In the early morning hours of Sunday, February 12, Hong Kong saw the highest turnout of participants with an attendance rate of 94% and over 34,700 runners taking part in the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon who battled harsh weather and health conditions to complete the marathon, half-marathon, and 10-kilometer run.
With the recent removal of the longstanding quarantine requirements for international visitors, elite athletes were invited from overseas to participate in the marathon. Philimon Kiptoo Kipchumba from Kenya won the men’s marathon at a final time of 2 hours, 10 minutes, and 48 seconds, and Fantu Eticha Jimma from Ethiopia won the women’s marathon, finishing in 2 hours, 27 minutes, and 50 seconds. Veteran long-distance runner Gi Ka-man, who joined the marathon to cheer up his critically ill father, was the first Hong Konger to cross the finish line after 2 hours, 24 minutes and 45 seconds.
Eric Wong, champion of last year’s full marathon, and his girlfriend, Virginia Lo, clinched medals in their respective half-marathon races this year. As an additional prize, they joined veteran actor Chow Yun-fat, who participated in the 10-kilometer run, for a picture.
The weather is a crucial factor affecting runners’ performances in marathons, and Hong Kong’s weather this year was no exception to posing a challenge for the runners. Temperatures peaked at 24 degrees Celsius (75 degrees Fahrenheit) late in the morning. The unusually high humidity and drizzle resulted in heat-related injuries amongst over 30 participants.
The harsh weather conditions did not deter fourth-time 10-kilometer-run participant Mr. Cheung, who said, “Experienced runners usually have a higher tolerance for the weather. (The humidity) Today is acceptable, and therefore did not affect my performance”. However, he shared that the marathon’s starting point was too packed, making it difficult to achieve a “smooth” start.
Physical fitness is another crucial factor determining athletes’ capability to complete marathons. 57-year-old Mr. Pong, who has previously participated in the 10-kilometer race over 15 times, said that running had become a more difficult task this year due to his health issues, such as high blood sugar. However, that does not seem to hold him back from setting ambitious goals, ”I have never joined the (full) marathon … I wish I could do that one day, probably with my son,” said Pong.
Also suffering from unfavourable physical conditions was Indian-origin athlete Atul Dutt, who injured his left knee and ankle before the marathon. ”I had to stop for 10 minutes at the aid station because of my injury,” said Atul. Even so, he was able to complete the half-marathon run in 1 hour and 45 minutes. After enjoying the run’s upbeat atmosphere, Atul said that it felt like ”Hong Kong is coming back”.
All but one ‘runner’ was not welcomed by the organisers of the event. YouTuber Carriage Lau, or ‘Lau Ma Che’ (劉馬車), who is well-known for his controversial behaviour, entered the restricted racing zone and filmed videos of himself while running, even though he did not sign up for the marathon. Dennis Ng, executive director of the Hong Kong Association of Athletics Affiliates, stated that only runners with valid numbered bibs were eligible to enter the track. “It is possible that there was chaos due to the widespan area of the race and the large number of entrants,” said Ng. He added that follow-up investigations are underway.