Sunday, 20 February 2011

Half marathon at the Hong Kong Standard Charter Marathon

Brrrrrrr! It was cold at 13 degrees and rainy. Marge, Nino and I were part of the 65,000 who ran in the Standard Charter Hong Kong marathon on February 20, 2011.

I must say, it was a very organized race event. There were three race categories - the full marathon (42kms), the half  (21kms) which I joined and 10km.

The starting line was located at Nathan Road in Kowloon and the finish was at the soccer pitch in Victoria Park, Causeway Bay.  Unlike last year in the Great Wall marathon where we got up at 2am and traveled 2 hours from Beijing, we just walked to the start line. The half-marathon gun start was early at 5:45 am while the full was 35 minutes later at 6:20.

Aside from the cold weather, the course was hard and hilly from - Nathan to Jordan, up the bridge towards Lai King, U-Turn on Tsing Ma bridge which was windy and chilly, the run back provided a spectacular view of the Victoria Harbor with the sun rising, down the Western Harbour tunnel  up a long incline, meandering up a flyover and on the streets of Central down to Causeway where a crowd of people were now lined up on the streets cheering.

I must say that the security was aplenty as well as medical support. Most of the medics were handing out white flower smelling liniments. There were lots of portalets often a queue though and water stations every 5kms. Warning the water and sports drinks were served cold!

I was conscious of the time limit pegged at 3 hours for the half marathon (and 6 hours for the full course). The 10km leg should be completed by 1hour and 30 minutes or at 7:15am and 21km in 3 hours or at 8:45am. They were quite strict about implementing the limits. In fact, a net has been set up at different checkpoints. Marge actually saw one along the course. Luckily, I made the cut off time and finished in 2:46 minutes!

Champions were Kenyan nationals Nelson Kirwa Rotich and Janet Jelagat Rono, who won the Men’s and Women’s full marathon with respective times of 2:16:00 and 2:33:42. For the half marathon, the winners were Hong Kongers Thomas Kiprotich in the Men’s event with time of 1:07:14 and Yiu Kit-Ching for the Women’s with a time of 1:20:33. Filipina Mary Grace Delossantos took third place with a time of 1:28:22.

On the sidelines, our friend Ria V.  helped wheelchair triathlete Ajmal Samal protest and distribute "Same Road, Same Spirit" flyers that day. The Hong Kong marathon has a category for disabled athletes; I was actually pacing behind a visually impaired Japanese woman with her guide. But unfortunately, there is no category  for wheelchair athletes.

Wheelchair athletes have been participating in marathon events for over 35 years in Boston (1975), London (1983), Seoul (1992), New York (2000) and Delhi (2005). Samuel who has competed all over the world said that the Hong Kong race would “never be classified as one of the world's best if it continued to prohibit wheelchair competitors.” The 43-year old Samuel represented Hong Kong in 2006 at the All-China Disabled Biking Race, finishing second; competed in the handcycling segment of the gruelling Tour de France in 2007; and finished second in Singapore’s Aviva-Ironman Triathlon in 2007.

Lets see how that pans out next year as for me, next up is the Paris Marathon on April 10.

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