Monday, December 3, 2012

Race Day in Cambodia

There are the elite runners who stand frozen at the starting line, looking only ahead, waiting for the start, ignoring the glorious sunrise as it appears in pink and salmon behind Angkor Wat. And then there are the rest of us, adventure-travel runners who use the excuse of a race to visit a location that is exotic and on our list. Angkor Wat fit that perfectly although the heat even in December is oppressive and worrisome. Some of us, ahem, nearly missed lining up for the start because we were too busy taking photos of ourselves in front of a glorious sunrise coming up behind Angkor Wat. We started lining up at dawn and were done before the tropical humidity could cause serious problems. And unlike the scene at the Great Wall marathon last May, I saw no one who had passed out and needed to be carried away on a stretcher, only tired runners getting free oil massages of their legs and feet. There were, inexplicably, runners in giant bear suits and one fellow wearing a kilt below and a Santa costume on top. There were people running with artificial legs, and one white woman with the word Kilamanjaro tattooed on the back of her shoulder. I managed to get past Kilamanjaro in the final 1K, and hearing the cheers of the spectators at the end, also managed to sprint, really sprint, for the final 50 feet. I'm such a sucker for accolades. That may be the reason my right hamstring feels a little tender today. Along the route brown skinned urchins with bare feet stared at us and collected our empty water bottles for recycling, while pencil thin Cambodians, held back from their morning commute on bikes and motorcycles, watching with thinly veiled annoyance as runners of all size and shapes, but mostly with far more body fat than them, slogged past. At the finish, race organizers gave out cans of a sport drink, water, and sweet Cambodian bananas, while a DJ played the song YMCA in Cambodian, and hoards of tuk-tuk drivers waited to take the runners back to their hotels and guest houses. We saw runners from Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Sweden, America, Canada, Britain, Australia, and China, with many opting to walk at least part of the race, even though most of it was in shade and flat. We jogged slowly past ruins and working temples, with orange-robed monks lighting incense. We passed a sign for an elephant crossing with tourists being offered rides. At the very end, Bob, who wrote and sent out his own blog post about the day before I could get my iPad to cooperate (who's competitive? I'm not competitive!) claimed to be looking for the medical tent when he couldn't find me. But I did just fine. Such a great life lesson: go at your own pace and you can achieve what you want to achieve.

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