Angkor 2020 Ultra Trail: I ran my first Marathon Trail

I have to admit, you can't say I'm a born runner. I've already talked about it in the article on the 50km Spartan Race – I never really ran (in my life) until July 2019 (except for a 5k and a 10k, once), and I started training after breaking my leg. In short, I didn't really do things right.

I was quite reluctant to run a marathon – since racing is not my discipline, I couldn't see why I would spend 4 hours doing this in a loop, on a flat road. That being said, I have watched many videos, lectures and interviews with Ultra Trail runners. (Ultra is the word to designate races longer than 42 km for a marathon) – and all these people had something in common: focus, concentration, acceptance of pain, In short, a kind of impressive determination that I envied somewhere.

If you have some time, watch the video below – one of my favorites, and truly inspiring!

I'm lucky to have an example in the family: My brother is an ultra runner, who lived in Hong Kong a few years ago. So I asked for advice – and he encouraged me to get off to a 50km start (the distance covered under the Spartan Ultra beast) and then aim for 100. In search of an "easy" race (with uneven and relatively dry terrain) , I came across the Ultra Trail of Angkor, organized by SDPO, in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

I took my taste in early December, without being sure I could work out by January 18th. I hesitated a long time on the distance – they have 5 formats, from 16 to 128 km, and I did not know if I could manage 32, 42 or 64. 64 appears a lot, 32 hardly enough, I decided on a marathon – I had promised myself to never run a marathon in my life, because that's a goal that too many people have (yes, I know, it's a little crazy reasoning, but let's go), j So I refused to call a spade a spade: I ran a trail, not a marathon, and that's it.
Not seeing the distance helped me not to stress too much in advance, as it had been my habit. That said, l
'Siem Reap's departure time was fast enough, and every day before the race, I realized a little more about what was going to happen.

Small tourist brackets: for those who have never been to Cambodia, Siem Reap is a city in the north of the country. She is special famous for the temples of Angkor, a place listed on UNESCO. IF the city itself is relatively arbitrary (no offense to those who loved it, I have a great preference for Kampot and Kep in the South), it has very nice restaurants, such as spoons, Vibe café (vegan) or Ms. Mock, for traditional Khmer dishes which are very cheap.

Angkor Ultra Trail Marathon Trail (UTA):

The UTA takes place at the historic site : the racing town is located on the elephant terrace, in the heart of the temples – the finish line as well. Departures are meanwhile either in the same place or further inland – we drove about 30 minutes by shuttle to get to the 42 km start line.

In Cambodia, the weather is largely dependent on the seasons (two in number, rainy or dry) and January is in the middle of the dry season. A chance on the moisture side (since running with a very humid air like in Singapore is quite painful) but a challenge on the solar and thermal side. From 25 to 5 in the morning we go to 32 degrees in full sun around 10, and you have to get prepared (with sunscreen, a cap or headband and sunglasses) to meet this at best.
For those who have never ridden in such a climate, it is a real change from France, some love it and others hate it, and it takes some time to get used to it – but we do get pretty well ignored, once won.

Angkor Trail Marathon launch line, 7 p.m.

The course itself is relatively flat : there was a big staircase on the ninth mile, then a few climbs and descents into the jungle – and the terrain is a mix of dirt road, trails and sand, making every step interesting. We also pass through rice fields – We even had to put both feet in 40 cm of water around the 22 km. Almost a relief, because my legs started to heat up too seriously.

map marathon run angkor 2020 UTA
The route map if you want to get an idea!

We pass through villages, woods and in the middle of the temples – and we're not going to lie, the route makes the miles absolutely bearable, the environment is so beautiful. The villagers in the surrounding villages are on the edges of the paths to watch the runners pass and encourage them.
The places of refreshment offer fresh fruit – and the Cambodian bananas and citrus fruits are truly incredible when it comes to taste.
The arrival takes place, as explained above, on the Terrace of the Elephants, in the heart of the temples – something magnificent, magical, which we look forward to as we depart.

ultra trail angkor marathon
(Between us I don't know how people manage to look presentable in race pictures, I always seem to be in absolute pain)

My Equipment for the Angkor Marathon Trail:

Since Spartan Beast and Hurricane Heat 12 hours, I make it a point of honor to always be prepared and equipped for events: everything is not controllable and there will inevitably be problems along the way – being prepared at best allows reducing the effect of these The annoyances of a race, and that changes everything.

