Half marathon champion rules out any hope of beating HK landmark in March Leading distance runner Chan Ka-ho has given up hope of breaking the SAR half marathon record at the Hong Kong Marathon in March because of the 'dreadful' air pollution enveloping the city. Although he managed to retain his Mizuno Hong Kong Half Marathon title in convincing fashion at Tai Mei Tuk yesterday, his plan to break the record came up 46 seconds short. Chan said he would compete in the half marathon event in March but expected the air pollution through the urban areas of the race would prevent him from having another tilt at the record of one hour, 11 minutes and 45 seconds, set by Mark Williams in Seoul last year. 'I'm expecting the air pollution in Wan Chai and Kowloon to be much too high for me to run a fast-paced race, so I think today's event was realistically my best opportunity of breaking the record this season,' Chan said. Last year, one runner died while a record number were hospitalised after the Hong Kong Marathon, which was staged on a day when the level of air pollution recorded was 'very high'. Rachel Sproston, who led Hong Kong Ladies Road Runner's Club to the women's team title yesterday, and who also ran the half marathon in last year's event, agreed that the conditions in March would probably not be conducive to a record-breaking display. 'What surprised me most about the conditions in last year's Standard Chartered event was that it was very windy, but the wind didn't blow the pollution away,' said Sproston, 34. 'I felt quite ill for a couple of days after the event, which I put down to the dreadful cocktail of pollutants that I had to breathe in during the course of the event.' Chan, meanwhile, said he may now have to wait until next season before he got another realistic opportunity to break the record. 'I could have gone faster today if I'd had someone to push me, but front running for 21.1km isn't the best way to break records,' said 22-year-old Chan, who clocked 1:12:30 to win the race. Kirk Sabean was forced to miss yesterday's race because of injury so it was left to Chan's Tsuen Wan AC teammate Gi Ka-man to provide the main challenge. But despite running a personal best time of 1:13:26 Gi could not close the gap that Chan opened up soon after the starter's gun went off, and had to settle for second place. 'I increased my training to 110km a week over the past month to give myself a chance at the record and my plan was to run 32 minutes for the first 10km, which would have put me on record pace,' said Chan. Chan added that he would like the opportunity to break the half marathon record in an overseas race but bemoaned the lack of opportunities for distance runners to compete abroad. Despite the huge rise in the number of runners participating in local road races, it is still up to the initiative of the individual athlete to race and train overseas to gain experience. Chan will fund his own altitude training trip to Kunming this summer. 'I think I would improve as a runner with overseas experience, but only track and field athletes get invited to compete in overseas events,' Chan said. 'I would have loved to have competed in the Asian Games in Doha. If I can continue to improve, maybe I can qualify for the 2010 games in Guangzhou.' Invited Japanese runner Terumi Niwa blew away the disappointment of placing fourth here last year by winning the women?s race yesterday. The 38-year-old secretary from Nagoya overtook Leung Ying-suet at the 10km mark, and held on to win in a time of 1:23:49. Leung, 26, ran a personal best 1:24:28 to placed second. Niwa, who took up running six years ago at the age of 32, had also increased her training in recent weeks in preparation for this event.