Leading Hong Kong runner Gillian Castka has derided the Standard Chartered Marathon's offer of a US$1 million bonus if the world's best time is broken later this month, saying it is 'a load of hot air'. She says organisers are trying to pull wool over the public's eyes. 'This is a gimmick. It is a load of hot air. Hong Kong does not have the course, the weather, the crowd support or the necessary financing to bring in the world class athletes and the 'hares' needed to set up a world-class run,' Castka said. Castka, who won the women's race in the Half Marathon last year, said there was no way a world record could be set in Hong Kong as the conditions were entirely unsuitable. 'Everyone knows it. For a start, it is not a fast course. It is too hilly. The other thing is that there is very little crowd support in Hong Kong. This is a must for an athlete if he or she is thinking of a world record. Encouragement from the crowd can make a huge difference, but in Hong Kong very few people turn up to cheer the runners.' Sponsors Standard Chartered and organisers the Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association, have, for the first time, offered a US$1 million bonus if the world best is broken at the Hong Kong Marathon on February 24. The men's mark is currently held by Moroccan-born US citizen Khalid Khannouchi (two hours, five minutes and 42 seconds set at the Chicago Marathon in 1999) while the women's best time is currently held by Kenya's Catherine Ndereba, who finished last year's Chicago Marathon in 2:18:47. HKAAA chairman William Ko refused to counter Castka's charges. When contacted yesterday, Ko said: 'No comment.' He also refused to comment on whether the organisers had ironed out the problems they faced in getting an insurance company to underwrite the bonus offers. 'All I can say is that if the record is broken, the bonus will be paid,' Ko said. Hong Kong's million-dollar offer, even if it is illusory at the moment, is a world record. But the total prize money is US$68,000. It is shared mainly between the men's and women's field and also the leading local runners. When compared with the money which is on offer at other leading city marathons - the Boston Marathon last year offered US$525,000 - Hong Kong's purse is paltry. 'It will cost a lot of money to stage a top marathon. You need to pay appearance money to attract the leading runners in the world and you will have to fly them in. With what we are offering, I doubt the world's best will be attracted,' Castka said. A top runner would need to be paid around US$100,000 in appearance money just to turn up at the start. These runners would need the pace-setters capable of pushing them towards a world record. And a flat course would be necessary for a tilt at the world record. 'Hong Kong is up against events in Osaka, London, Chicago, Paris, Boston, Rotterdam. The leading runners will obviously aim at these marathons. I don't think they will be coming here just because there is an 'offer' of a million dollars. This is just publicity. It is just an eyewash,' Castka said. Dube Jilo of Ethiopia will be back to defend his title in the men's race. The policeman from Addis Ababa won last year's 42.19 kilometre race in 2:23:22 - nearly 18 minutes off the world mark. 'I have run in races where world records have been set and I know what it takes to break a world record. Hong Kong does not have what it takes for a world record time to be set. This whole thing is a gimmick,' added Castka. Castka, 45, first ran a marathon in 1978. 'I have now done 50 marathons, 45 of them under three hours. My fastest time was 2:32 set in Florence back in 1984. I will be running again this year in the Half Marathon,' she said.