It was a grand Swedish double header in the 16th Angkor Wat International Half marathon in Siem Reap yesterday as Henrik Jannaborg made his debut run a winning one among men and his compatriot Jenny Lundgren romped home in the women’s event.
At the crack of dawn, a record 5,230 runners from 58 countries had assembled in front of the famed Angkor Wat complex to take part in different categories over varying distances. The men’s and women’s half marathoners numbering around 2,000 were the first to be flagged off by Minister of Tourism and President of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia Thong Khon.
With the temperature touching 21 degrees celsius at the start and humidity well within reasonable limits, the field was thickly bunched up for a while before the serious contenders began to stretch away in a challenging tempo set by none other than Jannaborg.
Behind him chased a group headed by last year’s runner-up Evan Fox. But at the half way stage it was obvious that the Swedish amateur was the one to beat.
Fox had his own personal battles to deal with. The tall Californian, who now lives in Vietnam working for the government there on environmental issues, had a niggling calf injury suddenly flare up.
“I very nearly thought of giving up,” said the American after the race. However, he gamely carried on to eventually finish just a minute slower in second place behind the athletically built Swede, who timed an impressive 1:13.05 for the 21km trip.
Japan’s Qnozo Miroma, with a timing of 1:17.41, filed in third ahead of Jo Koster of Switzerland and Remi Galland of France.
“The conditions were definitely much better than I had expected,” said a triumphant Jannaborg. “When I looked over my shoulders at the half way stage, I could see Evan and others chasing hard. I just kept going and it is such a great feeling to win here.
“This is my first appearance in this event. No, I am not a professional, I just love distance running and before coming here I had run a couple of half marathons in Thailand,” he said, adding that he also plans to compete in a full marathon.
Meanwhile for women’s half marathon winner Jenny Lundgren, a comfortable victory in the event also came with a cost. Winning in 1:25.22 ahead of New Zealander Holly Warren (1:29.11) and Singapore’s Vivian Tang (1:30.20), the 33-year-old Swede had expended so much of her energy that she was visibly struck by cramps after the event. She was noticeably limping in her walk up to the podium to receive her well earned prize.
This is only the second time that the winners of both the men’s and women’s events are from the same country, matching the record set in 1996 by the Chinese pair of Zhan Donglin (men) and Wang Xiujie.
The men’s 10km run produced a finish fit for the theatre with 41-year-old Frenchmen Amaud Deh edging out Cambodia’s Kan Thoeun. Running barefoot, Sa Ratak of Cambodia finished a noteworthy third.
The women’s 10km was equally exacting with Switzerland’s Corine Coster staying the trip better than the rest. Respectful distance behind the winner came Gina Stenberg of Norway with Thailand’s Kristina Eriksson trotting home third.
Teenagers dominated the Family 3km fun run with Manchester-born Samuel Penfold emerging the winner.
The 13-year-old English lad, whose parents are working in Phnom Penh, is a product of the ISBP School. He cut a smart time of 11:18.37. Someway behind in second place was Cambodia’s Huan Kung Kie, 14, ahead of 18-year-old local boy Nov Han.
The 10km run for men with artificial arms was claimed by Cambodia’s Vichet Mao with two other local runners Chec Eun and Bunleap Heam taking second and third places. The organisers decided to cancel all wheelchair races because of the poor condition of the roads.
“This is an astounding success for our sports tourism and I am extremely happy that the event passed off without any incidents. It is heartening to note that the Angkor Wat Half Marathon is growing in size and popularity and this year we had record numbers,” Tourism Minister Thong Khon told the Post after the awards Ceremony.
“We have been in discussion with organiser of this half marathon, Yuko Arimori of non-profit organisation Hearts of Gold, on the prospects of staging a full marathon in future. This route around the temple complex is ideal for a half marathon and to hold a 42km event we need lot of additional adjustments. It may not be feasible in the near future, but one day we will definitely have it,” the minister added.
NOCC Secretary General Vath Chamroeun confirmed that there had been no health concerns on the day, with just a few runners treated for exhaustion during and after the race. “Other than this, which is quite normal when thousands take part, the day was a victory for Cambodia’s biggest sports-tourism initiative,” he said.