Hong Kong's "marathon with a heart" can become one of the best in the world, Standard Chartered Bank chief executive Benjamin Hung Pi-cheng said yesterday, as a record 65,043 runners hit the streets.
"We can be among the biggest and best in the world, but that will depend to a large extent on continued support from the government," Hung said, adding his voice to calls from organisers for roads to be kept open for longer.
The Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association said the annual showpiece had reached bursting point with room only for 2,000 more runners this year. The total entry was a record 72,000, with nearly 7,000 failing to show. Last year, 62,300 started.
"I think more time is essential for the continued success of this race. This is a reflection of the demand we are facing, forcing us to put a cap of 72,000 entries this year," Hung said.
"This year the quota for the 10-kilometre event [38,000] was filled in seven hours, while the quota for the marathon and half-marathon was filled in one day. More and more people want to take part, but we need more time and I hope the government will help us next year."
Organisers said two people remained in serious condition out of 37 taken to hospital. On the course, 647 participants received medical help, compared to 951 last year. Last year a 26-year-old man died in hospital after completing the half marathon - the first fatality since 2006.
In total, 34,508 runners started the 10km, 18,102 the half marathon and 12,433 in the marathon.
Hung said the event was a rallying point for charity, too, with over HK$5 million raised last year. "This is a marathon with a heart, simply because it raises money for so many good causes. I hope we can better the sum we raised last year and this aspect is what makes it so special," he said.
Among the most celebrated participants was 101-year-old Indian Fauja Singh. The London-based Sikh, who yesterday ran for the last time in Hong Kong in the 10km event, was said to have helped raise over HK$160,000.
Singh ran the 10km in one hour 25 minutes, five minutes faster than on his debut last year.
Kenyan Julius Maisei won the men's marathon at his third attempt, while Ethiopian Misiker Demissie retained her title.