Thomas Kiprotich found himself in unfamiliar territory as he loped up the Western Harbour Tunnel at the head of the 14,000-strong half marathon field. run Under normal circumstances, the talented Kenyan runner is a country mile in front during local races, but he found himself accompanied by Zimbabwean Axson Rukadza, who matched him stride for stride. 'I didn't expect to see another African runner in the half marathon event as there is no prize money on this race,' said Kiprotich, 21. 'However, it was good to have someone push me and I had to concentrate hard to stay in control. I found out the Zimbabwean runner works for the title sponsor.' Kiprotich is still awaiting the verdict of the Immigration Department as to whether he will be able to remain in Hong Kong and work as an assistant coach. His sponsor, Dominic Chung Yiu-ho, revealed that supplementary data had been requested by the department, which at least meant they had not rejected his application. Many leading runners believe Kiprotich would be a great coaching asset for local distance running. The Kenyan runner returned to Hong Kong last Monday after competing in events in Malaysia and Thailand during the past two weeks, where he finished third and fifth respectively. He received an official invitation to take part in yesterday's half marathon, which meant he had no problem entering Hong Kong. 'The course was quite hilly but it was OK,' said Kiprotich after his first encounter with the notoriously boring course. 'I stepped up the pace in the Western Harbour Tunnel to drop the Zimbabwean, and he didn't respond. It was very windy when we came out of the tunnel but by then I had broken him.' Kiprotich said he received a warm and rousing reception when passing through the streets of Wan Chai over the final 2km. 'The atmosphere was electric, it really lifted me to a strong finish,' he said. 'It's a shame that the whole race can't be run through the urban streets of Hong Kong.'