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Before jumping into stories of Myanmar & running around temples, since I last wrote I have had the pleasure of attending the wedding of Kathryn & Lucas in Phnom Penh. This wedding is essentially the entire reason for my travels in South East Asia. What a perfect time it was for all involved! I’ve never been to a better wedding & may never again. All the guests, majority who had come from Australia, had a fantastic time & got along extremely well, plenty of whom hadn’t met previously. The ceremony in the small, relatively new church in southern Phnom Penh was quiet, yet very special & reflective of the bride & groom’s personalities.
The reception at the 5 star Raffles Hotel was amazing, from the coconut candle lit pool surface to the traditional Cambodian blessing dance & the speeches from all involved, it was really something special! Great health & happiness for the future Kathryn & Lucas!
Back to the running…. The Bagan Temple Marathon is organised by Albatros Adventures from Denmark who also organise the Arctic Marathon, Great Wall Of China Marathon & the Big 5 Marathon in South Africa amongst others. The marathon entry is included in a 6 or 7 day package that includes tourist stops in Yangon, Mandalay, & Bagan and has options to extend to Inle Lake (Myanmar’s second largest) and/or Ngapali beach. Whilst it may be an inconvenience to some to not have a “race entry only” option, I think for a country like Myanmar, it’s perfect to have the run/tour package, as the country is amazing & relatively untouched by tourists at this time. Get there NOW if you have ever wanted to!!
The course itself is mainly flat, ground conditions are firm/soft sand & roads are….. FLAT!! After Vietnam and Thailand, I certainly appreciated a flat run! Not to say I went out & broke speed records (ran 4:47, 13th place) as the sand, heat (32˚C which feels like 42˚C), consistent de-conditioning of my body (possibly due to decrease in exercise & increase in amber hydration post-Thailand) & generally appreciating the surrounding environs contributed to a more relaxed run for me. For approximately half the run, participants are running through the area of 2000 temples. This is a phenomenal life experience & one hard to describe however some of the photos capture the feel of the sunrise over the temples. The back half of the run (furthest from the starting line, say between 15 & 35km) is reasonably unremarkable compared to the start & finishing regions. It consists of long straight stretches of sandy roads which really tests your nerve, patience & stamina. This is the time when the sun has risen & everything around starts to feel like a furnace. Luckily, interspersed in this region, the course takes runners through some villages and boy did the locals come out to say hi!! Hundreds of locals in total, mostly children, were waving and clapping and giving out high fives and shouting minglaba (hello) to runners as they passed through. In challenging times, their presence and happiness really provided a huge lift to me and a great mental distraction from the constant effort. Myanmar people are amazingly happy and always smiling and very rarely asking tourists for any handouts. It is a very special country with honest & happy, generous locals.
As this is primarily an event for internationals, best mention some notables from the fantastic group of people I shared this experience with:
– NZ lady who ran with three stress fractures in her foot
– adopted Aussie (from UK) completing his 28th marathon this year (and cruised through in first place in 3:15)
– an amazing Zimbabwean lady who is three months recovered from cancer & her husband completing his first marathon ever!
… and a host of other interesting & amazing stories from a group of people truly full of character, experiences, & openness to share their lives & enjoy the past, present & future intentions of everyone. I believe it’s rare to come across & be involved with a group of people so open & selfless in sharing thoughts & experiences. I hope to meet you all again!
Best wrap this up as I’ve babbled for a while now…. I suggest everyone who loves travel to get to Myanmar ASAP & definitely do this event also!
One more run for me, Angkor Wat Half Marathon in Cambodia.