Lai Hok-yan established a milestone in distance running yesterday by breaking the 2? hour barrier, a feat last achieved by a Hong Kong runner more than 10 years ago.
The 34-year-old police constable from Kowloon Bay ran two hours, 29 minutes and 27 seconds for the 42.2km route.
The significance of Lai's time was not lost on his coach, fellow police officer Fung Wah-tim, who has nurtured his protege from being a good club runner five years ago to becoming one of four Hong Kong representatives in the Greatest Race on Earth (GROE) competition.
'This is a fantastic result for Lai - I'm really excited for him. We knew he had the ability to run sub-2:30 but we expected it to come on a faster course, probably overseas,' said Fung.
Lai is one of a growing group of Hong Kong distance runners who travel overseas to improve their performance. He finished 79th overall and in a personal best time (2:33:13) in the Berlin Marathon in September last year, the same race in which Haile Gebrselassie set a world best marathon time of 2:04:26. Lai has also run marathons in Rotterdam and Nairobi, where he represented Hong Kong in the GROE.
Last month Lai finished third overall in the Mizuno Hong Kong Half-Marathon after a storming second half, which indicated his training was well on track for yesterday's race.
He employed the same tactics and ran the second half of the course faster than the first.
He opened a gap over his local rivals by the Western Harbour Tunnel, and powered his way to the finish line to claim the HK$6,000 prize for being the first local runner home in his age group.
'I've been doing 130km to 140km a week in training so the distance was never going to be a problem,' said Lai.
'The new finishing point helped me as the spectator support through Causeway Bay was fantastic. The weather was just about perfect.'
1999 Belay Wolashe (Ethiopia) 2:13.09 (record)
2000 Henri Cherono (Kenya) 2:21.09
2001 Dube Jilo (Ethiopia) 2:23.22
2002 Benjamin Matolo (Kenya) 2:16.07
2003 Tendal Chimusasa (Zimbabwe) 2:18.12
2004 Thomas Migwi (Kenya) 2:17.17
2005 Samson Lywapet (Kenya) 2:15.21
2006 Simon Bor (Kenya) 2:14.18
2007 Steven Kamar (Kenya) 2:17.03
2008 Koichiro Fukuoka (Japan) 2:16.50