This past Sunday, I took part in one of my new annual traditions – the Angkor Wat Half Marathon. Now, before I continue…I have one confession. I didn’t actually compete in the 21KM race, but I did compete in the 10KM category. Every year, I underestimate two factors. The first of which is that running 10KM’s is a lot harder than it seems (especially without training) and second of which is just how judgmental I can be.

Altogether, this year’s Angkor Wat Half Marathon drew in more than 6,000 participants from more than 50 countries across a range of events including, 21KM half marathon, 10KM run, and 3KM fun run. There really is something a little special and spectacular at watching the sun rise over Angkor Wat with a community of a few thousand others, all in the name of sport and fun.

I went up to Siem Reap with some friends and families who adopted me into their group and as a single person, there’s something nice about having time with family – even if it’s not your own family as such.

But enough of all the feel good stuff, back to the nitty gritty and the crux of this blog post – prejudice.

That’s right. I struggle with prejudices and judging others – as I’m sure you do, as well as every other breathing human being on the planet. But there’s something about competition and being better than others, where I was forced to come to terms with my own thoughts and preconceptions about others.

Let me say this. I am somewhat of a competitive person. If I think I can win or beat you, I will certainly try my best. So, when I’m out there running 10KM, I size everyone up and think to myself, well, surely I can run this faster than them. I’m 24. I’m fit. I’m healthy. I can do this.

And then the race begins. And I’m out in the crowd, pacing myself. And I snake my way through, trying to get ahead of those who have already begun to slow down. And then as I hit the 4KM mark, I begin to notice the runners who have already hit the halfway point and are now running back to the starting line.

When I see whose at the start of the line, I’m not surprised. These people look like they know what they’re doing. But then, as I begin to notice the next crop of runners, my jaw drops a little. There’s a man in his 70’s. There’s an amputee. There’s a young kid. There’s an older lady. There’s a blind woman and her guide. And they all whizz by me. Twenty minutes ago, I thought I knew it all. I thought I could tell, just from looking at people who I could and couldn’t beat.

But I was wrong. And now I was faced with the reality that I was far more prejudicial and biased, at least in this situation, than I would have ever wanted to admit.

At the end of the race, I clocked in at 61 minutes, which I was actually quite happy with. What I wasn’t quite so impressed with were my thoughts. So, I walked away from the 17th Angkor Wat races with two lessons. The first of which is train in advance. But more importantly, lesson number 2, don’t judge a book by its cover. The next time you feel prejudice and judgement take hold – run away from it! And run fast!

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