Marathon Mania: Running on inspiration
What motivates someone to run a marathon? Rachel Jacqueline talks to three runners with different goals who are undertaking the challenge
I'm running for my diabetic daughter
Upon hearing of the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon slogan "run for a reason" last year, Paul Evans knew he had to sign up.
Despite having never run a marathon in his life, Evans, 39, was motivated to run by his nine-year-old daughter who suffers from type 1 diabetes.
Originally from Wales, Evans hopes to raise HK$50,000 for the Hong Kong Juvenile Diabetes Association (HKJDA). The funds will be used to buy a Continuous Glucose Monitoring system - a device that records blood sugar levels throughout the day and night. If he achieves his target, manufacturer Medtronic will donate a second machine and maintain both. HKJDA will loan the machines to affected families, enabling them to gauge their child's insulin levels without the need for constant intrusive finger pricks.
Type-1 diabetes, otherwise known as juvenile diabetes, affects about 400 children and young adults in Hong Kong. It compromises the body's immune system, attacking cells in the pancreas and inhibiting the production of insulin, a hormone that is important for metabolism and utilisation of energy from ingested food, particularly glucose. The disease is fatal unless sufferers take external insulin, and this requires constant monitoring of the body - which is extremely demanding for young children.
For an added challenge, Evans will run his first marathon on a diet of natural foods, which he hopes will heighten awareness of the disease. "It will be the most difficult physical and mental challenge I have accomplished so far," he says. "I will celebrate by using the CGM for the first time with my daughter."
A headhunter in the finance industry and a martial arts veteran, Evans has been preparing by running five days a week for the last four months, gradually building on the distance. Training over the scenic MacLehose Trail near his Sai Kung home has been less taxing than he expected. "The greatest challenge has actually been fitting in the running time with a demanding job and four kids," he says.
Even though he has enjoyed the process, it hasn't been without sacrifice. He has completely overhauled his diet, given up alcohol, stuck to a whole foods diet and detoxed for two weeks. To keep him motivated, his daughter has been monitoring his progress. "She's been keeping track of my training and also tallying the donations raised," he says. They are just over halfway towards their goal.
He doesn't have any targeted finishing time, but after recently clocking a 35-kilometre training run in three hours, he is confident of producing a respectable time. "It's more important for me to run using natural fuels and run for something that means something to me," he says. "I'm competitive - so I'm sure I'm not going to be walking by the end of it."
Donate to Evans' cause by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm running to show that the disabled are able
Martha Ng Hoi-kei has been a runner for as long as she can remember. But five years ago, her running days seemed over when she had a stroke caused by a vascular malformation of the central nervous system that she was born with. She underwent emergency surgery to remove part of her brain, resulting in permanent disability. She emerged with poor balance, memory impairment and speech loss. In a matter of days, she went from being an energetic person in her 20s to having an invisible physical disability.
Yet Ng persevered and today, remarkably, she runs three times a week for up to two hours at a time, despite her disability and full-time job as an insurance agent. "It's all about attitude," Ng says. "If you think positive, everything will become positive. Just like your health, if you believe you can get a healthy body, you can."
She will run the 10-kilometre event on Sunday to raise funds for the Hong Kong Paralympic Committee & Sports Association, of which she is a member. "I want to help others where I have the ability - I feel like this is my responsibility," she says. "Helping others teaches me a lot and enriches my life. This is why I run for charity."
Ng regularly competes in races to support various causes, such as the Unicef Charity Run and the Orbis Moonwalkers. In October she came in fifth overall in the Hong Chi Climbathon Charity Stair Run for the intellectually disabled, scaling 1,688 steps in 19 minutes.
Sunday will be Ng's third time in the Hong Kong Marathon. Through running, she hopes to show people that the physically handicapped can enjoy the same opportunities that others do.
"We encounter whatever challenges we have to and overcome them in the run just like we do in our daily life," she says. She hopes to inspire other physically handicapped people to take on daunting challenges and to embrace the future.
While she aims to complete the 10-kilometres within one hour, her ultimate goal is to have fun. "It's most important to me to enjoy my life, so I will just focus on completing the race. I hope to keep running for the rest of my life," she says.
Donations to the Hong Kong Paralympic Committee & Sports Association for the Physically Disabled can be made at hkmarathoncharity.com
I'm running to promote the benefits of going meat-free once a week
Don't be alarmed if you see a sea of green on Sunday. Along with about 500 runners, Francis Ngai will run the Hong Kong Marathon with a green bib on his back to raise awareness for "Green Monday", an initiative that encourages people to give up meat once a week.
Ngai, 40, believes the project is an easy way in which people can make a difference to the environment by reducing carbon emissions. "For a long time environmental issues have been very important, but not many people know how they can help as an individual," he notes. "Green Monday represents a baby step for everyone to get involved."
Hong Kong is the world's largest consumer of meat per capita and a weekly vegetarian day saves about 62kg of carbon dioxide each year per person - the amount of energy it takes to light a fluorescent bulb for 4,430 hours, according to the Green Monday website greenmonday.org.hk
"We're not saying become a vegetarian, we're just saying make a change in your diet one day a week. Everyone can do it," Ngai says.
Seeds for the project were planted when Ngai and his wife skipped a Monday meat dish after a weekend of over-indulgence four years ago. Feeling good, he continued. "It was like a marathon: first I did it for one day, then one week, one month, one year." Ngai didn't look back and 10 months ago set up Green Monday with David Yeung, a vegetarian of 12 years.
Since then, Green Monday has collaborated with the business sector (including marathon sponsor Standard Chartered) and schools to introduce a vegetarian option on their canteen menu. To celebrate the project's one-year anniversary and also world Earth Day on April 22, they have committed 13 of the largest school caterers in Hong Kong to offer a vegetarian option on that day, reaching out to 90 per cent of Hong Kong's students.
Vegetarianism is having a positive impact on Ngai's health - and his running. When racing 250 kilometres for seven days through the Gobi desert last year, his says his times and recovery were better than those of his carnivorous competitors of a similar standard.
Although a seasoned runner embarking on his 12th Hong Kong Marathon, Ngai's major challenge this year is his lack of training. A busy work schedule as CEO of Social Ventures Hong Kong - a non-profit organisation which invests in and incubates social enterprise (including Green Monday) - has affected his training. He admits that he will be relying on fitness and mental endurance on the day.
"Without enough training, the only way to finish it is treating it as a mind game. The vision of my charity in mind will help my spirit for sure."
He is particularly looking forward to the final 12 kilometres and hopes to finish at between four and 4½ hours. "I always enjoy that part [of the race]," he adds. "I will start having some deep thinking and really enjoy the endurance experience."