Dreams Do Come True
I have wanted to go to Cambodia from the time when I saw the movies Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones were filmed there. Well, I do appreciate history and reading books will take you to endless places in the world. And Cambodia is one of those places.
17 Aug. 2014
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Race Registration and Hotel Booking
A window of opportunity finally came early this year. When I found out that a full marathon will be staged (aside from its annual half marathon event) where start/finish arch would be at the famous Angkor Wat Temple, I found myself registering for the marathon. What a beautiful way to see the place than by running.
Just like in my previous trips, I waited for any discount or seat sale early this year. Though the race event organizers partnered with the hotels in Cambodia, I found them somewhat beyond my budget. Then I remembered the brochure that was given to me by one of the speakers at a seminar I attended in October 2013. I visited the web site of that guest house and found the room rates quite reasonable. Airfare. Check. Race registration fee. Check. Accommodation. Check.
All set, except one—I couldn’t find anyone else to come with me on such short notice. Ellen aka Kelcy and Jinoe, Takbo.ph blog owner came into my mind. You see, the three of us have run the Borneo International Marathon in 2012. But Ellen was busy lately. I tried contacting Jinoe. Surprisingly, when I told him about it, he got interested that he booked his own flight, arranged for his accommodation, and registered for the marathon instantly.
The next concern was who would claim our race kits considering our flight would leave the night before the race and claiming of race kits would start three days before race day? I tried to seek assistance from the hotel staff. Though they are willing to assist us, I was much keener if someone we knew would claim it for us.
Thanks to Jinoe’s assistance on this. Just two weeks before the race, Jinoe informed me that a fellow runner would claim the race kits for us as she would be in Siem Reap days earlier. Much thanks to Janine for claiming the race kits, leaving these at the front desk, and ensuring we had a ride via tuk-tuk* from the guest house to the event venue. She also gave each one of us a Philippine flag pin. Jinoe on the other hand, gave us a free T-shirt printed with RUN.PH on the front to be worn after the race. Thank you for the shirt, Jinoe.
*Also known as auto rickshaw, a common public transportation in Siem Reap, Cambodia
On Marathon Training
Each race is different, so it’s important to know exactly what you’re getting into. Before my previous well-prepared marathons (Condura Skyway in 2009 was my best marathon time so far), I ran respectable times. Not really fast, but at least within the goal I set for myself.
In a desperate effort to get race-fit, I tried to do long slow distances on Sundays, do a-once-a-week training session with my running coach, running three times on weekdays after work, and did extra pool laps into my twice-a-week swimming routine. However, training was disrupted with complimentary races along the way. I treated each race as part of the preparation. The trail running in Nuvali two months ago helped a lot. That was my longest run prior to another marathon, the Milo Marathon.
As previously mentioned in my blog post, the Milo Marathon was not really included in the list of races that I would do this year, but since the brand is celebrating another milestone, I so wanted to be one of the runners in this race. Two running coaches have suggested to me to take it easy on the race and to focus more on the Empire Angkor Marathon, which was the proper way of doing things anyway.
The game plan was to just run Milo Marathon up to 30KM or something then to DNF, or did not finish, or to finish it and walk the last 10 kilometers. If I get fast in this, performance wise, marathon running in Cambodia might not be good. They were right.
In marathon running, it takes two to three weeks for the body to recover from running a marathon, hence, running two marathons in a year is ideal. Milo Marathon was scheduled on July 27 while Empire Angkor Wat on August 17. That’s roughly three weeks before race day for Empire Angkor Marathon. I didn’t want to DNF Milo. When I had the GO signal from my running coach, I was vent on finishing these races within the cut-off time of six hours. Also, these events are both IAAF and AIMS certified races. And I know how strict IAAF and AIMS in implementing the deadline.
The week before Empire Angkor Wat, I had to race in an aquathlon (a two-stage race involving swimming and running). Though I felt happy to have won third place, but deep inside I was apprehensive how I would fare the next weekend. “Stick to the game plan.” That was my mantra. Based on my readings, the route is mostly flat so I thought I might be able to do the finish time I set for myself.
