After a short but balmy night inside the Beng Mealea temple we got up a bit later today, to give all runner a decent time of rest and at 8am, we were ready for a shorter 30km stage along the Ancient Khmer Path towards Kulen Mountains, where a refreshing waterfall is awaiting us.
After a 10km flat section the first real climb of the race, at merely 420m, this hill nevertheless demanded all our strength.
The panoramic view on top hardly got the time it deserved, as I was off trying to make up some of the lost time.
Running along the edge of this hill range through cattle fields and small villages with laughing kids and covered by trees made for some good running during the hot morning heat.
I almost overlooked a big scorpion trying to keep up with the woman leader, Sally, who seem to be lost.
Kids love to play with those orange course markers in the trees which sometimes made it difficult to keep on course but usually they quickly pointed us in the right direction again.
Arriving at the waterfall was such a relief, I could see some of the earlier runners sitting in the water with a beer or coconut in their hand and as soon as I crossed the finish line I joint them straight away, in full race gear into the cooling stream.
We had dinner in the restaurant, which was a nice change from the freeze dried food of everyday.
I took the opportunity to give a short talk about the work of The Fred Hollows Foundation here in Cambodia.
Our race doctor is an old friend of Dr Tabin and Dr Ruit from Kathmandu and knows the work of The Foundation well. Small world sometimes.
The 5th stage took us down the mountain and down from the jungle on a slow decent towards paddy fields and some small villages
After check point 3 – another steep, very steep, little hill was waiting for us – almost on all fours I climbed up to the top and to Ta Aek Temple – the view of the surrounding area and the temple ruins was only topped by the small kid selling ice cold coke!
What a treat…. I took my time going down the other sided to avoid too much pressure on my knees and for the first time this week I was caught someone, I never saw in the previous 4 stages – Peter ran stronger and stronger with every day. I really had to push hard on the last 10 flat km to keep him off my heels. I loved this stage, as we ran through mountains, temples, rice paddies, villages and open country
My feet are getting really bad with two big blisters and some damaged toes. I am glad we only have 16km to go tomorrow as I can feel that I may get in trouble tomorrow on last stage defending my 10th overall position.
After another bad night and with my feet in bad shape it looks like I have to race Tristan, who is letting me know that he will go all out today and trying to capture my 10th spot from me. It seemed pretty hard to make up all the needed time over this short distance but I wanted to be ready, so I popped a pain killer and tapped my feet as good as possible.
One last group photo before heading off for the final 16 km
Without feeling pain in my feet I kept up a high rhythm and I only had the two race leaders and Tristan ahead of me – I push hard towards the finish line inside Angkor Wat, as I did not know how far ahead they were.
Once inside the temple complex we had to walk and after 96 minutes I staggered over the line – only a minute behind Tristan in forth position.
28 hours 29 minutes 20 seconds for 220km across Cambodia along the Ancient Khmer Path, finishing 7th male and 10th overall
Soon after a refreshing coke I started shivering and needed to use the emergency blanket to keep warm.
The doctor diagnosed fever caused by the infected blisters – another 600mg of strong painkiller helped with that – starting to finally sweating again helped me to cooled down….and antibiotic helped reduce the swelling and infection on my blisters together with a few Angkor beer made me soon feel better again.
Running 220km for 220eyes was worth the effort and pain – knowing (and being able to seeing it later first hand) that many of those poor people I met along the way may actually not see me properly because they don’t have access to eye health care, don’t have the money to get their eyes fixed or simply are too poor to pay for the transport to get to a hospital, kept me going.
Taking a short time-out from my comfortable and privileged life makes it very clear how lucky I am and how important it is to give back a little bit to those who need a bit of help.
It was a hard race. Sharing it with old friends like my mate David from Flinders Island, who with 69 is still in top shape – finishing in 38 hours, was a privilege. If I am still able to pull such a number at that age I will be very happy.
And making new friends for life makes it all so worthwhile