I only found out about the half marathon a week before it happened. I was planning to head down to Cambodia’s coastline anyhow for a long weekend of relaxation. “Ah, so you’ll be down there for the Kep Half Marathon”, a running friend said. Now there are not that many races in Cambodia that you just happen to turn up to a town and find one taking place. But seeing that I was in the vicinity that Sunday, and despite having no specific training, I decided to enter it anyhow.
It was hard finding the race start at so early an hour. The race was to kick off from Kep town seafront at 6 am, just before sunrise. There were no crowds milling around the start line or banners pointing the way to the line. Later it turned out that only 20 something people had entered the race. It was only by following some stragglers that I managed to find the start.
Despite standing in the early morning darkness, the temperature was already high. We were all decked out in shorts and t-shirts and still sweating despite the drifting sea breeze’s attempts to cool us down. After a quick group photo we set off in the dark, heading out of Kep on tarmac roads.
I had no idea who was in front or behind having set off before dawn. So I decided just to keep it steady, drink lots of water and enjoy the run for what it was. The first half was on roads through the Cambodian countryside. Then we turned off on to dirt roads for the second part, a terrain I hadn’t touched in weeks. This is because running in the capital Phnom Penh involves a lot of flat road running. Kep even managed to thrown in a mild slope into its minor hills which immediately appealed to my mountain running legs.
The race was pretty much uneventful seeing that there were so few of us and we were immediately strung apart. I did however see the guy in front of me trying to pass a herd of cows on the trail, which then started a massive stampede. The guy couldn’t get past with the cows galloping right in front of him. And when he tried, one bull took a distinct dislike to his behaviour and went straight for him. The guy narrowly missed being head-butted into the bushes lining the track, but ended up on his knees as he held the cow’s horns back. Not what you want to happen during a long distance race. By the time I reached the beasts, two young herders had fortunately turned up and directed the cows into a nearby field.
I finished the race with no idea where I had come. Sweat poured from every orifice. I was drenched from head to toe. So instead of hanging around and feeling sticky, I grabbed the nearest tuk-tuk home. A few weeks later, when the photos came online, I saw there was a second place empty on the women’s half marathon podium. Maybe that was mine?