Saturday, December 7, 2013

Angkor Wat Half Marathon: Race Recap & Photojournal

I wouldn't normally travel 20+ hours for a race but this was too good of an excuse to make a Thailand/Cambodia trip happen. I'm kind of a sucker for destination races and generally have a problem saying no to anything that involves a start / finish line with double digit miles in between.

Angkor Wat
I had been a little freaked out by the potential heat and humidity. Then my lovely friend Heini made me  go running at 6:45AM on my first day in Thailand so I was forced to get over that (and jet lag) quickly and no, it was not pretty. But I survived and then there was Starbucks. I love you, globalization.

Let's talk about the race.

First off, I was thankful for the extensive bib pick-up hours. They were open for 3 days prior to the race and until 8pm the day prior which allowed a lot of flexibility - particularly important since there is a LOT of sightseeing to be done near Siem Reap (the city closest to the Angkor Wat temple complex and where we stayed). But don't expect many distractions here - it was truly just a bib pick up with no shopping opportunities. Yet another reason to pack your own race fuel and hydration rather than relying on the expo to buy anything.

Getting to the start line was highly entertaining since we had to take a tuk-tuk. Not just because the prospect of riding 20 minutes in a somewhat unstable vehicle on roughly paved roads sounds too enticing, but because that was the only real options. Or I suppose we could have added on some miles and just run it. We didn't.
Start line transportation
With a 6:30am start time, we were advised to be there by 5:30am. This, as it turns out, is a precautionary measure to avoid runners being stuck in massive tuk-tuk traffic since there is only one road to the start area. Getting there early is also advised for bathroom purposes since, well, there aren't too many of those. But there are a lot of bushes.

Let's not talk about the stuff dripping from under the port-a-potties...
We started running just after sunrise and it was all too beautiful. I mean, you are running by temples built over 900 years ago and what is the largest religious monument in the world. It's kind of impossible not to be amazed. We had toured around the temples the day before, which I would recommend. There is so much more you notice during the run if you get a little bit of the story / get oriented beforehand. (Also, if you're going to visit the temples - go with a tour guide. You won't regret it. There are many but Chhaya came recommended and he was great.) 

Start line. 

  • The course is completely flat which is a good or a bad thing, depending on who you ask. It's pretty much all on well-paved roads. 
  • Water stations are frequent and you get bottled water (you don't want to drink tap water). It's not designed as a BYOB course but at least you know you're getting safe drinking water. 
  • The crowd is really fun, it seems as though most people were there for the experience rather than a PR and it was pretty relaxed. There were about 2600 people running the 13.1 (there was a 10k and a 3k as well) and it was pretty congested for the first few miles, so running for time would have been very frustrating. 
  • In terms of crowd support, I didn't expect much given the remote location. But it was pretty awesome.

  • Overall, I set a new record for # pictures/mile = approx 5. Side note: taking pictures and opening the camera app on an iPhone with sweaty fingers is challenging!
  • Between picture taking and chatting with people, I had so much fun, I really wished the finish line wasn't there! 
  • And there were monks. Monks on motorcycles, monks on their iPhones and monks actually doing their chanting and meditating thing. 

And speaking of finish line, that's where you usually get medals. If you are visiting Angkor Wat in the near future, you may be able to buy one. There are a few stories going around, but it appeared the local kids decided to take them as souvenirs after handing some out to 3k/10k runners instead of half marathoners. I am told we will be mailed a medal but honestly, I'm so not bothered.
Look it's a medal! :-)

Love these ladies - Congrats to Mhairi on her first 13.1!
Oh! And I love MuscleAid Tape. The knee held up and allowed me to be my usual distracted self, forgetting about the fact that I am actually running. I've discovered that leaving it on for a couple days after helps a lot with healing and after a little rest, any little pain/discomfort was gone.

Thankfully, this tape really sticks…plus it's pink and when you wear it out with a skirt, you get a lot of funny questions. Not a common accessory in Cambodia.

Do I even have to say it…this was the most fun half marathon I've run to date.

In other news…I will be running the 6 hour NYOD race at Crissy Field in San Francisco on New Year's Eve so if you don't have plans to ring in the new year yet - come and join the fun! Last year I had a go at the 24 hour race, and there is also a 12 hour version.

And a few more pictures:

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