Participating in the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon in 2011 became one of the most memorable events in my life. One of the girls in our group, Julie, came up with an idea of a girls’ trip to go to Siem Reap, Cambodia to participate in the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon. Angkor Wat International Half Marathon has taken place at the beginning of December since it started in 1996 to raise relief for the victims of land mines in Cambodia. There are three race categories: a half marathon (21K), 10K and 3K. I signed up to run in a 3K Family Run. For more information, please refer to the Go To Race website. The race takes place in one of the most famous world UNESCO heritage sites, Angkor Wat ruins. Since Angkor Wat was one of my dream travel destinations from my childhood and I had not visited yet, I could not pass up this opportunity.
*This Angkor Wat International Half Marathon is different from the Angkor Wat Empire Half and Full Marathon which started in 2014 and happens in August.
If you ever want to try any race in your life, I highly recommend the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon. It was just really fun. If I were to sign up for another international race overseas, I would pick this race. This is coming from me who is not a runner or does not care to participate in any race. Here are the 10 reasons why I think that the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon is the best.
10 Reasons To Try The Angkor Wat International Half Marathon
1. Great Time Of Year To Visit Angkor Wat
The Angkor Wat International Half Marathon takes place at the beginning of December which is before the peak tourist season starts in Siem Reap, Cambodia. It is probably the best time to visit temples.
2. Great Weather
The weather in Siem Reap, Cambodia in December is lovely. It was dry and cool. During the day it was warm, but it had nice breeze. It cools down at night, so by the evening, we needed a thin cardigan especially when riding a tuk-tuk. Apparently December and January offers the best weather of the year across the country.
It is cheap to stay in Cambodia even compared to the neighboring countries in Southeast Asia. Lodging, transportation, food and services were all very inexpensive.
4. Amazing Food
You can find amazing food in Siem Reap. There is something to be said about visiting countries that received French influence. Vietnam was another country I thought the food was amazing. Their pastries were delicious, too.
It felt very safe to travel in Siem Reap. No one hassled us. We did not have to worry about cons like there were in Bangkok. The tuk-tuk ride felt very safe as well. If you are interested in my story of Bangkok, please read “Travel Advice For Bangkok Thailand“.
6. Visa on Arrival
It took me probably 5 minutes to get visa. Maybe it helped that it was off season. The airport in Siem Reap may be small, but it was very efficient. It was also clean and beautiful.
7. No Traffic
You might find that traffic is not a big deal. My girl friends and I traveled from Jakarta and believe it or not we really appreciated the road conditions! It took us no time to get anywhere. Even in Bali, Indonesia, there is traffic which can be very bad.
The races and run were all really fun! There were young people, old people, and little children. Everyone was there to have fun. The atmosphere was energetic, vibrant and exciting.
9. Great Massages & Fun Shopping
Massages were very affordable. It is a great place to get ready for a run with massages to rest your muscles. There are great shops for shopping as well. We went to a night market, which I recommend you go if you ever visit Siem Reap. We had to negotiate prices, but it was part of the fun experience.
10. The last, but not the least, I cannot imagine a more beautiful place to run than Angkor ruins.
My friends and I registered through Go Adventure Asia website.
This photo above was taken at an Italian restaurant on the night before the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon. We stuffed ourselves with delicious pastas aka carbs to prepare for the race on the following day.
The Morning Of The Angkor Wat International Half Marathon
I still vividly remember the morning of the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon. I think we left our hotel, Angkor Pearl Hotel, sometime around 5:00 a.m. to head to the event site on a tuk-tuk we booked through our hotel. It was still pitch dark. The chilly breeze felt fresh and we all had butterflies in our stomachs with the excitement. The start point of the race was in front of the main entrance of Angkor Wat, where is known for all the photographers camping out to take the popular sunrise shots. As we approached Angkor Wat, hundreds of tuk-tuks from all different directions started to line up on the street that surrounds the moat of Angkor Wat. We could only see the line made up of hundreds of tuk-tuk lights and the reflection of them on the water canal. The bustle of the engines of hundreds of tuk-tuks and the gentle mirth of the race participants echoed in the sky. We could feel the buzz of excitement in the air.
Little by little the sun started to peek out and turned the sky into a gradation of pink.
There were many portable toilets for the race participants to use. You might want to bring your own toilet paper.
