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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

1st Angkor Empire Marathon - 17 August 2014 - 10km

Wow. Wow. Wow.

That pretty much summed up what I felt throughout my entire 10-kilometer run of this 1st Angkor Empire marathon.  I've seen many interesting sights in the places I've raced but this is the only one where I was genuinely in awe, humbled and out-and-out gobsmacked by the pretty much every step of the way.  I can't even begin to describe the head rush of being in the presence of such history, beauty, power, faith, and yes, even decay.  To be able to not just enter but be allowed to race along a route that included these sacred, ancient temples at this World Heritage site was an honour, a privilege and a spiritual awakening.  Definitely a race to remember for all ages. 

Here are some of my visual memories below:

Race day - The surreal crack-of-dawn tuk-tuk rush hour commute to the starting line at Angkor Wat

Passing the moat surrounding Angkor Wat on the way to the starting line at the temple's west gate.

Angkor Wat at sunrise, framed by the vast sky and reflected in its surrounding moat.

The scene at the west entrance to Angkor Wat just minutes before our 6.10am sunrise start

The 10K course wasn't the best as it was basically a U-turn route.  The 21K, with its circuitous path, looked like a better option.  But honestly, I felt lucky and blessed to get to run there at all.
A long causeway leading to each entry tower of  the city of Angkor Thom is flanked by a row of 54 stone figures on each side – demons on the right and gods on the left (above picture) - to make a total of 108 mythical beings guarding this ancient city.

The mighty 100-meter wide moat (seen here at the South Gate) that surrounds Angkor Thom. Literally meaning "Great City," this complex represents the last capital city of the Khmer Empire.  Established in the late 12th century by King Jayavarman VII, Angkor Thom covers an area of nine square kilometers, housing temples, residences and administrative buildings. 

We were fortunate to literally run around my favourite temple - Bayon - at the 3rd to 4th and later, the 6th to 7th kilometer stretches.  Seeing it bathed in the early morning light was truly special and magical.

A few of the 216 stone faces of Bayon Temple.

I swear, these were actual animals I saw during my run - all of them just a few meters from me.  Despite the sign, I didn't see an antelope leaping by though.......

Heading back at the 7k mark.

Just had to stop to take a shot of this beautiful shrine (complete with a sleeping dog) at the 8k point.

Loved all these street stalls and those gorgeous trees at around the 9k home stretch.

We did it!  Happy to have run this amazing and beautiful course with Betty, Charles and Marlene.

Our post-race celebratory snack - pork noodle soup - at a street stall near the finish line.

One last note: If any of the three readers of this blog (and you know who you are!) do decide to head to Siem Reap, look for Kunthea, the best guide one could ever wish for.  He knew all the best spots to go at the best time (i.e. with minimum or no tourists to muck up our experience,) he's a talented photographer with a great eye, and of course, he's super knowledgeable, professional and an all-around nice guy.  Click here for my friend Charles' review of Kunthea and his tour services. 

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