Airport tunnel vision for runners in Hong Kong’s Streetathon race

Competitors tackling longest of three courses in community event will pass through Kai Tak link for first time

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 January, 2017, 7:01pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 January, 2017, 7:32pm

Runners hit the streets of Kowloon on Sunday for the city’s fourth Streetathon community race – and some will get the chance to run through the old airport tunnel for the first time.

Around 15,000 are expected to take part in the event, organised by social enterprise RunOurCity (ROC) Foundation, over 10km, 21.1km (half marathon) and 32.195km.

The latter two races will begin at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal and stretch through Kwun Tong’s industrial and commercial areas, while runners of the 32.195km leg – three-quarters of a full marathon – will pass through the tunnel.

Off and running – minorities, recovering addicts and the underprivileged benefit from Hong Kong Streetathon

The Streetathon, whose title sponsor is insurance company AXA, is meant to “encourage everyone to run on the streets and get to know the community”, according to the event website.

But it’s not just for runners. There will be a carnival and concert with food and game booths, as well as performances from local bands such as Jumper.

The money raised will benefit ROC’s youth training programme for running and the charity Playtao Dreamland, which tackles intergenerational poverty.

Competitor Mei Wong said she was excited about running her first 10km race and was looking to achieve a personal best. “And maybe finish within one hour, I hope,” she added.

Wong had been training for the past month and decided to run because it is “so much fun”.

“I can run in Kowloon, [where] there are lots of fields, and we can play after the run,” she said.

Safety efforts have been stepped up this year since the Streetathon has three times as many runners as it did when it first took place in March 2014.

The government’s newly minted “MyKE” mobile app will allow participants to track queuing conditions of transport modes such as shuttles and ferries in the area, as well as share their Streetathon experiences.

Released by the Energizing Kowloon East Office (EKEO) in late December, the app gives runners a real-time picture of three strategic locations near the cruise terminal to help track congestion and spot safety concerns, Frank Wong Tak-choi, deputy head of EKEO, explained.

The footbridge going into the cruise terminal was one of the most congested areas, Wong said, and people could trip on the uneven surface of the path.

“We put a monitoring point over there so that you can know what conditions are like and if there are safety issues or people with injuries,” he said. “We will monitor the position to see if there are any abnormalities.”

Ten first-aid stations and various refreshment stations will line the race course.

Last December a Hongkonger died while running the Standard Chartered Marathon in Singapore and a runner collapsed in a fatal incident in the 2015 Hong Kong Marathon.