The kids lining up the race route happily giving high fives!

The previous years (from what I had seen online and had expected to run) had runners doing a big anti clockwise loop, starting from the west gate of Angkor Wat complex.  This year, its an out and back course that takes up mostly the northern/eastern half of the original route and starts at the north side of Bayon.

Route of this year’s half marathon, from my Strava.

They should have temporarily renamed it the Angkor Thom International Half Marathon.  Guess I was lucky to have joined its inaugural event.  🙂

The last minute change I heard was due to the combination government/cultural/religious event within Angkor Wat, so with thousands of monks and the expected crowds, they had to avoid the entire temple complex altogether.

Victory Gate on the east entrance of Angkor Thom

Sure, there are less temples and ruins to see in this route – minus the most famous of them all.  I was not there for selfies.  And, anyone who came to Siem Reap would (and you should!) do a proper whole day tour/visit anyway, to appreciate properly everything on offer within the vast Angkor Archaeological Park.

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YouTube video summary of the race above.

The flag off for 21K was 6:00 am, but was delayed for almost 30 minutes.  I seem to have heard they were waiting for clearance from those checking the route, but I have a feeling its some VIP arrived late (been to some events like this before).

Minutes before flag off intended flag off at 6am. You can imagine the cool temperature.

Likely its that same guy who gave a borderline long speech in Khmer which provoked some whistles and sarcastic claps towards the end.  Ninety five percent (95%) of participants in the 21K last year were foreigners and I can’t see it any differently this time from the faces in the crowded starting pen, so that speech likely have fallen on deaf ears.  For me, I definitely would have appreciated the extra 30 minutes of cooler temperatures if we had started on time.

Delayed flag off had me cross the timing mat only around 630am

The route was a mix of cement, asphalt, dirt.  No need for any special city trail shoes. Just your normal running shoes would do as long as you don’t mind getting them all dusty.  Lucky the weather was great the whole time I was there.

Huge sticker marking 1st km on the road

The distance markers were accurate.  The hydration points every evenly placed.  The water came in small bottles though instead of cups, and have both chilled and room temperature ones.

In the later kilometers when the sun is higher and your core temperature has steadily climbed, it’s good to have a bottle of water to cool yourself between water points.  Its kind of wasteful though with too many bottles by the side of the road, some even throwing them when its still more than half full.

Small bottles of water, small bananas, and some energy drink (nasty!)

Isotonic drinks?  No, they serve this energy drink ala Red Bull / Lipovitan in cups.  Nasty stuff.  Do they do this in other places/events?  As I feel this is not a good idea at all for running events.  I’m used to getting my calorie top-up from isotonics, plus the salt top-up.  So without them, I felt running on empty suddenly around 15km and walked a bit.  They did have bananas and I had kept one in my pocket from the earlier kms (nobody seem to have noticed I looked too excited) so I ate it.  Problem is my body takes time to digest it, so I had to walk twice more later on to get my stomach do its work and also to avoid stomach cramps.

A finish line like the road traffic in Phnom Penh

The final 300m is a little messy.  As soon as I entered the last bend, there’s a tuktuk on the path going in the same direction to the finish line!  Turns out, on board seems one of the disabled participants with the wheelchair.  Then as I got closer, so many people loitering, waiting for their friends.  The barriers were completely useless.  Its kinda like the roads in Phnom Penh where everyone – cars, motos, tuktuk, pedestrians – all seems to be everywhere on the road and going to any direction.  🙂

An army of selfie takers in front of Bayon

I cannot find any food anymore after the finish line, except for 3 bananas that nobody seems to want to touch, and so I won’t either.  Just past finish line, I did find mostly everyone taking selfies in front of Bayon.  Me, I took pictures of people taking selfies in front of Bayon.

For anyone who wants to join this in the future, here’s a important tip – Arrange for a tuktuk/moto to take you from your hotel to the flag off and back to your hotel afterwards in advance.

Early morning tuktuk ride to the race venue. See the muffler the driver is wearing. Its cold.

When I waited along Street 60 for a tuktuk before 5am, it didn’t take long, but I was just lucky one stopped even when he already had a fare.  Turns out his passenger was also going to run 21K and is a Cambodian from Phnom Penh, and its likely he’s the one who told the driver its okay to share the ride.

Dude, I didn’t get your name but thanks for sharing the tuktuk and for the early morning chit chat.  Hope you also finished with a similar average-Joe time of 2:20ish.

Post-race warm down walk and an welcome dose of serenity within Angkor Thom. Actually, no tuktuk would take me as they were all booked so I was forced to walk out of Angkor Thom.

Going home, all the tuktuk near the finish line are booked already (like I said, book in advance for both ways).  So I ended up walking towards the south gate (and the temple complexes there are huge).  Not that bad because I also need the warm down walk.  Plus, really its a nice peaceful walk with the tall trees around and the sun peeking behind it.

Monks lined up within Angkor Wat and people giving alms, and the traffic getting clogged up.

Eventually a moto guy offered me to ride pillion.  And again, lucky, because if I was on a tuktuk, I would have been stuck longer in traffic because of that event in Angkor Wat.  The moto guy was able weave us through every available space he can find between people and vehicles and go off road when needed.

The race programme says its to raise funds and awareness for the victims of landmines.  Its the legacy of a civil war that the locals unfortunately had to deal with, and the international community have been helping them so far.

Kids giving support to the runners!

The medal says this is charity event.  These kids by the road?  No, they are not begging.  They are offering high-fives and giving their support to everyone whatever their reason for running the race.  So you better not leave them hanging!

Yes, this event deserves to be in anyone’s bucket list.

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8 COMMENTS

    • yup.. a welcome diversion from the usual routes in SG that gets repeated in multiple events in the same year, and the next year…

  1. Thanks for the wonderful insight. I could see a lot from your photos / video clip and it gives me quite a good idea of what to expect. Especially all the finishing point. Lol….

    I have already booked and made all the travel plans for next year’s Khmer Empire Marathon in Aug 2018 two months ago.

    And point noted on booking a tuk tuk both ways!

  2. Thank you very much for your review! Great tips, specially the one about high-fiving the kids! I’m doing Dec 2018!

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