Angkor Wat Half Marathon 2015

20 Dec

We’ve been ridiculously spoiled by some of the travel opportunities we’ve had over here, opportunities to visit obscure locales, clamber around historical sites, and sample exotic cuisine. I think it’s only fair to add the running of the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon to the list. Not everyone gets the chance to frolic around ancient temples early in the morning, and doing so made me feel quite lucky (also quite badass). The race is for charity, raising money for the victims of antipersonnel mines in Cambodia. UXO (unexploded ordinance) is a huge problem in many of the southeast asian countries, so it’s definitely a worthy cause. Over twenty members of our running posse, the Ramkhamhaeng Runners, traveled to the town of Siem Reap for the long weekend of the King’s birthday to participate, in either the half or the shorter race distances.

IMG_3505The morning of December 6th found us awake before the sun, zooming in a tuk-tuk through the pre-dawn light towards the ruins of Angkor Wat. The roads around the temples are fairly rural, so the many racers heading to the start caused a bit of traffic. Fortunately, Karli and I made it to the start line in time, only to have to wait an extra fifteen minutes for the political speeches of the welcoming ceremony to conclude. We took selfies to pass the time and ease the pre-race jitters. I had had a major mental debate going before the race began, whether to actually race and try to improve my time, or to lollygag and enjoy the scenery. Well, the scenery won.

The first few kilometers wound through forest/jungle and the Cambodian countryside. The temperatures were quite pleasant, and the trees provided some delightful shade. As we passed intersections and villages, little kids came out to offer high fives to the runners. I can only imagine what they thought of all the crazy foreigners running about, but they were super cute! Around 15km, just as I was starting to feel tired, the really good temples appeared; we ran through one of the dramatically carved stone gates, past the Bayon Temple with its many heads, around Angkor Thom, and out through another gate before heading back to Angkor Wat. The combination of tired legs and gorgeous temples made a few pauses for photo taking inevitable. It was particularly awesome running through the gates – the huge looming heads, the thick stone walls, zooming through the narrow tunnel – amazing. The end of the race brought another round of picture taking, and a refreshing green coconut. Nice work Ramkhamhaeng Runners!

 

Aside from racing, most of us took part of the long weekend to explore. Many went and did the full temple tour, but since Orestes and I had thoroughly templed on our previous visit, I wasn’t too interested in that. One location I had wanted to visit was the Cambodian Landmine Museum. Emily, Kirsten, and I hired a tuk-tuk and set off. None of us knew precisely what to expect; the site is both a museum and a school that houses and educates children who have been affected by antipersonnel mines. Its founder, a man named Aki Ra, was a former child soldier with the Khmer Rouge, who defected, learned how to defuse land mines, and made this his life’s work. The museum is filled with actual defused mines Aki Ra has gathered. It is estimated that he has removed over 50,000 mines in his life, thus far. It was interesting to read about his story, and sobering to read about the US role in all of it. A significant portion of the UXO is the result of American carpet bombing during the Vietnam War – as in Laos, the consequences were far-reaching (for more on that, check out my post here). One out of every 300 Cambodians has been injured or killed by land mines. Additionally disturbing to me was learning that although most countries have signed treaties banning the use of land mines (the US hasn’t), Syria is currently littering the Turkish border with them. It’s not hard to see twenty, thirty years into the future, when there is no longer fighting, but innocent children and animals continue to be harmed by the remnants of war.

12308032_10100559286013502_8614167451327744022_oIn addition to the museum, we stopped at Banteay Srei, one of the outer temples. The entire temple is built of local red sandstone, and covered in intricate carvings. It’s also smaller, and quite unique when compared to the more famous Angkor temples. Even better, the temple sees far less tourists due to its around 20km outside of Siem Reap. The overall effect is lovely. 20km is a long drive via tuk-tuk, but the views of the countryside and the cool breeze made the drive gorgeous. I love the lush green of the rice paddies stretching to the horizon, and the setting sun added to the view. Kirsten brought some little handicrafts from two sweet girls (see photo below), and we took many a photo of the beautiful landscapes. All in all, a great day, and a great long weekend.

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One Response to “Angkor Wat Half Marathon 2015”

  1. janerunswild December 20, 2015 at 4:16 pm #

    Oh my gosh, this is awesome! I went to Siem reap this past March and would love to run the half! Looks so fun and beautiful! Brings back some amazing memories of all of the incredible temples. Thanks for your review!

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