Hong Kong Marathon Report – Sunday Jan 25

After 21 hours of travel, one overnight sleep (with a +8 hour time difference) I started the Hong Kong marathon at 6:10 am on a warm Sunday morning.

Despite my best intentions to make this marathon a ‘tourist run.’ I had bigger issues to address. Have you ever been woken from a deep sleep by the sudden urge to run for the bathroom?
Now, this was a self inflicted ‘cannonball’ marathon. A mega-discounted flight on Turkish Airlines, airport food and a few hours on the ground was my strategy to combat jetlag and tie off marathon number 1 for the year. I was challenged to the run also by my mate, Seb Kondol – who was en route back from Asia in Hong Kong at the time.
Standing in a crowd of about 20,000 runners, in the dark, of a major city I just didn’t know what was going to happen. Most of all, I was in shorts, t-shirt and already sweating – Completely the opposite of the weather back in Dublin (2 Celsius when I left).
In a funny twist of irony, the start begins on a narrow two-lane road in the city and headed straight into a corner at about 700 metres. While I have run a few marathons, this was one of the tightest starts I had experienced in many years.
After about 9 minutes, 1 km covered, I knew it was going to be bottle necks for a while. But the thing I hadn’t calculated was the sudden case of the ‘sweats’. Yep – complete flush of waves through my body, making it very uncomfortable.
Was it the lovely Chinese noodles I had eaten the night before? Was it the upside down nature of the jetlag?
The crowds cleared a bit coming into the 5 km marker, which felt like an eternity (at 35 minutes). But things didn’t really clear up until we headed onto a giant bridge, like the Golden Gate bridge, complete with massive cables which dissapear into the sky. Looking down at the shipping container yards which stretched to the horizon, the bridge lasted for 4 miles – and gained a height of about 150 metres at the top.
The best thing about the bridge was a slight breeze to calm down the sweats a bit, but this ended rapidly with a dive into a 3 kilometre tunnel. Some people had mentioned the smog might be a problem, but at this point in the race ‘fresh air’ was my biggest commodity to control the overheating.
Anyway – the best part was as soon as you left a tunnel, you were straight onto another massive bridge. Hurray for cooler air.
Halfway came up at 2:10 min/ and signalled the 4th toilet stop for relief. I was guzzling water, isodrinks and anything I could get my hands on.
The official race food was ‘snickers bars’ along the route. While I never saw a Snickers bar on the run, there was plenty of ‘Whisper’ chocolate bars given out.
By this stage of the race we began counting down the miles and calculating what lay ahead as we limped along at 9+ minute miles. Seb was having good burst of energy while I suffered. But after a feeling of relief at toilet station number 5, I was able to begin running back at normal pace without feeling like dying.
Bridge # 4 we neared the 20 mile market, joined by about 10,000 half marathoners. It was a slow part of the course and people were dropping out all over the pace. Some people were reduced to walking, some stretching. There weren’t many runners at this point.
Out of the 59 marathons I’ve run, I have only finished over 4+ hours in two of them.
A couple more chocolate bars, energy drinks and we were onto the last tunnel on the course at the 22nd miles. The tunnel dips below Hong Kong Harbour and comes out on the main Island – complete with high-rise buildings and huge industry. 7% gradient down and 7% up when inside the tunnel – complete with no air !
What struck me most about the Hong Kong marathon is the pure quietness out on the course. Once you left the city limits (at 3 miles) there was no cheers squad, crowds or music. Granted it did start at 6 am – but I like a bit of rock music when I run or at least to hear the ‘theme song to Rocky.’
When the end is near during a marathon, its a good feeling. The morale turns around, and you know its going to be very soon that you’ll be back in the room relaxing.
But the city streets were now crowded with people as you take a small stretch along the city blocks weaving around the buildings to the finishing point at Causeway Park ( like Central park in New York).
4 hours and 20+ minutes. One of my slowest for the year. Many people had asked me what my time was – and my answer simply is ‘It was a good time!’
– 3 days later and I am 98% recovered!


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