Thumbs up as marathon gets new route
Race will now end in Victoria Park
Around 50,000 runners will take to the streets in the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon next year - thanks to a new route and a new finish point at Victoria Park.
Organisers yesterday announced much-needed changes to the marathon - including a new route for the 10-kilometre event. The changes won approval from Hong Kong's top runners.
The quota for next year's race, on February 17, has been set at 50,000 - an increase of 6,000 on this year's record numbers. But organisers have set their sights on more participation in the future and have moved the 10-kilometre race on to Hong Kong Island.
'The new route for the 10-kilometre event will allow more runners to take part next year and in the future, and the same will hold true for the marathon and the half-marathon as there won't be any more bottlenecks created by the presence of the 10km runners,' said the chairman of the organising committee, William Ko Wai-lam.
'With the 10km participants not needing to run across the Cross Harbour tunnel, it will lessen congestion hugely. This will allow us to accommodate more numbers in the marathon and half-marathon,' he added.
The marathon and half-marathon will stick to the old route, starting on Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, but instead of finishing at the Grand Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai, they will continue past the Convention and Exhibition Centre, take a right turn at Marsh Road on to Lockhart Road and proceed all the way to Victoria Park - this extra 1.5 kilometres will be compensated for by shortening the loop on the Tsing Ma Bridge.
'I'm happy at this brand new route for the runners,' said Peter Sullivan, chief executive officer of Standard Chartered Bank. 'It gives us more capacity while at the same time ensuring more community participation. This will revitalise the marathon experience for both athletes and spectators.'
Hong Kong runner Choi Tat-ming said: 'The [10km race] new route is great because it is wide and open, and the final part of the marathon allows more spectators to join and cheer us, which can also help lift the atmosphere at the finish.'
His teammate in the Greatest Race on Earth Series, Lai Hok-yan, added: 'With the extension to finish the race in the Victoria Park, it will be a new experience and more exciting. I hope the changes will help me improve my time.'
Organisers revealed the new route will allow the public to line both sides of the road one kilometre before the finishing line. The increased spectator participation will be hugely welcome, according to Sullivan, who two years ago labelled the Hong Kong Marathon as 'soulless'.
'The end of a marathon is always the most important part of the race and the runners will definitely be happy with more crowd support,' said Sullivan. 'With a more spacious finishing area and improved trackside facilities, this should encourage members of the community to become involved.'
Ko revealed that the record numbers - 44,000 - that entered this year's event had been used as a bargaining chip to convince the government of the necessity for a new route and the finish at Victoria Park.
'We told them this was no longer a race for the Hong Kong AAA [Amateur Athletic Association], but that it was a race for Hong Kong. Thankfully, they agreed,' Ko said.
A task force was set up by the HKAAA in May to study in detail the feasibility of changing the route. This body met various government departments and, in September, recommended the finish area be moved from Bauhinia Square to Victoria Park. It also suggested the 10km event be held on Hong Kong Island.
The approximate 52,000 quota for next year's event will include 8,000 in the marathon, 12,000 in the half-marathon and 32,000 in the 10km event.
Facts and figures from this year's race
1 A record 37,438 runners took part in the marathon, half marathon and 10km this year, but this was 6,000 down on the total entry
2 Kenyan Steven Kamar won the men's race in two hours, 17 minutes and three seconds - the slow time was blamed on the undulating course and humidity
3 More than 6,200 runners required medical treatment and 35 were admitted to hospital. A medium pollution reading was recorded
4 The Hong Kong Marathon is the culmination of the Greatest Race on Earth (Groe), a four-race series offering a total prize fund of US$1.5 million
5 Blind runner Henry Wanyoike, an ambassador for Standard Chartered Bank's 'Seeing is Believing' project, earned US$21,000 for charity - US$1,000 for every kilometre he ran
10km: Start in Fortress Hill - on to Eastern Corridor - turnaround at Shau Kei Wan - finish at Victoria Park.
Half-marathon and marathon: Same start and similar route to previous years - after Western Harbour crossing, instead of turning left at Convention Centre, continue up to Wan Chai Stadium - turn right along Marsh Road to Lockhart Road - finish at Victoria Park.