A whole three minutes - an eternity in a runner's world - separated Christy Yiu Kit-ching from the rest of the women's field in the 10-kilometre race. But it was not enough to satisfy her.
"My expected time was under 36 minutes, so I'm a little bit disappointed," said the 26-year old, who ran 36 minutes and 14 seconds and blamed strong headwinds for slowing her down.
The defending 2013 half-marathon champion was an unexpected starter in the 10km distance this year, saying it was just a "training run" for the IAFF World Half Marathon Championship in Denmark next month.
"My focus is not on the race today, but Denmark, where I hope to run a new personal best of under 80 minutes," she said. "Today was just a lucky bonus."
Knowing boyfriend and fellow top runner Chan Ka-ho would be in the same race was added motivation to take part, she said. Chan finished third in the men's senior challenge event in a time of 33:25, more than a minute behind overall winner Clinton Mackevicius.
Hong Kong youngsters Fan Ka-king and Priscilla Siu Wai-yue showed their potential by taking second and third in 39:14 and 39:37 respectively.
Despite the challenging headwinds that slowed other runners, it was a day of personal bests for the teammates and fellow students at the City University of Hong Kong, each slicing around 30 seconds off their personal bests.
"Before the race I was a bit worried about the competition, but not when the race started - I just focused on running," said a pint-sized Siu, 19, who stepped up from the junior category this year and prefers the half-marathon distance. "The wind was really strong to begin with, so we ran behind the men to help break the wind. We ran together for the first five or so kilometres, but then [Fan] broke away - I couldn't follow her."
Fan said: "We each got a new personal best today, so I am happy. We are good teammates."
Siu and Fan will represent their university in April at the Daego Marathon in South Korea, where Siu will run the half marathon and Fan the 10km distance.
In her return to running after her second child, Charlotte Cutler finished fourth overall and first in the Women's Masters One category in 39:46.
"I've never come lower than second before," joked Cutler, 40, who was champion in the 10km in 2007 and has been runner-up in every other year that she has competed.
"I beat [Fan and Siu] in a 5,000-track race only a few weeks ago. I knew they were going to go off fast, but they were flying," said Cutler.
"I just died in that wind - it was howling. The first four kilometres were brutal.
"I really wanted to break 40, and I was significantly over 20 minutes at halfway. The last three kilometres I was about 15 seconds faster a kilometre so I'm happy."
Angelina Kong Fung-sin, 47, just scraped in under the 40-minute mark to finish in 39:56 and round out the top five, finishing first overall in the Women's Masters Two category.