Laurie Phai

Laurie_Phai

Her express CV :

– Winner of the Trail d’Angkor 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020
– Participation in the 2019 World Championships for Cambodia
– 5th woman at the Ultra Trail du Mont Rose 2021 – 105km and 7000d+ (Switzerland)
– 1st female 6D Lacs La Plagne 2021 – 28km and 1500d+ (Switzerland)
– 8th La Mascareignes 2018 – 65km 4000d+ (France)
And also member of the French table tennis team from 2001 to 2007 (French number 3)!

Two cultures, two flags but one true passion, competition!

I am 35 years old and I am the mother of an adorable little boy! I have a law degree and since January I have become a freelance lawyer, which allows me to organise my time more easily to train but also to manage my life as a mother. Not to mention my new responsibilities within the Cambodian Athletics Federation! At the next World Trail Championships, my dad’s team will also be fully equipped by Evadict.

I don’t come from a sporting family at all. My father studied medicine in Cambodia before he had to flee the Khmer Rouge, which is why he spoke a little French. But when he arrived here, he caught polio and he still has the scars. But when he became a father he bought a ping pong table and we set it up in the garage, as we often do, and that’s how it all started for me. At home, the priority was clearly given to studies, sport came afterwards. But my brother started to train in a club without necessarily having a competitive spirit. It was his trainer who spotted me when I came to pick him up with my mother. He offered to train me and that was it. Because if my brother played for fun, I always played to win! If we often ask ourselves the question of innate and acquired, I can say it loud and clear, I have always had the competitive spirit in me. My little friends in the neighbourhood still remember it! I was the youngest, and a shrink would rightly say that I probably used sport to assert myself in the family.

Table tennis changed my life because at 15, I was financially independent and living alone in Paris in my small studio. The years went by, I put the high level behind me, I got married and became a mother. And one day, a tragedy happened that I wouldn’t wish on anyone… I lost my second child while giving birth. And then, of course, I sank. It was running that saved me. One day I went running and step by step, kilometre by kilometre, I managed to breathe again. I went to run the UTAT in 2016 in Morocco, which I won (I owe my first article in the now defunct Running pour Elles magazine to you, Cécile!)

The arrival of trail running in my life didn’t surprise my family so much, I was the sportswoman of the group, so it was finally logical that I find my balance with sport. For my husband, it was more complicated because he became my ex-husband 😊, because I went back to a sport. The absences, the trainings… it upset our daily life. But all is well, I have rebuilt my life with a runner who totally accepts trainers on the landing. He’s a real enthusiast too, as he even organises his own trail, the Serre Che Trail.

This year, I’m starting with a trip to Cambodia for their athletics championships, where I’ll be running a 5000m. The idea is to be able to represent the country at the Asian Games in China next September in the 10,000m this time. In 2023, I should return to Asia for the South East Asian Games, the SEA Games, which will be organised in Cambodia. On the theme of Asia, there is also and above all the World Trail Championships in Thailand this time, postponed many times because of Covid but this year we believe in it! Of course I will be at the French Trail Championships in June on the Pastourelle, without forgetting the Trail du Tour des Fiz in July with the whole team.

If I had to remember one best memory of my short life as a runner, it would be without hesitation my first World Trail Championships under the colours of Cambodia. There was already the emotion of officially wearing the colours of my father’s country, after having worn my mother’s in table tennis, as a way for me to come full circle with my origins. We had put together a team “on the hoof”, let’s not be afraid of the words. I arrived wounded, but I wanted to be there so as not to let down those I had brought along on the adventure. Aline, the other female, was clearly, let’s not be afraid of words, a Sunday runner who totally surpassed herself that day. We had 8 hours max to finish the race, she took 7h58 allowing our team to be classified. We were all in tears, I had never experienced this emotion in such a strong way in sport and I owe it to the trail.

If I accepted to join this incredible team it is obviously because it was an honour to be able to run with great champions but also because nothing is imposed on us. I can choose my races, continue to do trails where I live, “small” trails as they say wrongly because there are no small and big races. As I said before, I have also committed myself to Cambodia for track and field events and nobody at Evadict asked me to choose between the two. And above all they offered to equip me for the road in Kiprun too. It’s a real family, you can feel it and frankly it’s great to be part of it.

 

Article written by Cecile Bertin, Run Fit & Fun.