New route to ease strain on marathon runners
Organisers of the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon programme have increased the entry limit by 5,000 to a record 60,000 runners and introduced a new route for next year.
As in previous years the 42-kilometre race will start in Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, on February 28 and run along the Western Kowloon Highway. But the runners will enjoy a new view when they reach Cheung Sha Wan, as they turn left on to the newly open Ngong Shuen Chau Viaduct and Stonecutters Bridge before reaching the Tsing Ma Bridge, where they will rejoin the old route until the finish at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay.
Participants in the half marathon and 10-kilometre race will run the same route as last year. For the 10 kilometre course, participants start at the Island Eastern Corridor near the City Garden Hotel in Fortress Hill and finish at Victoria Park. There will be one more 10-kilometre race than last year, making five in total, allowing an extra 4,000 people to take part.
The half marathon also starts in Tsim Sha Tsui, travels along the Western Kowloon Highway to Mei Foo and turns back to the finish at Victoria Park via the Western Tunnel. There will be an additional 1,000 places compared to last year.
Fan Sui-ping, who is second in the Hong Kong women's marathon rankings, welcomed the new route.
'There is going to be a new section for about 10 kilometres and it should help improve runners' efficiency because a new road is always less bumpy and makes a runner feel easy,' said Fan, who was the fastest women from Hong Kong last year with a time of two hours, 57 minutes and 24 seconds. 'But more importantly, a new route gives you something fresh and helps your pacing, although the Hong Kong race is not ideal for achieving your best time because it's hilly.'
Organising committee chairman William Ko Wai-lam said the new section would give marathon runners more space as they could use two lanes of the road instead of one lane as in previous years. But he would not expect to see a faster finishing time and expected the entire race to last 5 1/2 hours, as last year.
'There are many factors that will affect a runner's performance, but they will definitely feel more comfortable this year because of the new route. We plan to open the route for other road users at about 2pm, which is the same as last year.'
Organisers are confident the extra places will be snapped up.
The president of the Hong Kong Amateur Athletics Association, Alex Moh Ho-chap, said: 'People everywhere around the world are becoming more aware of the importance of living a healthy lifestyle that embraces regular exercise, and the Hong Kong marathon's inclusive, community-based nature is ideal for demonstrating this.'
But the bigger 10-kilometre race has received a mixed response, because it will extend the starting time by 30 minutes.
Lo Tip-chun, an Eastern District councillor, said many residents in the area, including herself, supported the annual event as it had become a carnival and tourist attraction. But she had reservations about the addition of another 10-kilometre race.
'In the past, it was fine since the last race started at 6.30am. But now that the last race will start half an hour later, the traffic in the area will definitely be affected,' she said.
Yolanda Ng Yuen-ting, a Wan Chai District councillor, felt the organisers should pay more attention to the noise suffered by residents in Causeway Bay, where the race starts and ends.
'Yes, it is an event that is held once a year, but then there are so many annual events and demonstrations with lots of participants held in the district every year.' she said.
'Causeway Bay is a residential area and the noise caused by the marathon, especially the cheering teams, is very high. I wish the organiser would take some measures, like erecting noise barriers.'
Online and postal entries are now being accepted, with an early-bird offer of HK$270 for local runners and HK$290 for overseas runners.
Next year 60,000 runners will take part over various distances
An extra 10-kilometre race, the most popular event, will raise the number of runners at the shortest distance to: 37,000