5pc more runners for next year's marathon
Organisers are planning to increase the entry quota of the Hong Kong Marathon by 5 per cent to a record 63,000 following the overwhelming response this year.
The annual event's 60,000 places were filled only three weeks after applications opened. Although close to 8,000 runners failed to show up yesterday, organisers are confident of attracting more runners next year.
Organising committee chairman William Ko Wai-lam said they had plans to increase the quota but could not give the exact number before discussions with authorities. But a government source familiar with the marathon said yesterday the organisers were already thinking of a 63,000-runner event for next year, with a view to an increase to 70,000 in future following the introduction of a new marathon route this year.
'We are happy with the response and therefore have plans to increase the entries for next year,' Ko said. 'But we will need to discuss with the authorities before we can decide how many more we want to add.
'To accommodate more runners, we may have to postpone the closing time for another hour as our first 10km race is already held early at 5.15am and it is impossible to start earlier.'
Yesterday's marathon was closed at 1pm - five hours after it started on Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui. The roads were reopened to traffic at 2pm and Ko said they would need to convince the police if they wanted to keep the roads closed another hour.
The government source said that with the new route, the marathon and half-marathon runners were separated from each other in the early stages, allowing more space to accommodate more runners on the course.
Ko said the organisers would collect views about the new route from the marathon runners, who had to climb Stonecutters Bridge after diverging from the half-marathon course. He said he was happy to hear no initial negative feedback.
Fan Sui-ping, the first Hong Kong women home in the marathon, said she was affected more by the weather than the new course.
'It was a bit difficult climbing the bridge but since it was in the early stages and there was no wind, it wasn't too bad,' said the 36-year-old, who was also the first Hong Kong woman home last year. 'But the weather was killing me, especially when the sun came out in the second half of the race.
'The heat combined with the high humidity affected my performance and it took me two more minutes to finish the race than last year.'
Hung Chung-yam, a former Hong Kong cycling champion running his third Hong Kong Marathon, knew what to expect on the bridge.
'I drove twice across the bridge beforehand and knew exactly how difficult it would be,' said the 47-year-old, who finished in three hours and two minutes. 'In fact, it was quite exciting as it was in the opening stages and we still had a lot of steam. But I felt the heat and high humidity in the final stages. My legs were hardly working and it was willpower that took me to the finish.'
The temperature hit 24 degrees Celsius and humidity 91 per cent.
Ko defended the choice of date, saying: 'We have to start the race on the second Sunday after the Lunar New Year to avoid those large-scale activities celebrating the biggest festival in town as advised by the police.
'Last year's Lunar New Year was in late January and we had the race a bit earlier, but unfortunately it fell in mid-February this time.'
During the marathon, relative humidity was 91 per cent
The temperature, in degrees Celsius, rose to: 24