As every year, the beginning of December has brought the International Half Marathon of Angkor here in Cambodia. I decided last year to prepare myself and join for the first time such a run. The concerns were many: the distance, the humidity, getting enough stamina with training, and the early departure time of the run. About three months ago I googled the web searching for sites that helped me to make up a training schedule. Eventually I found one who provided a full preparation for a whole marathon in four months. I printed it our and displayed in our kitchen here in Kampong Thom. It is not easy to find a place to practice although we live in a rural areas. The rainy season from May to September leaves the rural roads with a lot of mud and not enough time to dry between one shower and another. The dry season, means also a lot of dust along he laterite roads in the fields. Luckily I found a one mile stretch not far from our house between two villages. It is an old Food for Work roads build in the mid of the 1990s and now in bad conditions. Though it is a bit bumpy it has the advantage that there aren’t cars or trucks, just slow carts with oxen or water buffaloes. So that has been my practice distance coming ad going, one mile after one mile.
Initially I could really follow the schedule I printed from the web, but later more important things took over: most importantly the birth of our daughter Olga in June. I could still practice after her birth, but I felt also that I wanted to have time with her after the work and before the sudden sunset of the tropics. So I slowed down nod manage to run a max distance of 13 km.
Then the race day came. We left to Siem Reap on Saturday, the day before. We stayed at the usual guesthouse and had a nice day in the town: the market shopping for souvenirs and handicraft and a nice pasta plate at FCC in the evening. Went to sleep early but could not sleep. I guess I waited for long time this moment and now it was there, very close. Just one night away.
I dreamt of a marathon somewhere else, provably in Milan. I arrived at the start line with half an hour to go before the gun shot and I realised I had not with my jogging shoes. I immediately realised that the I had not enough time to go back home and get them as the whole town had been closed to traffic because of the race. So that was it. No shoes, no run. I woke up. Olga next to me was making some noise while sleeping. The faint light of the day was coming in from the windows, and the ceiling ventilator was going round and round. I realised it was just a dream and that things were ok, I was in time. Woke up and had few bananas for breakfast with some tea. I put on my jogging shoes and drove to Angkor Wat temple were the start and finish line had been drawn.
I was supposed to find out that there were several hundred maybe one thousand and five hundreds people already there ready to start of the various races of the day: 21 Km, 10Km, 5 km. The race has been sponsored by various Japanese companies so that after Khmer the official language was Japanese and not English. Disabled people and mine victims were also there ready to start in the fresh air of early morning.
The opening ceremony did not take too much time. Brief speeches in Khmer and Japanese and the start of a olimpic flame while the participant warmed up doing stretching. Then the shot of the gun, everybody pushing hard to get ahead. I choose a slow pace since I do not have much experiences in these long races.
What I remember then is the shadows of the high trees of Angkor, the long walls of the monuments, the huge entrance door of Ta Prom, the four faces sculptures of Bayon and the Elephant terrace. In the end 21 kilometres did not seem so long, probably it was because of the scenery.
For the one who are interested in this, my time has been 2h 00m 23″. Next year I will try to do better.
Civil society advisor
DED / GTZ CBRDP Kampong Thom
PO Box 628
Phnom Penh – Cambodia
PO Box 628
Phnom Penh – Cambodia