  • one Decathlon hydration pack with 1 liter of water (since there was water on the supplies)
  • Energy Prozis bars & Carman's cereals, to be able to eat at least 150 kcal every hour, almost 100% carbohydrates (code TFT10 for a 10% reduction in the entire prose page)
  • Sunglasses and bandanas (which ultimately did not serve to protect me from the sun, but to stabilize the knee, see below)
  • socks tested and approved in advancee (if not, the bulbs are never far) – mine come from Reebok in the "Running Club" line, but all comfortable running socks would have done the trick.
  • it Scott Supertrac Ultra RC on my feet – I was afraid they were too "trail" for the terrain, and in the end they were perfect!

My feedback from the Angkor Marathon Trail:

ultra trail angkor marathon

I can't lie, it was a tough race.
The first 8 kilometers went really fast, the scenery was incredibly beautiful and the air was cool and I started very quickly – too fast, for sure, I obviously haven't mastered long runs yet.
I was preoccupied with what happened in front of my eyes, the rice fields, the forest, the sunrise, to forget everything else.
OneOn the 13th mile, one knee (the one I injured last year) went limp, and the pain was very sharp. I spent at least 5 km thinking about giving up – every step was painful, and still it was 30 km ahead, it was stupid to want to meet them halfway on one leg, and leave the maximum weight on the knee valid.

And then .. the beauty of the effort and the surroundings won, I made the conscious choice to complete the race, knowing that it could have consequences for the next few weeks and months. Every minute of the journey was both painful and decidedly beautiful, and it took me 5:15 to get through. Along the way, great people, who cared for my knee when they didn't have to, that gave me tiger balm and pain relief. The meetings in the villages were also precious.

Everything was magical, and I was surprised to see the tents in the village arrive so quickly, almost. It was a great adventure, something unforgettable – maybe because it was my first marathon, and it gave me (probably forever) a taste for running.

finish line ultra trail angkor
And suddenly, the finish line (I'm the watery person in the background)

Because it is a habit now, I obviously cried all I could on arrival – in the arms of an adorable lady who did everything for the smile to come back. (If she reads these words, THANKS!) A massage and a beer later, it was time to say goodbye to Elephant Terrace … and come back for a good shower.

Angkor finishes ultra trail marathon

I ended up in 2nd place in my category (older woman) and sixth woman in the ground. I mostly end up with photos that are full of head, a very swollen ankle (I was scared of the knee, and eventually the ankle shocked, I still have to go to the doctor to check that nothing is broken), and can't wait to run again, to start over.

Should you also run the Angkor Ultra Trail next year?

YES. Several reasons:

  1. It is a race organized by a French association : the information is available in French and in English, the staff is mainly French, and you will have no trouble communicating if English (or Khmer) is not your strong point. They offer packages of accommodation from France and take good care of the visitors.
  2. The course is exceptional – and I had the opportunity to hike a lot in Asia, but this race will remain etched in my memory, as much of the diversity of the terrain as of the unforgettable landscape.
  3. You can choose the distance that suits you : This is a race open to everyone, and if you want to visit Siem Reap and maybe the rest of Cambodia, you can choose formats a bit shorter than marathons (16 or 32).
  4. We meet really nice people : The community for runners is very different from the road for running. Everyone helps each other, is interested in other runners, is ready to discuss (in the beginning, at the finish line and sometimes even during the race) In short, what should you expand your circle of friends with enthusiasts!
ultra trail angkor course
Running environment: 11/10

Are you tempted?
More information about the Angkor Ultra Trail on their official website and on the Facebook page.

Send me your questions in the comments section, always answer them and help you if you need a little kick in the butt to sign up!

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