Thousands of runners, both amateur and professional, are set to descend this weekend on Siem Reap’s UNESCO-listed Angkor Archaeological Park for the running of December’s Angkor Wat International Half Marathon.
Vath Chamroeun, secretary general of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC) and secretary of state of the Ministry of Tourism, said a record turnout was expected for the 23rd edition of one of the highlights of Cambodia’s sporting calendar.
Latest reports suggested around 10,500 had already signed up with 6,000 Cambodians among the cohort.
“Last year was the first time in the history of the event we received more than 10,000 entrants, and coming from nearly 80 countries, said Mr. Chamroeun. “It was also the first year the number of domestic runners exceeded international runners.
This growth reflects that Cambodian people are learning of the importance of sport and the significance of healthy living,” he added.
Over 5,000 foreign runners from 78 countries are set to race with the British contingent forming the largest group.
An estimated 500 runners attended the first Angkor Half Marathon in 1996, and the event has continued its steady growth. Last year saw a 10% rise in comparison to 2016.
A 10-kilometre run and a 3-kilometre fun run are also on offer for those not yet ready to tackle the longer 21-kilometre half marathon distance.
At last year’s race, and for the second consecutive year, the overall winner in the men’s 21-kilometre half-marathon was China’s Qi Bian who with a time of 1 hour, 12 minutes and 42 seconds. He held off the challenge of Cambodian running duo Kuniaki Takizaki and Ma Viro. The Chinese athlete also narrowly beat his 2016 race record of 1:13:16.
Singapore-based Irishwoman Máire Nic Amhlaoibh bagged first-prize in the women’s half-marathon crossing the line with a time 1:28:45. She was followed closely in second by Frenchwoman Veronique Messina, with Briton Lyndsay Clarke rounding off the podium.
Ministers have long regarded the kingdom’s numerous marathons as vital in cultivating Cambodia’s burgeoning sports-related tourism sector.
“International tourist arrivals in Cambodia have increased every year, especially in Siem Reap, a world-class tourist destination, explained Thong Khon, Minister of Tourism and chairman of the NOCC, at the close of last year’s race.
“Cambodia is developing Siem Reap and Angkor to become one of the world’s most attractive tourist destinations. We look forward to welcoming visitors from all over the world.”
The event, organised by the NOCC and Cambodia Events Organizer, with the support of the Ministry of Tourism, will raise money for the Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals among other important charities in the kingdom.