Cold feet: 13,000 Hong Kong Marathon entrants fail to show up, but wet and windy weather can’t dampen spirits for the rest
Thirteen thousand Hong Kong Marathon entrants apparently looked out of their windows yesterday morning and immediately went back to bed, but those who did take their place at the start line did not have their spirits dampened by the worst weather in the race’s history.
Organisers said only 61,000 of 74,000 registered entrants took part, as rain poured and wind blew with varying degrees of ferocity during much of the city’s largest mass-participation event.
On occasionally treacherous roads from Mong Kok to Victoria Park, there were plenty of opportunities to slip and slide, and there was a minor pile-up at the start of the 10-kilometre race, the busiest event.
Ten people were taken to hospital, six men and four women, but none of the cases were thought to be serious, said organisers. The cool weather appeared to have limited the serious injuries and even fatalities that have occurred in previous editions.
WATCH: Joy for winners
As ever, African runners took the top prizes, with Kenyan Mike Kiprotich Mutai, 29, winning the men’s full marathon in two hours 12 minutes and 12 seconds and Ethiopian Haylay Letebrhan Gebreslasea (25, 2:36.51) the women’s.
“I’ve never ran a marathon in such cold and wet before,” said Gebreslasea. “The weather was so terrible – just to finish, never mind win, was all I wanted today.”
Hong Kong’s Christy Yiu Kit-ching was an impressive sixth place as she prepares to run the marathon at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
WATCH: Christy Yiu on her Olympics preparation
Tai Po native Yiu took home HK$56,879 in prize money for less than three hours’ work as she finished in 2:38:38, seven minutes faster than she did last year. Tsui Chi-kin was fastest local man.
Despite the weather, those who took part seemed – for the most part – undaunted, with some even saying how much they relished the novelty aspect of the challenge.
“I never train in weather like this, and I actually enjoyed it,” laughed 10K contestant and snooker world champion Ng On-yee, more accustomed to quiet, dark rooms in her own sport.
There were the usual costumed runners, including some great whites highlighting their distaste for shark fin soup, and a few who took the opportunity to make political points, such as a couple of men carrying signs asking ‘where are the Causeway Bay 5?’ missing booksellers.
Not everyone enjoyed their day.
Gi Ka-man, winner of the half-marathon in 2012, was angry with organisers after saying he received no support when he pulled up injured in the Western Tunnel.
“I wasn’t given assistance by helpers around and some asked me to keep jogging to the finish. I should have been given a blanket or a down jacket,” said Gi, who was in title contention before his injury.
“I wanted to withdraw, but without my wallet I could not take public transport. So I kept walking and was forced to jog again in Central to keep myself warm.”
And some shopkeepers and workers in Mong Kok – where the race started for the first time this year – were peeved at the intrusion into their Sunday rituals. The northbound lanes of Nathan Road were closed from around 4am to 9.30am.
“They shouldn’t have come here,” said newspaper seller Chu Yuet-han, 62. “Many people working here are complaining. It’s very inconvenient.”
Another man, surnamed Kwong, a 71-year-old security guard working in a neighbouring residential building, said he usually took a bus back to his home in Sham Shui Po, but today he would have to walk back because of the temporary traffic suspension. “They shouldn’t have held a race on a main road,” said Kwong.
Others were more into the spirit of things.
Ken Fung, who lives in Yau Ma Tei, took her 10-year-old son out to watch. “I don’t think it’s a problem because it’s only once every year,” said Fung. “This neighbourhood has been noisy all the time. It doesn’t make a difference.”
Ann Luk, a 55-year-old part-time cleaner, said although she found it more difficult to return home after work early in the morning, she supported the marathon.
“It’s an annual festivity,” said Luk. “I think people should be more understanding.”