31 Jan Angkor Wat Half Marathon: Race Review and Tips
The Angkor Wat Half Marathon and 10k Run is very special international running event that you may want to add to your bucket list. It’s a unique experience to run through ancient temple grounds with thousands of people from around the world!
About the Angkor Wat Half Marathon
What: Half marathon and 10k run (and 3k fun run) around the ancient temples of Angkor Wat
Where: Angkor Wat UNESCO World Heritage site in Siem Reap, Cambodia
When: First Sunday morning of December
Why: Race proceeds provide relief to victims of landmines and a good number of people with artificial limbs or wheelchairs participate in the race itself
The race website seems to have been down for a couple months, but you can get updates via their Facebook page.
Here’s our one minute recap video from the run:
We first heard about this run when some pictures from our friend, Karen – a long-term volunteer in Cambodia, and our Jamaican host sister, Carryl, popped up simultaneously in our Facebook feeds. The two ladies don’t know each other, but they had both run the race at Angkor Wat, and their pictures definitely intrigued us!
We spent Fall of 2016 in Southeast Asia and were able to visit Karen in Cambodia during the weekend of the race, the first weekend of December. Though it was our most whirl-wind stop of the whole three-month trip, it was well worth it.
Discovering Phnom Penh with Karen and stocking up on fruit for our trip to Siem Reap
Siem Reap, Cambodia
We landed in Phnom Penh to see where Karen lives and works. On Friday before the race, we took a bus (4.5 – 6 hours, $10) to Siem Reap. Our Airbnb host was also a tuk tuk driver, so he came and picked us up from the bus terminal in town and also provided most of our transportation during our stay. (This turned out to be convenient but perhaps not the most economical option since we couldn’t really negotiate prices with him.)
The back porch of our Airbnb homestay in Siem Reap. By the way, you can use our referral link to get up to $40 off your first Airbnb stay anywhere in the world!
Where to eat in Siem Reap
Downtown Siem Reap has a wide range of restaurants and street food. Based on Karen’s recommendations and our own desire to ensure our stomachs were stable for the race, we avoided the street food. We brought some of our own food for breakfasts and ate out mostly around the Pub Street area (Street 8 and 9). We ate at the Soup Dragon (Vietnamese, $8.60 for two),Traditional Khmer Food Restaurant (local, $8.25 for two), and did our carbo loading at Little Italy ($14.50 for two). The ARTillery and Sister Srey Cafe also came highly recommended but we tried to go after the race and it was completely full.
If you can arrive a night early, definitely go see Phare, the Cambodia circus in Siem Reap. There is a rotation of performances, each one a folk story from Cambodian culture, and the troupe is made of former street performers. Shows tend to sell out in the high season so it’s wise to book ahead and get in line early if you have a general admission ticket (Section B or C). General open seating is $18 and is available around the side and backs of the very intimate circus tent. We arrived around 7pm and were first in line. When the doors opened at 7:30, we were able to grab seats immediately behind one side of reserved section.
Angkor Wat Race Registration
You can register for the Angkor Wat run online. The cost to foreigners is about $66 for the half marathon, a little less for the 10k (2016). This price goes up after September 30, and online registration closes on November 1. Fees for Cambodians are significantly discounted. Your registration includes a souvenir pack, t-shirt, finisher medal, and chip timer on your race bib.
Packet pick up for the race takes place Friday or Saturday beforehand at one of the local resorts that’s walking distance from downtown/Pub Street. It’s pretty standard, like any other internationally recognized race organization.
Temperatures in December can still be quite high and the race starts around sunrise. We were lucky to have an overcast morning with no direct sun, and I believe the temperature was somewhere around 80 fahrenheit. (The full marathon event actually takes place in August – I cannot imagine running even further in that kind of heat!)
Side note: Our one other hot climate international race experience has been the Reggae Marathon and 10k in Negril, Jamaica. Organization of the two events are very similar, though the Reggae Marathon is more strict about starting on time. And I like that in Jamaica they actually start a bit earlier so the first part of the run takes place under the stars and minimizes the amount of time you’re running in the heat of the day.
The race begins just outside of the main Angkor Wat temple – though you can’t see it in the dark. The entrance and parking lot gets crowded with so many tuk tuks dropping off racers. (Make sure to agree on a meeting point with your tuk tuk driver for after the race.) Everyone lines up – or crowds up – at the start, and there are a few little speeches from race officials and the local government. Wheelchair participants take off first, then runners. Because of the crowd, it takes a while to get going past the starting point so just be patient and don’t drop anything!
The route for the run is mostly paved or smooth red dirt roads, and it’s completely flat the whole way. One thing we didn’t realize is that the only temple you really run through is Angkor Thom at the end. The other temples – Ta Prohm, Ta Keo, and Ankor Wat – you actually skirt around. There are still some impressive views at their entrances, but you mostly just see the outer temple walls. That being said, Angkor Thom has the largest temple grounds and incredible entrance gates that you get to run through. By that point in the race, we were pretty darn tired, so it was nice to have that extra motivation with all the interesting things to look at.
Another surprise was that the roads were not actually closed for the duration of the event. Toward the second half of our run, we found ourselves sharing the road with some other vehicles, including tuk tuks giving tours to tourists with some strong plumes of exhaust. I can understand that it’s challenging to keep everything closed and lose out on entrance fees for the full morning. Just something to be aware of, especially if you have a slower pace, because the traffic will increase as time goes on. I think the race info actually states that you should finish within three hours.
Water stations are indicated on the race maps you get at registration. They mostly give out 600 mL bottles, which you can toss on the ground when finished, and the local kids collect them to sell for recycling. They’re too big to drink at once so I tended to get one and hold on to it for a while. There are also a few stations with mini bananas, though they sometimes had run out by the time we got there.
At the finish line, back outside of Angkor Wat temple, they hand out commemorative medals and you can grab some more water, bananas, and random little snacks. From there, find your tuk tuk driver in the sea of vehicles and try to get to lunch before all the crowds descend back on Siem Reap!
Post-race tuk tuk ride back to our Airbnb
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