We Run HK: Saikat Chatterjee

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 December, 2013, 9:10pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 December, 2013, 12:04pm

The Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon, which started in 1997 with a humble 1,000 runners, has grown into a running festival for the city, with 73,000 racers expected to take part next year. To celebrate the city's passion for the sport, we'll be featuring one inspirational local runner each week until the race on February 16.

Three years ago Saikat Chatterjee was a smoker who couldn't walk around Happy Valley racetrack without getting out of breath. These days he runs half-marathons and has his sights set on a full one. What started as a desire to give up smoking has grown into a love affair with running, says the 34-year-old financial markets journalist.

Since his first laboured 10-kilometre road race in 2010, Chatterjee has run five half-marathons and several other shorter races. He continues to progress with each step, shaving 30 minutes off his time at this year's half-marathon event at the Hong Kong marathon, finishing in two hours, 40 minutes. He hopes to better his time in the same race next year.

I don't know if I'd call myself a runner. I see people moving much faster and more gracefully than me; they are the true runners. But if you call someone who engages with the spirit of running, then perhaps I am. I simply love running. If I don't run at least three or four days a week, I'm not the same. It's part of my daily life.

My favourite run goes from my home in Wan Chai to Cyberport. It snakes through the government offices in Tamar, the ferry piers, Central market, Kennedy Town and on to Cyberport. I usually do this route in the early hours on weekends as I love the peace and quiet at that hour. The route also treats me to the different sights of Hong Kong Island.

This year I took part in the inaugural Luang Prabang "La Procession" half-marathon. The charity race comprised three loops around the Laotian city, a Unesco world heritage site, and was easily the best way to see it. I signed up for the half-marathon as I now feel I need slightly more than 10 kilometres to satisfy the runner in me.

My most memorable running experience is also my most painful. I signed up on a whim for the OtterBox Action Asia X-Trail Taiwan 17-kilometre race last September.

I had never run on trails, only the road, but I didn't think it would be too different. I was wrong. It was the toughest thing I have ever done. There were times when I thought of quitting, but I just kept moving. I think I came last, but it didn't matter. That feeling of satisfaction on completion is unrivalled.

Running has made me a more patient person. I used to listen to music to keep motivated, but lately I just concentrate on my breathing. I know it sounds boring but I find it very relaxing. It has helped to improve my concentration.

Whenever I cross a finish line, my first thought is always "Wow, I did it." I'm still surprised by what I've achieved through running. I've never been into sports or fitness. To look back and see the races I've completed that I never thought possible, it's quite remarkable really.

If I didn't run, I would be just another regular guy in an office.