foreigners in 2015 were $40, $60 and $66, increasing with the length of the race. The fees also go up to $48, $68 and $75 respectively for registrations after November 1.
If running’s not necessarily your thing, there is also the Village Focus Angkor Wat Bike For Kids race the day before. With 30- and 100-kilometre routes on the long circuit around the temples, and a 17-kilometre one on the short circuit, anyone can take part, no matter how fit or unfit they think they are.
But, runners have plenty of options to choose from now, whether they want to do a sedate three-kilometre jog in the half marathon, or take on the wider challenges of the Angkor Empire Half and Full Marathon in August. Not only do they offer a full marathon 42 kilometre route, you can also check out the 3, 10 and a 21-kilometre half-marathon options. In 2015, the fees were $35, $55, $60 and $65, according to the length of the race. This goes up by $5 ($10 for the full marathon) for late, July, bookings.
For more serious runners, 2016 saw the first Ultra Trail being hosted at Angkor, which incorporates a 32-kilometre Nordic walk or run, and 64 and 128-kilometre runs over rough terrain. One of their greatest logistical problems was getting support stations out to points along the route as cars cannot get there. The fees for the 32-kilometre races are $60, 64 kilometres is $90, while the 128-kilometre race can be entered as an individual for $160, or relay at $240.
This came on the heels of a real challenge, for serious runners only, with the Global Limits Ancient Khmer Path, a 220-kilometre, six-stage race which starts in Kompong Thom and sees runners complete while carrying all of their own gear and food. The race concludes directly in front of Angkor Wat. The $1,750 fee for 2016 includes accommodation in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, tours and more.
By Nicky Sullivan
Last updated on 17th February, 2016.