Departure and Arrival
We were supposed to leave at 7:45 PM, but flight got delayed. By the way, there is a one-hour time difference between Cambodiaand the Philippines (Philippines is ahead by 1 hour). We arrived at Siem Reap Airport minutes past 11:00 PM (Philippine Time). Race would be at 4:30AM (Cambodiatime), that means we only had more or less three hours of sleep.
Dead tired, I was able to sleep right away. A light rap on my door woke me up. I thought it was just my imagination. So I closed my eyes again. Then another soft knocks followed. Got up to check what it was. It was Jinoe all geared and ready for the race. Janine, too! Yikes! It was the fastest shower and change of clothes I had done! Sad though that I wasn’t able to eat or drink something hot prior to the race. Our tuk-tuk driver was ready and waiting for us as early as 2:00 AM.
The drive from the guest house to the event venue took five or seven minutes on a route with a line of trees running along each side.
Race Venue, Gun Start, and Race Route
We all left our stuff with our able and supportive tuk-tuk driver Cheang. As we walked towards the Start arch, we heard the emcee announcing all the countries participating in the said race. I couldn’t be more proud in that moment when we saw our flag being displayed alongside the other countries, and heard “Philippines!” announced by the emcee. We were making history here! Three of us. But wait. There were two more runners from our country. That would be five of us doing the full marathon! Great!
I could feel the excitement of the crowd. Roaming my eyes, I couldn’t believe what I just witnessed. Welcome messages from the Guest of Honor and VIPs followed by the lighting of the torch. I couldn’t see the entrance of the Angkor Wat Temple as it was too dark. Then the countdown began. I switched on my Garmin watch when they fired the start gun.
The course is relatively flat with gradual ascent and ancient trees along the route. Runners could take photos during the race as there are ancient temples along the course.
Portion of the race passed through the city then back to the world heritage area. Runners would run asphalt roads (at times riddled with cracks) and in other areas some concrete roads.
I started to feel fatigued so early at KM22. On my way back, after the turnaround point at KM25, there were school children along the way excitedly doing high fives with the runners. Their smiling faces and cheers made the run much more enjoyable.
While running, my watch did not match the official kilometer markers. I knew I only had almost four kilometers to go, but the distance markers were telling me a different distance. It was at this time that Jinoe was able to catch up with me. Knowing he’s a race organizer himself, I checked if in his watch it was more or less the same as the distance markers. True enough, his watch measured extra kilometers. Reality is we need to beat the deadline. I knew I was already done with my marathon at a certain point. But at the time the only choice was to keep running at a pace just enough to beat cut-off time.
The sun was burning hot and I could feel the sun burning on my skin. I could no longer appreciate the ruins as I passed by. I think I actually sprinted the last KM to the finish line. Two lady foreigners were cheering on me and giving me the thumbs up sign. I shouted at them, “Did I make it?” Smiling back at me, both nodded their heads. “I did it! Thank you, Lord.”
I remember after crossing the finish line, I was a bit emotional that I almost cried. Whew! That was close! I received my finisher’s medal and got some drinks. I was at the stretching area with some runners … thinking of what had just happened. I asked them how long the distance was. They said in their watch it measured 46 kilometers. “Whoa!” I thought, “Four more kilometers to go and it’s already an ultramarathon.” My watch registered a distance of 44.37 kilometers.
Overall, it was still a great run. I enjoyed myself although I did not do as well as I hoped. Based on the results, there were other participants from the Philippines.
Approximately five kilometers from the Finish Line. Jinoe, who was running also at the other side of the road called my name when this photo was taken. The background is called the Terrace of the Leper King just north of the Terrace of the Elephants Angkor Thom, built at end of 12th century by king Jayavarman VII.
The day after the race, we spent the day visiting the Angkor Archaeological Park considered a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The next day, our last day in Siem Reap, we explored the area on a road bicycling and visiting AngkorNational Museum, a perfect way to end my first visit in Cambodia.
Would just like to thank Queenie for the support and cheers even if she was not able to come with us. Thank you also to Janine for claiming the race kits, the photos taken after the race, for touring us on our first day in Siem Reap, and for ensuring we get a good tuk-tuk driver. I enjoyed much your and your sister’s company while celebrating our victory over lunch on Sunday. Thank you also to the guest house owners. You guys made our stay worthwhile (will blog about this, too, some other time). To God be the glory!