PPAC Hosts Cambodia’s Next Top Runner 2020

Developing Cambodian Athletics, One Step At A Time

Cambodia’s Next Top Runner (CNTR) is a competition organised by Phnom Penh Athletics Club (PPAC) to find out who is the best runner in Cambodia, combining long distance fitness, sprint speed and power, and middle-distance speed-endurance – and most importantly who has the dedication and commitment to turn up and complete the whole series of races.

The top runners chase the lead bike

Our novel idea is to challenge all the runners over every track distance – to compare sprinters with long distance runners – in a single competition.

PPAC was founded by and is managed by UK entrepreneurs/sports enthusiasts Martin Kendrik and Neil Bianchi, to facilitate CNTR and other sports events.

In the first competition of its kind, the 2020 edition of CNTR started in the first week of January. The competition is divided into eight race events held on Sunday mornings at different venues around Phnom Penh. Road races are held away from the city traffic around the Sokha loop at Chruoy Changvar while track events take place at the Olympic stadium athletics track. If successful, the format could be repeated in the following years.

CNTR 2020 was open to Cambodian locals and foreigners of all ages, however, most of the competitors were invited to take part based on their previous performances.

Early morning 10km road race briefing in front of the Tonle Sap River

Competitors race over 8 events in Phnom Penh, ranging from a 100m sprint to a 10km road race. Points will be awarded based on performance in each race, the athlete with the highest total points over all races will be declared Cambodia’s Top Runner 2020.

Each event has a time-cap (based on internationally recognised standards) that must be met to score full points. Time requirements are needed to uphold a minimum standard for an elite national competition, separating it from mass participation events.

The winner of each race will be awarded 1,000 points, and the last athlete who completes the race within the time-cap will receive 200 points. All the finishers in between get their respective points. Athletes who fail to finish within the time-cap will gain 1-199 points depending on the results.

One of the major reasons for the format of the competition was to identify which top athletes also had the motivation and dedication to turn up and complete each event week in, week out. A major component of making it as an elite runner is to be dedicated to consistent training and regular competition. This is a highly important factor for potential sponsors of top athletes.

Maximum effort in the 400m track event

The idea for the competition originated from discussions about organising regular competitive time trials to test athletes’ progress. While simple time trials are easy to operate with one or two organisers, the more elaborate CNTR competition was not possible to organise without the assistance of the local athletes who have connections to the elite running community. To help with this we work with the top national athletes. The strategic planning of the competition is done by Martin and Neil with additional coordination from top-level athletes Meyjou Heng and Bunthorn Chhun (who both represented Cambodia in the 2019 SEA Games) to help with the Cambodian community. There are a number of other volunteers who help out at each event on the day.

The idea was to create a higher level competition for the country’s top runners. There are currently very few races and it is felt that most are not designed, or suitable, for high performance competitive athletics and focus on mass participation. In contrast to this we focus rigorously on operating with competition conditions: accurate race distance measurement, electronic timing and documentation and publication of all results.

Our goals are to raise the standard of elite level running in Cambodia, provide more races and more competitive races – especially track events – and raise the profile of the top runners. The CNTR competition and the objectives of PPAC will go a long way towards helping Cambodia achieve more success in athletics and related disciplines.

Cambodia’s top female runner takes on the male dominated field

The success of this competition is very important for the development of further projects in the future and we believe this and future similar initiatives are necessary to help put Cambodia on the road to sporting success in athletics.

We believe the only way to raise the standard of athletics in Cambodia is to try to create more serious events to push more athletes to compete and to train harder. By attempting to promote competitiveness at the highest level we hope more athletes will take part and push themselves to improve.

So why should athletes take part in CNTR?

Initially, 33 people registered including 24 Cambodians with several entries from Japan, Australia, France, UK and the USA. Disappointingly, 16 dropped out before the first event with 15 still remaining after 4 events. Since starting the competition many others have turned up and want to get involved which is a promising sign for future events following the conclusion of CNTR 2020.

On the journey to finding Cambodia’s best runners, the competition aims to provide a number of great benefits for the athletes taking part and completing all 8 events:

  • Bring together Cambodia’s best runners and improve the running community spirit by running alongside the other top runners in the country
  • Meet like minded people and find athletes of a similar level that may improve group training options in the future
  • Gain experience from regular competitive racing
  • Increase motivation to train harder for a specific goal
  • Athletes push themselves harder to improve their speed and endurance and take part in races you normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to do
  • Gain self discipline from taking running more seriously and committing to turn up each week
  • Identify the race distances which athletes are most suited to and where their training should be focused to maximise their potential
  • Identify the strengths and weaknesses in athletes’ speed, endurance, fitness and technique
  • Gather important data about athletes’ current ability over a wide range of distances to help track their progression over the coming months and years
2 of Cambodia’s upcoming stars battle it out

During this process, we hope to:

  • Support professional Cambodian runners towards achievable goals in 2020 and beyond
  • Encourage development of a higher quantity and standard of events for runners to participate in
  • Increase access to good quality group training, community support and coaching
  • Support running as an activity with multiple benefits and reach a broader spectrum of age and socio-economic groups

We also want to promote:

  • Good health and well-being
  • Gender equality of opportunity – We encourage as many women to take part and hope those that do can inspire others to get involved in sport
  • Sustainable cities and communities, and environmentally friendly events

Athletics is one of the most accessible and rewarding sports and is great for building strength, fitness and coordination, staying healthy, and developing strong discipline. You don’t need any experience to try out and it requires minimal equipment.

Cambodia’s best runner giving maximum effort to dominate in the 800m

We want more people to get involved. We hope that giving people the chance to try out competitive athletics on the track and at short road race distances will encourage more participation and interest in the future.

The only way to improve athletics at the elite level is to widen the number of participants at the base of the pyramid. More athletes must be training effectively and participating in meaningful competitions on a regular basis to push each other to the highest level, driving up the standard of those who will potentially represent Cambodia in future international events.

Racing toward the Mekong River in the morning sun

PPAC operation philosophy

PPAC provides all the events for free for all competitors, making it accessible for anyone, regardless of their economic status, unlike many other races which charge significant entry fees.

CNTR is a free to enter competition operated as a not-for-profit community project by PPAC whose main aim is to help develop elite level athletics in Cambodia.

PPAC and the CNTR competition currently have no budget, no funding, no sponsorship and no help from any NGOs and charities. We spend large amounts of time organising the events, aided entirely by a few dedicated volunteers.

Funding is urgently required to help continue running the events. Any funding would improve on the standard set so far, and provide prizes for competitors. Further details can be found in our sponsorship proposal. Success at this stage will increase the possibility of creating bigger, better and more competitive events in the near future and encourage more athletes to take part.

We believe what we’ve created so far with so few resources is phenomenal but with funding, we’ll be capable of taking it to the next level.

We want more like-minded people to get involved and help organise events. We are looking for timekeepers, photographers, videographers and publicity. If you think you can assist the competition by volunteering at an event in some form, or are interested in providing sponsorship, please get in touch.

We have a full sponsorship proposal document prepared for interested parties, please contact us for full information.

Everybody can play their part in raising the profile of Cambodian athletics. Together we can encourage more people to get involved and help develop the sport of running. Please share this with your friends and come and test yourself against the best.

Athletes race past one of Cambodia’s iconic temples

Fantastic participation from Phnom Penh’s small yet high quality running community

Full information and about the competition and PPAC can be found by:

Submitted by Martin

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