Cambodia’s biggest international race will finally push through after being delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Angkor Wat Marathon Committee announced yesterday that the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon will be held on January 24 in Siem Reap province.
“We would like to inform you that January 24 is the new date for the 25th Angkor Wat International Half Marathon,” the announcement, which was addressed to the participants, said.
“Thank you for your patience while waiting for the new schedule,” it added.
The announcement carries with it a reminder for participants to observe the proper health protocols in light of the pandemic.
“Kindly take care of your health, wear a mask, clean your hands, keep social distancing and strengthen your immune system,” it said.
The Angkor Wat International Half Marathon comes a day after another major sports event, the National Cycling Championship. The cycling championship will also be held in Siem Reap province on Jan 23, according to the Cambodian Cycling Federation.
The annual event was originally scheduled for December 6, 2020. But due to the pandemic and subsequent sports ban, its organisers decided to move it to another date.
Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the lifting of the sports ban last week after the end of the so-called ‘November 28 Incident’.
While the previous editions of the race drew 10,000 or more runners from around the world, this year’s event is expected to have fewer participants in light of the health situation. The 2019 edition of the race drew more than 12,000 participants from 80 countries.
In the past, runners have come from Cambodia, France, United Kingdom, the Philippines, United States, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, Russia, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and other countries. Some of the top marathoners in the world like Saeki Makino of Japan were among the participants in the past.
Cambodians and foreigners living here are expected to provide the bulk of runners come Jan 24.
Its popularity is driven by the fact that runners are allowed to race through Angkor Wat, the biggest religious monument in the world and Cambodia’s number one tourist destination.
It has also become a tradition for many companies, embassies, private organisations, government agencies and other private and public entities to send representatives to the event.
The venue and nearby areas take on a festive atmosphere every time the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon comes to town, with side activities like concerts and fairs accompanying the main event.
Vath Chamroeun, secretary-general of National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC), said organisers were forced to limit the number of participants in light of the current health situation. Cambodia, so far, has registered 383 cases with no fatalities.
The preparations, according to him, are guided by strict health protocols to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.
The event could help revive a flagging tourism industry in Siem Reap province. Long the top tourism destination in the country, the province has been hit hard by the pandemic. Businesses have shuttered and Angkor Wat has seen the lowest number of visitors in years.
“The Angkor Wat International Half Marathon attracts many local and foreign visitors to Siem Reap. It could help revive the tourism industry there,” he stressed.
There are six categories for the race: 21k wheelchair, 21k half marathon, 10k, 10k artificial arm/leg, 5k and 3k fun run.
The Angkor Wat International Half Marathon is a joint undertaking of NOCC, Ministry of Tourism, Association of Athletics Federation of Cambodia and Cambodia Events Organizer. Manulife Cambodia is the lead sponsor of the event.
The money raised from the event is mostly donated to children’s hospitals and other charitable causes benefiting the underprivileged sector.
Makino and Nic Amhlaoibh Maire of Ireland topped their respective categories in the 2019 Angkor Wat International Half Marathon.