Wednesday, 9 January 2013

26 for 26: Angkor Wat Half Marathon

Straight talk:  This is just one of those posts that didn't seem to want to be written. I tried at least twice in early December: laptop shutting down mid-edit, pictures refusing to appear - it's been a struggle, though not nearly so much as the bloody 21K it attempts to describe.
In any case, shall post it a month and a bit late, if only to get to check it off my 26 for 26 list. Because I'm a little obsessive that way.

Ever since we signed up for the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon, way back in July, Partner In Crime and I have been alternately getting excited / dreading it. There were periods of dedicated training, though those tended to be outnumbered by periods of intense denial. I think that neither of us were really convinced that it would actually happen ... that is, until we were both physically standing at the starting line as the sun rose on December 2nd.

To be blunt, we were entirely under-prepared. Whoops. T'was a hard slog that saw us turn in our running cred for tourist appreciation moments round Km 16, and had us throw our bodies cross that blessed finish line, essentially catapulting ourselves into the nearest tuk-tuk. We were ready for a sit.
I'm not entirely convinced that Partner In Crime had fun... but as my new neat-o running friend from Battambang explained whilst we ran alongside him, there's Fun A and Fun B. Fun A is something that is fun while you're doing it, like eating ice cream while petting fluffy puppies, and then there's Fun B: something that is no one's idea of a good time in the moment, but that you remember and revel in for years to come. 

This was definitively a Fun B. A really effing cool and difficult Fun B.
The 6:20 am start came far too early, as you might suspect, but the pre-race
excitement got us giddy regardless.
Yep. Basically most beautiful running track in the world.

First race I've ever run with a dedicated elephant lane. Just look at those lazy kids hitchin' a ride.
Did I mention most beautiful running track in the world!?
Running through an ancient gate carved into a massive face of rock was probably the
highlight of my running career.

SNAKE! Seriously people, there was a snake skin in the middle of the road.
And PIC promised me there would be no snakes!
These lovelies, hanging around with their wonderful signs near the 19 Km mark, made my heart happy and did indeed give my trainers a bit of a kick.
The tuk-tuk back to the hostel was just about my fave tuk-tuk ride of ever.

A Few Battle-Won Tips:

  • There seem to be a severe lack of washrooms en route, which will likely lead you to jump into the sparse foliage not too far off the path. Relieving oneself on the side of a site of an ancient wonder is an awkward feeling, though perhaps not as uncomfortable as running for a few hours with a full bladder. 
  • Be ready to have your palm skinned raw with high fives from the local children as the sun climbs a little. ("And her heart grew three sizes that day. And then exploded.")
  • Don't be super slow like us: you'll end up behind the water-handing-out folks. At the same time, you'll still be on the road when the coach buses and mega vans pull up mid-morn and idle as passengers hop off, snap-snap-snap, and embark once more. A real yucky middle ground. 
  • Pre-booking a bus trip that departs in the hours immediately following your finish line crossing is - no sarcasm - a brilliant idea. It will not only act as a motivator to "move, you bipedal pieces of nonsense, move!" but it will also basically not exist. I'm told that I took a seven hour bus trip from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh later that day, but I can't recall a thing. Perfection.   

Honestly, I'm not sad that it's over with, and I'm also not perhaps as humble as I should be that this is a goal now under the heading of Done and Dusted. If in about a year I prove to be up for it, I'd love to give this race a go again - though perhaps I'll treat the training with a little more respect next time

Because as far as Fun B options go, this is a pretty cool one.  
xx Lady Expatriate