Phnom Penh half marathon, race report

[This is a post I posted on reddit on 14th of June 2016, reposting in all its glory here for prosperity]


Update: the results came in and I came 24 out of 150]

I ran this week-end the Phnom Penh half marathon, an interesting half marathon started only two years ago in the capital of Cambodia.

I was not planning to do it, I had two weeks of work booked in Singapore and one week for time off with not much plans. When I saw on the website that there was a race in Cambodia this week-end I thought to myself why not and registered for around 40$ which is like a fortune for here but that’s the foreigner price.


I didn’t prepare myself much I have been doing a lot of triathlons in May (two half-IM and one olympics) but I haven’t been running much after that due of a bad knee I picked up during one of the half-IM. I did try to go for a run in singapore by 7:30AM and started doing 5k at my normal pace (around 4’45km/7’40mi) but I could feel my body overheating and I walked back to my hotel. After that I didn’t run much during the week, once on the treadmill (which I hate) and my knee started to feel painful and actually could not walk much during that day.

By that time I was giving up on running that week-end and let myself goes, i.e: drinks, smoking and not much sleep by night but when I arrived in Phnom Penh on Friday night I started to feel my knee was feeling a bit better so I though why not maybe I run/walk for a few k take pictures and at least soak up the experience.

I went to pickup my bib just in front of the Royal Palace which was two minutes away from my very cheap and fancy hotel. The registration went smoothly and was like the one you find in Europe/US, you check your number on a big list, you show your ID and there we go you have your bib number and a nice t-shirt, no useless flyers or freebies tho.

I met a local expat there from canada and It was nice to talk to him a bit, his first comment about the race was, well it’s not a very nice course as there is not much places to run but it’s not too baaaaadd (I am trying to put the canadian accent in writing for context). That didn’t inspire me much confidence but I have run in some crappy places around the world and it doesn’t really bother me much.

I had some good cambodian food with a beer (the local one taste like water anyway) by the evening which looked like pad thai i think and went to sleep early for the 6AM start.

By the morning at 5AM I could not find any place to eat so I had to skip breakfast and went straight to the race. We were just around 100 people max I think doing the half marathon, but they announced over 5000 for the 10k and 3km fun race, which I kind of doubt but I guess you need to trust the communist propaganda. it was starting to be already hot but still bearable like just under 30C and a light wind,.


Off we started, I went cool and easy to not trigger my knee injury and tried to run by feeling only, my watch just beeped the first km at just around 4’50/km. At first the traffic was completely blocked, the policemens were really strict when the motorbikes or tuk tuk was trying to get into the traffic, and actually started shooting at them really angrily. There was policemen like on every corners to watch for traffic and things were looking well from this side (more on that later).

The water station was located at every 2km they had hot (as not iced) water by the first one and some of them had iced cold water. There was some bananas as well every 5km I think which I filled up since I didn’t have any breakie.

I was controlling my pace and was feeling good until we got to the Japaness built bridge (that’s how it’s actually called) when the sun came out which you could see in one of my picture and the heat started to surge.

After the bridge it became much harder, since we were in some desert area where there was cars and motorbike starting to pop up near us and there was some very bad smell in those places. It was annoying the motorbikes but it was not too bad yet, it became really really annoying when you have to cross a really large roundabout and zigzag between the tuktuk that goes around you at full speed, those guys are actually quite good (there is no red light in PP so they have skills) as long you make the right eye contacts.

We went north of PP near the island and was making our way back, it was starting to really get hot around 36C and humid and my pace started to be more in the 5’00km/8’00mi which was okay for me. On the way back from the island we joined the runnings who were doing the 10k race, by that time it was only the ‘fun runners’ so it was mostly walkers and selfie takers. It was good fun tho to see them enjoying it, it seems that for a lot of them was their first time doing running and felt happy for them.

I went on and on and noticed another half marathoners from japan i think that was keeping pace with me. Before then I was only passing people for most of the time so this gave me a boost to catch up with him. By the 16km/10mi I was feeling my knee starting to hurting me but I went on and ignored it and started to slow down a little bit more my pace.

The half marathoners ‘forked’ from the 10k runner around the 18km and off by ourselves we went, by that time there was a lot of marshal, writing down our numbers by every 500m (how many people can you hire doing that job i guess for 40$ which is like a monthly local salary ?). There was the chipset thing as well but I guess they wanted to make sure nobody was cheating. I was also surprise that the written down kilometers on the floor were exactly on pace with my garmin watch, I guess not having tall building made the GPS good and they really worked out the distance.

By that time I was mostly running by myself with my Japan race buddy just behind I guess, it was very very hot now and I could feel my body overheating, I am a dark skin person from southern europe so I usually don’t fear the sun but this one from Cambodia had a special taste.

We had another bridge crossing, an annoying one and I was getting very tired, there was a slight ascent to the bridge and a water station just before, I stopped this time and took some ice lemonade and walked the ascent instead of running. My Japaneses race buddy was already out of my sight and off he was. After the bridge I started to run again properly and my pace went up.

On the 20k we were making our way back to the royal palace and the finish line on a very long
straight road, this is were I started to get my adrenaline kick, forgot about my injury and the heat and off I ran a relatively fast 4’30km/7’15mi to the finish line. Just before the finish I saw my Japaneses friend getting there and slowing so I started to sprint like a maniac to pass him right before he crossed. I felt sorry (it was kind of douchey) and hugged him by the finish he didn’t seem to mind. My pace was exactly 1h45:40s on my watch, which is 5’00/km 8’00/mi which was perfect time for me even tho I would have rather do at least 1h40 🙂


When I arrived a lot of people was there and it was some kind of party with a lot of people ‘selfying’ and taking pictures. There was no refreshment by the finish line which was a bit weird and had to wait in line under the burning sun.

I talked with a few people and some fellow french women that went second in the race (1h36) they were mostly all locals and was surprised I came here as a tourist to race this. I was tired and went back to my hotel to shower and enjoy the swimming pool.

They don’t have the official results yet on the website but if I take the 2015 results, I am right around the 20 first from 100.

Would I do that race again? Probably not, but I encourage anyone in the region to do it. When chatting with the locals, it definitely impressed them and maybe inspired them to running a little bit more in the future.


Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Print this pageEmail this to someone