In addition to the record US$300,000 prize money on offer for tomorrow's Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon, improved race times and bragging rights are expected from an expanding group of young local runners.
Several rising youngsters are members of a distance running squad formed last year at the HKSI, and receive regular advice from experienced Japanese coach Shinetsu Murao, who visits Hong Kong each month and acts as team consultant.
Murao comes with a strong pedigree having coached numerous world-class athletes, including the Kenyan World Championship gold medallist, Douglas Wakiihuri.
Baptist University student Alvin Tang Man-wa completed a wire-to-wire victory in the 14th SPT 30Km at Shek Kong in January, and he intends to be either the first or second local runner to finish in the full marathon.
"I'll be disappointed if I don't place first or second," said 19-year-old Tang. "My win in the SPT 30Km gave me confidence in my ability to compete strongly as a distance runner, so I'm aiming for a high finish on the day."
University of Hong Kong student Nestor Wong Wai-chung is another out to impress, despite getting wiped out by a goods van while crossing a road during a training run near his home in Tung Chung last August.
"I crossed the road without properly checking the traffic condition, and the next thing I remembered was waking up in an ambulance on my way to hospital with blood seeping from the cuts and scrapes to the left side of my body," said Wong, who is studying to become a nurse.
"I didn't think that sort of thing would happen to me. I thought that traffic accidents happened to old people who are careless, but I now know we are all mortal, and danger can be waiting around every corner."
Wong set a Hong Kong junior half-marathon record of 1:14:43 in the Unicef Half Marathon and beat it again (1:12.15) in the Zhuhai Half Marathon in December. "During the race, I found myself running with the leading female athletes, almost all of whom were African. In that sort of company, I was able to run at a much better pace than I did at Disneyland and I was able to finish off my junior career by bettering my own Hong Kong record," said Wong, also 19.
Another young gun is Ngai Kang, 21, who had podium finishes in the Mizuno Half Marathon (1:21:10) and Standard Chartered Half Marathon (1:20:12) in 2012.
"I was disappointed with those times even though I finished as third junior in both races," said Ngai. "But since I joined the distance running squad I have improved as a runner and I very much hope to be on the podium next month."
Ngai and Wong will challenge each other in the half marathon while Tang is in the marathon.