Archive for February, 2009

HK half marathon

February 11, 2009

Last Sunday (8th February) was the date of the Hong Kong half marathon. I’d definitely not done as much training prior to the race as I have for other half marathons, so I wasn’t expecting to set a good time. In fact, some training runs – especially in the gym on the treadmills – had me concerned that breaking 2 hours could be a problem this time around.

I’d found that running in the gym, with poor air-conditioning, and quite high humidity in the gym made for harder work than I was used to. In fact, I was struggling to run at 12km/h for 40 minutes, which was always my steady run back in the UK. I also seemed to find that I would be struggling for breath rather than the legs not wanting to continue. Possibly a reduced aerobic capacity?

The race itself started at 6:50am on Sunday morning, so a quiet Saturday night was had (avoiding a Valley party that night unfortunately). In fact, the MTR started early on Sunday morning and there was definitely some crossover between Saturday night drunks revellers and Sunday morning runners. Finding the actual start was not easy – there were signposts, but these took a rather circular route only to end up back where thhe MTR exit was but on the other side of the road. Definitely not as well organised as Reading in that respect.

The race itself isn’t actually very interesting. The first part of the race runs up through Kowloon on a highway, so no spectators lining the course. And avoiding people dawdling on the pavements here can be tricky it was even worse in parts of the race where the course was quite narrow. The course also loops back on itself so you get a view of the leaders running back the way you’ve come at some point. With the realisation that they’re running bloody quickly and there’s quite a long way to go…

My target time was 1:45 (hopefully a steady 12km/h), but just after the first kilometre I noticed that my left shin was beginning to ache. I’d had an attack of shin splints whilst playng hockey a couple of weeks before, and have ocassionally had my shin become painful in the last 5 or so years when training. But never before in a race, and not so early on in a run. After another kilometre I knew this was going to become considerably more painful, but I was stubbornly determined to continue and finish. Especially as another 4 guys from hockey were running, including a coach. And, if I’m honest, the competitive part of me really wanted to be first out of our group. Running through the pain is not something I’ve done before, but as it was a steady pace and not involving lots of stops and starts I figured it would be manageable.

My pace slowed from the hoped for 12km/h, and I’d lost 3:30 within the first 5km – as much down to the throbbing ache in my left shin and simply not zig-zagging as much and running at a pace closer to those around me. There was no split into projected time groups, and no official pacemakers for specific times like Reading had. The featureless highway soon looped back on itself and we were heading back down towards HK island and the Western tunnel. The first section of the course is relatively flat (and boring in case I’ve not said that already). The tunnel represented the first real undulations with an obvious drop initially, and being met with a ‘wall of noise’ as the runners are encouraged to shout (anything) whilst going through the tunnel. I saved my energy by not shouting…

The exit to the tunnel is a fairly steep incline, and more annoyingly has a camber from left to right which made for uncomfortable running. The tunnel is also noticeably warmer and the air quality is reputed to be pretty rubbish (I would concur). Emerging onto HK island, and there’s only about 6km left by this stage. For me, both lower legs are now painful, the left one had sibsided to a dull throb every time my left foot landed on the ground. The most surreal moment of running through the tunnel had to be overtaking a tall (6’5″ I would guess), skinny, black guy who really looked like a typical African long distance runner type, and he was going so slowly. I wish it could have been me going so quickly…

Running through the traffic on Hong Kong island is not something I’d want to repeat, it’s hot, dusty, and the traffic is flowing on the other side of the road. There are also a few underpasses and overpasses to run through. The final km sign was most welcome, and the final run into Victoria Park where the finish was located was eagerly awaited. I even found a little energy remaining to speed up my run to cross the finish line just before the official timing reached 1:53:00. I’d bought a watch to time myself as well, but for some weird reason the stopwatch ‘ticks over’ at 1:39:59, so having pressed a few buttons I thought I’d gone round in about 1:50:40 but not sure. Not impressed with the watch from New Balance – who are a running company after all. Why would you have a watch that doesn’t time beyond 1:39:59! That’s a rhetorical question – and the answer is most definitely not to run faster!

Times have been confirmed as 1:52:55 and 1:50:32 on the HK marathon website,

A few odds and ends; the medal for the run is given out when you collect your number and chip etc. How weird is that? The medal and the t-shirt both say 2009 marathon – no distinction made for the half marathon. The ‘halfway time’ is listed as 40 minutes or so – definitely not the case. They didn’t have the timing mat at the halfway point…

I don’t think I’ll run this one again, but maybe somewhere else … and London still remains a definite temptation. Still, I’ve now run in 3 continents.





And, of course I finished first amongst the hockey players … although the hockey coach running with little/no training beforehand was only about 2 minutes behind.