Race organiser yesterday announced a new event aimed at getting Hong Kong people off the couch and on to the roads. The MTR Hong Kong Race Walking 2005 is scheduled to be held on April 3 along the streets of Central and is being staged in an effort to encourage mass participation in a sport that is winning new fans around the world. Hundreds of local walkers are expected to be at the start of the walk, which starts and finishes along Chater Road. The annual meet could grow to become an international event, featuring top walkers from around the world, say organisers. 'We haven't invited overseas runners now because race walking has just started in Hong Kong and obviously, we have limited resources in our first year. We will try to develop each discipline of athletics step by step because it is the right time to promote the sport,' said Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association chairman William Ko. 'Race walking is becoming more popular, but we want mass participation first before we involve the international element such as inviting overseas walkers.' Jointly organised with the MTR Corporation, the event will stage both competition and a 'fun walk' to help raise money for public health promotion. The full day programme will include competitive races in the morning, followed by fun walks for corporate teams, families and senior citizens in the afternoon. All proceeds raised by participants will be donated to the Hospital Authority Health Infoworld's 'Better Health for a Better Hong Kong' campaign. 'Hospital Authority Health InfoWorld's studies have found that 80 per cent of Hong Kong people are physically inactive,' said MTR chairman Dr Raymond Ch'ien. 'If this problem is not addressed urgently, our population will suffer from more ailments and become less healthy. 'This will not only cost each of us more in medical expenses, but also affect productivity and ultimately, Hong Kong's ability to remain competitive.' As race walking is considered a low-impact sport, Ko said athletes of all ages could take it up. The men's and women's elite walkers will compete over a distance of 3km, while the rest of the walkers from the different categories will walk just 1km.