Running from Shadows

My Marathon des Sables . . . and beyond

The End: Stage 6, 10.6 miles – The Ancient Khmer Path (Cambodia)

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Despite the early, dark start I felt recovered enough to try and redeem myself on this last day: Stage 6 of just 10 miles through numerous temples almost a thousand years old to finish at the World Heritage Site Angor Wat temple complex: I hadn’t run since Stage 3 so had a very unfair advantage to all the other runners!

Still, I wouldn’t be in the rankings other than as a “DNF” so today’s effort would be purely for me: to try and shake off a poor start and hopefully convince myself that my pre-race prep and illnesses were more to blame than any potential ability to complete this race.

Race Director Stefan allowed a half hour head start to all but the 10 fastest runners and I fully intended to make the most of it. I felt pretty OK: my heart rate had now returned to normality, I was better hydrated (though not ideal) and had slept well (despite being disturbed by the massive spider crawling over the outside of the tent during the night: I didn’t tell tent-mate Lorraine). Today was a day where I thought to myself: give it as much as you can.

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The final start (credit: GlobalLimits)

So I did. From the off I got ahead and tried as best I could to keep my pace going for as long as possible before I would be reeled in and absorbed by the easy, effortless flow of either Jill or Thomas (UK). Checkpoint 1 arrived and I was met with some surprise: “We really weren’t expecting anyone just yet!”

On I ploughed.

Approaching my first temple I slowed down to a walk as running was forbidden through the temple areas. Amazing sites and views passed by with the minutes: the Ta Phrom temple, the Angkor Thom temple and the East Gate; the Terrace of the Elephants; a run around the magnificent Bayon temple, all blissfully crowdless at that time of the morning. The few quizzical early tourists looked agape and some offered cheers of encouragement.

I was still ahead and couldn’t quite believe it. I could sense a presence of either Jill or Thomas somewhere not far behind me, fast approaching, but where were they? I checked my heart rate: 153 beats per minute in this early humid heat. “That can’t be right?!” I thought, as I pulled in sub-10 minute miles.

I was both excited and getting increasingly tired, but I was delighted by my effort. At last, it seemed that I had finally acclimatised, albeit a week way too late, to be able to put in a good effort in the saturated, clawing heat.

Turning a corner I could see the unmistakeable mass of Angkor Wat, standing proud after these hundreds of years. A last-minute road closure saw Laura standing in the road to flag me down and point me towards a last-minute detour. Rounding a set of market stalls I climbed a few steps and began a fast march across the causeway (again, running forbidden) to the awe-inspiring Angkor Wat temple.

I could just make out the finishing banner and a small crowd of GlobalLimits staff and competitors’ family and friends. I turned to look behind me: no one.

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(credit: GlobalLimits)

Once I knew I could run, I went for it. Just a few metres across the grass to finish this Stage 6 and its 10.6 miles in an unofficial time of 1 hour, 49 minutes. Jill and the other genuine top runners would follow not long behind me but I had achieved something I was very pleased with: superficially, 5th over the line purely in terms of time for the stage and the 30 minute head-start which allowed me to get there first! All of which didn’t count, of course: unlike most of the rest of the field I hadn’t run a single step in 3 days.

But, for me, it already started to germinate a seed: I might come back. The race organisation, scenery and camaraderie had been nothing short of brilliant. Having acclimatised a little better I hadn’t done too badly on the last day. I started to piece together some lessons . . . I’d sought today to redeem myself and felt I had done so.

Thoughts of the future were on hold for now though. Competitors coming over the line increased in volume and, this race being such a small field, for every single one there was a little story or anecdote:

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The Trail Beyond team (credit: GlobalLimits)

  • Jill Hamill had won the race outright and all but one of the six Stages, showing a powerful performance and a whopping win over the men. . . and was still smiling . . .
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Most of the 6 day race in slippers (credit: GlobalLimits)

 

  • Hiroshi (Japan) had managed to complete the race in a pair of slippers and bandages . . . and was also still smiling;
  • Stan had seemingly completed the course on cans of Coke and was smiling because he’s a dentist and can look after his own teeth.

It was a tough but great race for all. Once back at the race hotel preparations began for the awards and dinner and, as is inevitable at these types of gatherings, stories were swapped about other amazing races across the world. All our to-do lists extended several-fold (and our spouses groaned . . !).

Despite not having finished, I secretly coveted Len’s (Canada) impressive GlobalLimits Series Award for having completed all three of the GlobalLimit’s races: the Ancient Khmer Path (Cambodia); the Wild Elephant Trail (Sri Lanka); and the Last Secret (Bhutan).

Already I had ideas about what had gone wrong and barely a few hours after the race had ended I had already begun to think about returning: it was great fun, very tough, very well organised and (importantly) surrounded by fantastic people with an exemplary support crew.

Leaving the awards dinner I felt a greater determination to want to head back to Cambodia and to ultimately complete the GlobalLimits triple, a greater urgency than I felt when I did not finish the 4Deserts’ Sahara Race (Jordan) in 2014.

A new plan began to formulate, and with it a far greater clarity about what really needed to change in order to make it happen.

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The End (credit: GlobalLimits)

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2 thoughts on “The End: Stage 6, 10.6 miles – The Ancient Khmer Path (Cambodia)

  1. OMG I am so glad you did not tell me about the big spider. I don’t like them and was supplied at myself when ilet a live taranchler crawl over me at that spider farm. I don’t know how you guys ate them…..
    Mark it was a great pleasure racing with you. You are an inspiration to all runners. Keeping notes and reading your comments has been incredible thank you so much my tent buddy xx

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