Running with the Gods: The Angkor Empire Half Marathon

August 7th. Here we are. It's 4:00 am in Siem Reap and we are in a tuktuk, on our way to Angkor Wat for THE race. I'm excited, impatient and stressed -mostly excited. After 3 months hard training in Hong Kong Summer heat, I'm ready to run the Angkor Empire Half Marathon. 21 kms amongst the temples and the Cambodian jungle. I've been looking forward to this day for months... 

Running the Empire Angkor Half Marathon in Cambodia

The Angkor Empire Marathon is held at the heart of the Angkor temple complex, with starting and finishing established in front of the Central Sanctuary of Angkor Wat. There are different races, from marathon to 3k family run. I don't know if you can imagine hundreds of runners warming up in front of this magnificent historic site with a loud electro music resonating at 4 in the morning. Well, that's something... 

Running half marathons is one of my resolutions for a happy year. After Hong Kong and Taipei, Angkor is my 3rd Half Marathon, and today my challenge is to do it under two hours. I've been training under 34°C, under the rain, in the cold, in Hong Kong, in France, in Hokkaido, in Madrid. I'm all set now. I don't know if I will make it, all I know is that I can't wait to hear the starting pistol finally being fired.

My Angkor Empire Half Marathon

4:30 am. Bam. The marathon starts after a traditional Cambodian drum roll. We're next on the line. After a quick warm up, here we are on the starting line. Then arrives Her Highness the Princess of Thailand, with her team of runners and her 1, 2, 3... 10 -yes, 10 bodyguards from the marines. Still, a princess who runs a half marathon, that's a pretty cool princess.

BAM. We're off for 21K!

I'm so excited I can't stop smiling. I follow the Princess and her handsome crew for the first 6K, then I'll get sick of the police motorbike following them, so I just pass them -goodbye, bodyguards! After 10K, the road becomes even more scenic than before. Now it's not only amazing lush jungle and Angkor Wat, but we're going from temple to temple. On the side of the road, the villagers are here to cheer us up -some with a curious look, probably wondering WHY are these crazy people running like this. Past Sra Srang, the most beautiful surprise awaits us. All the kids applaud in their school uniform, waiting to get a high-five. It's unbelievable! They are so many, I'm getting dozens and dozens of high five, for hundreds meters. We can hear some 'Hello, where do you come from?'. The atmosphere is so festive, it's hard to keep pace, I can't help but speed up. These kids make me fly! 

The crowds keep on cheering all the way. They give me the strength to push it a little more every kilometer -I'm not used to that, with no supporters at all neither in Hong Kong nor Taipei HM. Impossible to get bored or to lose motivation in this amazingly beautiful route. The 15th kilometer is normally a tough one, as you can start to feel the pain in the legs, but you're not quite there yet. Not in Angkor Empire Marathon. 15K, I'm passing trough the stunning Victory gate. It's so scenic, I feel like I'm in a movie scene! My legs accelerate, I can't stop, I won't stop. Ten minutes later, I can see Bayon Temple afar, beautiful in the morning light.

Almost there. Some runners start getting tired, which gives me the energy to keep going and pass them. Angkor Wat, I can see Angkor Wat! Time to give everything I've got, 2K, 1K... FINISH LINE. 1:57:12. YIhaaaa! I'm flying!

The day is just starting. After I meet my own handsome bodyguard, stretch and drink with the best view possible, we hop on our tuktuk direction Maison 557, our home for the week, for the best breakfast ever -by the pool, please. Well deserved! 

The Angkor Empire Marathon is held every year, and the profits go to charity for Cambodian hospitals. If you are looking for a scenic race to do in Asia, go for it. And don't worry, August isn't even that hot in Cambodia, it's the coolest period in the year. It was a perfect weather for me -but don't forget I trained in Hong Kong heat... It might still feel hot if you usually run in Europe/US.

This is just the beginning. This race makes me want to do better in terms of performance, and also to go running in other beautiful parts of the world. Ohhh, there's a whole new bucketlist to write here....