The race for the longer distances started earlier. The half marathon (21K) started at 6:00 a.m. Then the 10K race and lastly the 3K run. I sent off all my girl friends. I was by myself to start my own 3K. The photo below is taken at the start line for the 3K run. The atmosphere was very cheerful and relaxed. I was not nervous as much as I thought I would be.
The photo below is the turning point for the 3K. Honestly when I reached the half point, I was surprised how fast it went and that I was already there. I could keep going. I didn’t realize how hard it could be to run in a big race because there were so many people that I could not even run at the beginning. I walked and ran zig zag while I tried to find my way until the crowd dispersed sometime after the family run started.
At the end of the race a Japanese drum group performance welcomed the runners who came through the finish line. It was a lovely way to end the fun run.
Then I walked over to the side line of the running path and waited for the longer distance runners, especially my friends, to come through to get to the finish line. I have never seen any races or professional runners run before. The first 10 or so runners who came back from the 10K and half marathon races were sprinting so fast that I could not believe my eyes. It was an amazing site to witness.
Ms. Yuko Arimori, a Japanese professional marathon runner and a Good Will Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund spoke at the closing ceremony. I got really excited because I remember seeing her on TV when she ran and won the silver medal in the Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. (She has a blog in Japanese. Yuko Arimori’s blog)
Angkor Pearl Hotel
As you can see, I was pregnant, 25 weeks to be precise, when I went to Siem Reap with my friends and participated in the 3K run. I wish I had run in a 10K race, but I did not. I had a lot of fun, though. The upside of this is that because I did a 3K run, I was able to bring my heavy DSLR to the event, ran with it, and take photos of my friends to document the event. Here is my story behind it.
Race & Pregnancy
When I made the commitment to my girl friends to go on this trip, which was in May of 2011, I was not pregnant yet. I started training for the race right away as I knew I needed a long time to build up my endurance, which at the time was probably close to zero. Then three months later in August, I learned that I was pregnant when our planning for traveling to Cambodia had already started to solidify. It was clear in my head that I wanted to go on this trip in December granted that the pregnancy would be normal and healthy. The choices were not whether I would go or not. Then I had to make a decision whether I would run a 10K or 3K at the time of registration which my friends had already done in September.
I vacillated between a 10K race and 3K family run. I really wanted to run a 10K, but I calculated that by the time the race came at the beginning of December, I would be 25 weeks pregnant, the last week before entering the third trimester. I had normal and healthy pregnancies and deliveries with my two older children. I discussed the choices with my husband and after having done a hard thinking for a week, I decided to go for the 3K. The long story short, I chose the safer option for the fetus over what I wanted to do. I realized that it was not just about myself. I was carrying the whole responsibility of the baby’s life for my family.
If the race took place in the U.S. or Japan and I did not have to take two flights back to where I lived, who knows which choice I would have taken. I was living in Jakarta, Indonesia at the time and traveled through Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Siem Reap, Cambodia. My husband was not traveling with me. I thought to myself that if, heaven forbid, anything should have happened to the fetus in Siem Reap, I would have regretted for life. I was not willing to take a risk even if the chance of it was minuscule.
Training For A Run During Pregnancy
I continued to run during the first and second trimester even though I knew that I was running only 3 kilometers at a family run. What I did not realize was that during pregnancy, the pregnancy hormones cause a laxity of ligaments and joints throughout the body. (If you would like to learn more about this, please read this article on healthline.com.) If women have been a runner prior to pregnancy, it might be okay to continue running during their pregnancies, but for someone like myself who had not run on a regular basis prior to getting pregnant and started running almost everyday shortly before getting pregnant, it raised the risk of injury. Not to mention that I started to gain weight and my knees could not take the weight any longer. Needless to say, I injured my knee. That is the reason why I am wearing the knee supporter in the photo above. I did take a little break from running during the training and switched to swimming, which I loved. At the actual 3K Family Run, I did run the whole 3 kilometers.
In retrospect, I could have registered myself for the 10K run and walked most of it after having seen the actual race. There were many people who walked the 10K run. I do not regret that I ran a 3K run, though. I thoroughly enjoyed my trip. If you are wondering if you could run a 10K and you have never done any race in your life, the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon’s 10K would be a great one for you to try.