Asia / Events & Activities / Travel Tales

Angkor Wat International Half Marathon

I was catching up with some messages that my friends sent me over the past couple of days, and one of the conversations brought my memory back to almost a year ago when I took part in the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon 2010.

The Angkor Wat International Half Marathon (AWIHM) is an annual national event of Cambodia that started in 1996. It is organized by a non-profit organization called Hearts of Gold, aimed at raising funds to support activities such as development and procurement of artificial limbs, rehabilitation and self-reliance for land mine victims, as well as preventive education of HIV/AIDS. The event is typically held on the first weekend of December, and contains the following race categories:

    • 21km Half Marathon Men/Women
    • 21km Half Marathon Wheelchair
    • 10km Road Race Men/Women
    • 10km Road Race Artificial Limbs
    • 3km Fun Run

Despite not being one of the highly acclaimed marathons for serious runners such as the Boston Marathon or the London Marathon, the AWIHM still gathers thousands of participants who come to take part from around the world. The run itself is easy, the path running smooth and flat throughout the route with hardly any inclines at all. The main highlight of the event and its popularity comes from the opportunity to run amidst the beautiful landscapes and surroundings of the ancient ruins of the Angkor Archaeological Park. What I remember the most about running in this marathon was the sense of exhilaration coupled with serene calmness in me as I jogged under the cooling canopy of trees, passing by the magnificent remains of the temples.

My friends and I signed up for the run early in 2010, and as we were excitedly making plans for the trip we had the idea to turn our participation into our own charity cause. The three of us – Fiza, Farah, and myself Fizzy (calling ourselves the “3Fs”) – started asking our friends and family to pledge money for each kilometer that we’d be running. We had all signed up for the 10km run, totaling 30km between us, and called it “Project Three Going Thirty.

The Three Fs: (l-r) Farah, Fiza, and Fizzy

Some participants even come dressed up in costume!

Running amongst the ruins

Participants in the wheelchair category

Can only imagine how hard it must be to run in a mascot costume

A humbling experience, seeing those with artificial limbs complete their marathon

Fancy bumping into my boss from work

Next time I participate I'm going to wear something wacky too!

When we started Project Three Going Thirty, we initially thought we were going to raise a small sum. But then as word got out the pledges and donations came rolling in and before we realized it, we had raised more than MYR 5,000 in cash and items. Whilst all the pledges came in, we started looking for suitable charity organizations based in Siem Reap to whom we could channel the donations to, and made our choice to help underprivileged children under the Siem Reap PSE Centre.

The centre we donated to caters for the education of identified and registered children under their care. These children come from surrounding villages, and our donations (mostly in the form of children’s books, stationery, clothing and daily necessities such as toothbrushes, soap etc) were greatly needed as most of the families these children come from cannot afford such ‘luxuries’. The cash that we raised went into the purchase of bicycles, given to the older teenaged kids who often aren’t able attend school as the villages that they live in are too far away to commute by foot.

An entire 'tuk-tuk' filled with luggages of donation items that we flew in from Malaysia

The children lining up to collect donated items, and new bicycles ready for distribution

Volunteers of the Sieam Reap PSE centre helping distribute clothes to the children

These children can't even afford shoes, and a secondhand pair is accepted with eager happy faces

Meeting the children was truly a humbling experience, and I can’t thank enough all the people who had supported us by donating and helping towards providing these kids with an opportunity to attend school and head towards a promising life. For any of you who intend on traveling to Cambodia and partake in similar charity work, I’d be happy to share some of my contacts for you to touch base with. Those of you keen towards Islamic charity causes can also contact me for relevant information regarding this.

Participating in the AWIHM is also a charity effort in itself, so if you’ve never been to Cambodia or fancy a visit to the Angkor Archaeological Park I’d highly recommend running in the marathon as part of your visit! If you’re looking to join in on this year’s run which will be held on the 4th of December, it’s not too late but you better hurry – online registration for the marathon closes tomorrow, 17th November 2011!

And for those of you who prefer cycling to running, there is also the Angkor Wat Bike Race that is held one day prior to the Half Marathon.

I, sadly, am not able to participate in this year’s run even though I initially planned to do the 21km category, as I can’t afford to fly to Cambodia now that I’m based in New Zealand. My friends Fiza and Farah are going again, along with a few others whom we’ve managed to convince to participate from our rave reviews of last year’s fun trip. To those going, I wish you good luck with the run and hope you enjoy yourselves!

Soundtrack: Eleanor Friedberger – I Won’t Fall Apart On You Tonight
Mood: Calm
Location: Bedroom, Wellington, New Zealand
Random thought: Holy crap getting mad cravings for murtabak from Zam Zam restaurant in Singapore

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