Angkor Wat Half Marathon was, for me, dominated by toilets rather than the temples. And judging by the queues at the portaloos pre-race and the number of people scurrying behind trees and rocks during the run – I’ve never seen anything like it! – I wan’t the only runner thus challenged. Still, I’ll try and put my loo issues behind me – ahem – and focus on other aspects of the race.
Firstly, Siem Reap is a lovely town of low-rise buildings, teaming with stalls, shops and restaurants. Angkor Wat Temple is about 15 minutes drive out of town. The race was SUPPOSED to start at 6.30AM on Sunday so we left our hotel at 5.30AM and arrived in plenty of time to queue up for the loos. My friend and I joked that it was better to wait in line for the loo and to time a last wee just before the gun went off than to go in the bushes and end up hopping from one foot to the other with nerves at the start line. Mistake! As we ran from the portaloos in the direction of the start, we realized that the race had already started – without us! And it was only 6.24!
So I was three minutes into the race crossing the start line, which makes my ranking on the results look bad, but heh I was never going to be in the Top 20 anyway so there’s no use in being upset. Actually upsetting, was the fact that the valve on my Nathan bottle collapsed at the start, sending my Accelerade drink all over my shorts and leaving me with no fuel for 21 km. Water stations provided 350 ml bottles of water every 2.5 km and I ended up carrying one for most of the race; this did nothing for my posture but made me feel more secure about staying hydrated. The disadvantage of starting so far back was the need to overtake slower people who had started at the front. Weaving in and out, and avoiding slamming into the back of runners who stopped to take photos, dominated the first 5 km, which I took easy, breezy and dare I say I would have enjoyed if it hadn’t been for the constant need to swerve around people. At about 8km, I looked longingly at a gel a girl was taking though I had none with me as in the past they’ve made me feel nauseous. Another girl had a bag of Haribo gummy bears but she didn’t offer me any;( Of all the rear ends I saw on Sunday, one stuck out from the crowd. ‘How’s my Running? Call 1-800-EAT-DUST!’ was printed on a girl’s shorts. Love it! Somehow, after running around a slower lady, I got dizzy, and felt my stomach lurch. I took the next few kilometeres at a pretty good pace, keeping an eye out for a toilet, debating whether it was worth the loss of time or not. At around 10 km, I spied a sign for toilets and bolted out of the race and into the loos. I never thought I’d sabotage a race thus, but I did. Somehow my pace never recovered after this. Having passed so many runners before the pit stop, I couldn’t muster the will to try and pass them again. In fact I don’t really remember much of the last 10 km; probably due to a combination of lack of endurance training (I had a stitch for 9 km), lack of electrolytes (may also have caused the stitch), and the fact that I’d been sick for the 10 days prior to the race. I’m afraid, I wasn’t running with joy, more a sense of a chore that needed to be completed. I didn’t at any point run fast enough to get out of breath – during the first half I was afraid to in case I ran out of steam, during the second half I simply couldn’t because of the stitch.
Compared to tropical cities like Singapore, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur, running at Angkor Wat felt fresh and breezy. The route is very flat and the surroundings are beautiful. Local children lined the route cheering, their hands outstretched for runners to clap, collecting water bottles which they can make money from recycling. Distance markers were clearly painted across the road at every kilometer. At some water stations, there was a can of something I didn’t recognize on offer but I didn’t risk it. By the end, the sound of water sloshing around in my stomach was enough to put me off drinking anything, so I’d probably even have refused a 100Plus if it had been available. Still, it would have been nice to have a sports drink on offer at a few water stations 🙂
Strangely, I crossed the Finish line feeling cold, my skin covered in goosebumps. I was delighted to meet a friend who gave me water as there were no refreshments distributed on the finish line. The medals were hard to find too; eventually, after asking many people, I found some children handing out medals to anyone who asked, in the middle of the finish line melee. My husband, who ran the 10km, got a medal identical to mine, stating Half Marathon. I’ve read complaints on Facebook that there were no medals left for Half Marathon runners who came in around the 2:30 mark which seems very unfair! Unfortunately we couldn’t hang around after the race for more than a few moments as we had a flight to catch back to Kuala Lumpur. My time was 1:56, which was a PB, but the fact that it could have been nearer 1:54 without the pitstop is hard to let go. Still, one MUST be positive. My foot, which I had taped, didn’t hurt at all during or even after the 21 km which, if I wasn’t such an ungrateful cow, should have been my opening line on this post.
I’d love to return to do the Angkor Wat Half Marathon in 2014 but as we’re moving to Perth, and there are no direct flights from Perth to Siem Reap, I’ll probably not have the opportunity. If we were staying in Malaysia, I’d definitely return (wearing a nappy – kidding!). I’m determined to master this 21 km lark. By this I don’t necessarily mean improve my timing – though this of course would be nice – but to cross the Finish line feeling a sense of achievement. Looking back I can see that the races I’ve enjoyed most, or that have given me a sense of accomplishment, have all (three) been 15 -16km. I haven’t registered for another Half until March, so I’ve plenty of time to work on my stamina and endurance to see if I can ‘master’ the 21 km distance.
In the meantime, I’ve ordered new race caps for my Nathan bottles and I will continue with physio for my PTT. And then there will be race toilet training which I have now added to my New Year’s resolution list for 2014!
Irish expat writer and mother-of three who discovered a passion for running at 40. Since 1993, has lived in the Aberdeen, Houston, Singapore, Manila, Oslo, Kuala Lumpur & Perth, Australia. Athletics Australia Certified Level 2 Advanced Recreational Running Coach. 16 Half Marathons and 2 Marathons...so far.