Acting senior fireman Li Wang-chun gave himself - and the Fire Services Department - a timely confidence boost for next month's Standard Chartered Marathon with a gun-to-tape victory in the Skechers 30km at Shek Kong catchwater yesterday.
Physical training instructor Li, 28, will be one of more than 1,000 firemen competing in the three events taking place next month, but making his third attempt at the full marathon, for which he is clocking up 100 kilometres a week in training.
"I ran my first marathon in 2008 but my time wasn't all that good," said Li, who clocked one hour, 57 minutes and 52 seconds for victory yesterday. "However, I won my age group in the World Firefighters Games marathon in Sydney last October so I thought I should aim for the 42.2km distance next month."
In addition to the individual races in the Standard Chartered Marathon, a 10km team event is held in which members of the Hong Kong disciplined services compete for bragging rights about which department is the fittest.
"I think we've won the cup for the past five years," said Ng Tsz-wai, who finished second to Li yesterday in 1:58:27. "The Hong Kong Police Force are always trying to beat us, but we are the fittest disciplined service in Hong Kong."
While the firemen were claiming the leading places in the men's race, the medical profession led the way home in the women's event.
Angela Leung Fung-ming, a doctor, won the women's race after defending champion May Chong Miu-ying, a senior nurse, suffered cramps in the later stages of the race, which is set over a scenic but very hilly course.
"I took up running just five years ago to persuade my teenage son to take more exercise and to lose weight but then I got hooked myself," said Leung, 55, who crossed the line in 2:24:34 to Chong's 2:27:27. Former winner Chan Kit-yee took third in 2:30:35.
Meanwhile, former Hong Kong resident Mark Williams saw his hopes dashed well before the start when his taxi driver got lost.
"The driver got incredibly lost and then spent about 15 minutes on the phone trying to find out where the place was," said Williams, a former winner of the race. "Incredibly, when he did find out where it was he stopped to go to the toilet.
"We got to Tseun Wan at 8.55am and I realised that I would never make it. This is the first time I have not made it to the start of a race that I have intended to compete in. I'm gutted."