Next year's Hong Kong Marathon won't raise quota of runners
Earlier-than-usual race will cap registration at the same number as this year, as organisers say it has reached its size limit given the route
The Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon has reached its saturation point, its top official William Ko Wai-lam said yesterday after organisers revealed that the quota for the race in January - held before the Lunar New Year holiday for the first time - would remain at 73,000.
"There is no room to expand," Ko, chairman of the organising committee, said. "We have reached a limit with our existing route, which we are quite satisfied with, even though we would like changes to increase numbers. But having reached saturation point, we cannot increase the quota of runners next year."
The Hong Kong Marathon, known by many elite runners as one of the toughest in the world because of its hilly course and humid conditions, has been brought forward from February to January 25, when cooler conditions should prevail.
The race includes the marathon (15,000 quota), the half-marathon (23,000), the popular 10km races (35,000) as well as a 10km wheelchair race (20 entries) and a 3km wheelchair race (50). Some 70,000 runners registered for this year's event, an increase of 1,000 from last year, although only 65,000 turned up on the day.
"Next year's event will remain the same in every aspect other than the fact that we are starting earlier, well before Chinese New Year for the first time," Ko said.
"Also, the 10km races will start on the westbound carriageway of the Island East Corridor due to construction work on the Central-Wan Chai Bypass."
Total prize money for the race will remain at US$300,000 with time bonuses offered once again.
Organisers have for years been pleading with the government for a change of route to accommodate the growing numbers of participants for the biggest community sporting event.
Kwan Kee, chairman of the Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association, warned earlier this year that the showpiece event had reached its "bursting point" and said the biggest challenges facing organisers were "more time [to complete the races] and roads".
But Kwan yesterday refused to blame the government for not changing the route, noting that the organisers and city officials had reviewed it together.
Organisers said the move to bring the race forward to January would help athletes achieve faster times. This year's men's marathon, held on February 16, was won by Ethiopian Gemeda Feyera in two hours 15 minutes and five seconds.
"It won't be as humid in January and the cooler weather will help runners not only post better times, but it will also hopefully mean fewer injuries. We are expecting faster times," Ko said.
This year, 30 runners were taken to hospital, seven fewer than last year.
Organisers also revealed a priority entry scheme would be used to help top runners register easily. Registration for the marathon will start on September 16, for the half-marathon on September 19, for the 10km races on September 23 and for the wheelchair races on September 26.