It's a race against time for marathon

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 December, 2011, 12:00am

Organisers of the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon are appealing to the public to back moves to give the runners more time to finish. They are worried road closures lasting six hours will not be long enough for some of the record 70,000 participants to cross the line.

Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association chairman Kwan Kee said yesterday: 'It's a delicate issue to broach with the public. '[We don't want to] appear to be inconsiderate about the public's need to use the roads, yet we can't avoid thinking about it because the demand is clearly there.'

The 13,000 marathon runners must cross the finishing line by 1pm so that police can reopen the roads to traffic an hour later. It is the same amount of time given to runners to complete the New York Marathon. But Kwan said that in Singapore, where the city's marathon was 'getting bigger every year and quickly catching up with ours', runners had eight hours to finish the full course. In Honolulu, Hawaii, they get even longer, getting nine hours to struggle to the line.

William Ko Wai-lam, chairman of the marathon's organising committee, said public consultation was required to see whether longer road closures would be acceptable, despite the disruption they would cause. Kwan also said it would be better if the race began later in the day, instead of at about 5am.

'It's not great for runners to have to get up so early in the morning and compete because that's not when they normally get up. 'The metabolism of the body hasn't even begun at five in the morning. How can they feel good and perform well?' he asked.

They were 'still finding out' the event's maximum capacity, but he said the amount of planning needed increased every year.

The 16th race will take place on February 5. The quota for the marathon, half-marathon and 10-kilometre events was increased by 5,000 from last year to 70,000 and has already been filled. While 13,000 will run the marathon, another 20,000 will take part in the half-marathon.

Wheelchair categories have also been introduced. In an effort to attract more top overseas runners, organisers have almost doubled the prize money to US$227,000, with the marathon champion taking home US$50,000.