After completing several 10k running events and trail runs in Hong Kong, I had been keen to tackle a half marathon for some time and what better place to do this than the stunning town of Siem Reap in Cambodia.
Famous for the amazing Angkor Wat temple complex, Siem Reap is just a short 2 hours and 45 minutes direct flight away from Hong Kong. Dragonair offers daily flights now to this amazing destination but they book out extremely fast around the race dates so I recommend booking early if you can.
Before the race:
We arrived the day before the half marathon, and stayed at the Tara Angkor Hotel. After landing, we collected our race packs from the small race expo and then headed to the hotel to unpack and prepare. The hotel is perfectly located, just a few minutes tuk tuk drive away from the famous Pub Street and only 15 minutes away from the start line of the race. We booked a tuk tuk to pick us up early the next morning and then headed into town to do the obligatory 'pre-race carb load' before heading back to the hotel to get an early night. One of the best things about the Tara is that they prepared us a breakfast box that was delivered to our room, as we would be getting up so early the next day to take part in the race.
We were up at 4.30am to make sure we had enough time to eat and to prepare ourselves, and then our tuk tuk turned up as planned. It was a great experience driving to the race. The roads were full of runners, and you could feel the excitement and anticipation in the air. The race begins right at the famous Angkor Complex, and we were lucky enough to be there in time for an amazing sunrise. This was the perfect opportunity for us to take a team photo before we started.
Everything was extremely well-organised, and after dropping off our bags we headed to the start line to begin at 6am. The course was one of the most beautiful I have ever run on - it was mainly flat and took us though several of the temple complexes and though a lot of the local villages. The scenery was stunning and we were cheered on by the local children and their families every step of the way. My friend and I were even joined by one little boy who ran along with us for a few hundred meters, which felt amazing. There were water and energy drink stops every kilometer and we took full advantage of these as the weather is still pretty warm even though it was so early in the morning.
We all completed the race within our target times, and the atmosphere at the end was fantastic. Both the spectators and organisers were there to cheer us all over the finish line, and we were lucky enough to see some of our customers complete the race too.
Post-race celebration & fun:
It was now time to head back to the hotel for a well-earned rest around the pool and a celebratory drink at Pub Street, which was full of runners, all celebrating their own achievements.
We spent the next day exploring the temples, and I highly recommend Ta Phrom in particular, more recently famous for being in the film Tomb Raider, it has a huge tree growing right in the middle of it. It's also worth taking a trip to the markets to pick up souvenirs and gifts for friends.
It was now time to leave behind Siem Reap and head home. This had been a fantastic holiday, not only did we complete the race, but we got to run among some of the most amazing temple ruins in the world. I don't think there can be another half marathon route as beautiful as this one.
By Kathryn Gardner