A record 16,874 runners have entered next month's Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon events, forcing organisers to stop accepting entries for the first time in the seven-year history of the races. The deadline for entries was to be this Friday - but with 3,000 more runners entering than last year, it was decided to close entries for the February 16 event at noon yesterday. 'We did not expect so many people to enter the three races. The response from the public has been overwhelming and goes to prove how popular this event has become,' said Anita Yiu, executive director of the Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association. Last year, 13,500 runners turned out in what has become an important event on the local calendar. Kenya's Benjamin Matolo won the marathon in two hours, 16 minutes and seven seconds, while China's Zhang Shujing won the women's race in 2:36:27. Yiu said the organisers had taken into account increased interest in this year's events - which feature the 42.195-kilometre showpiece marathon, the half-marathon and the ever-popular 10km race - but could not cater for more entries. 'Maybe next year we can continue to grow to 18,000 or even 20,000 but this time the logistics prevent us from accepting more people,' said Yiu. The race will start on Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui and end at the Grand Bauhinia Square at the Hong Kong Convention Centre. Organisers had made a major change to this year's event by deciding to start the 10km race first and then have a mass start for the marathon and the half-marathon. 'Last year we started the marathon and half-marathon first and then after a 10-minute break we started the 10km race. But this time it will be the other way around and with the 10km race starting at 6.45am and the other races starting at 7.10am. The 25-minute gap will see that there is no blockage,' said Yiu. While the entries closed at noon yesterday, organisers said they would still accept entries posted over the weekend and yesterday. William Ko, chairman of the HKAAA, labelled the record turnout as a defining moment for the marathon. 'This is a historic moment for the Standard Chartered Marathon. It breaks the highest record of participation in the seven-year history of the race. I wish to thank the runners for the enormous support given to this event,' said Ko. 'The event has become more popular every year. This year more so because of all the promotion and build-up we have had. 'The Standard Chartered Marathon is now the biggest participatory sporting event in Hong Kong,' said Yiu. Organisers will announce the field of international runners - around 40 men and women - later this week.