Benson feels right at home to claim China Coast Marathon

Australian Darren Benson claimed his first major victory since arriving in Hong Kong almost one year ago by winning the 30th China Coast Marathon at Pak Tam Chung yesterday.

A record field of more than 3,000 runners competed in the marathon, half marathon and 10km races.

Benson, 35, ran the first 30km in lock step with Martin Kennard, but then increased the pace on the third crossing of High Island dam to eventually win the men's race in two hours, 44 minutes and 28 seconds. 'I live in Sai Kung so I'm familiar with the course, but it's a very demanding 42.2km test,' said Sydneysider Benson, who spent two years working in Beijing before moving to Hong Kong.

'I'm very much a road runner but I also enjoy trail running, and so I entered last week's Lantau Mountain Marathon,' added Benson, who works as an industrial property broker. 'I don't think it was the best preparation for this race as it was Wednesday before I could walk properly again.'

Despite Benson's joy at winning yesterday's race, he said that he was disappointed at not gaining a place in next month's Standard Chartered Hong Kong marathon. 'I e-mailed the HKAAA to see if I could get an elite start, but instead of the expected confirmation, I received a computerised reply to say that my entry had been received too late,' said Benson, who has a personal best time for the marathon of 2:30:59.

The Australian pulled out a lead of almost two minutes on Kennard, who finished second overall in 2:46:14, while William Davies placed third in 2:52:30.

Rounding off the top 20 was Wang Hongquan, who flew down from the frozen wastes of Heilongjiang in the north to compete in yesterday's race.

'I've run the Standard Chartered Marathon twice before, but I'd heard that the China Coast Marathon was set over a beautiful course, so I thought I would come back and run it,' said the 37-year-old timber trader, who ran 3:12:38. 'As it was minus 21 degrees Celsius when I left Harbin on Saturday it wasn't a difficult decision to make.'

Angelina Kong finally saw her name added to the historic trophy after three previous attempts with a comfortable win in the women's race.

Kong, a 42-year-old mother of two, held a 30-second lead over defending champion Chan Pui-shan at the halfway point, and then extended her advantage during the second half of the undulating course to win in 3:13:56, despite Chan's 3:15:08 being her best-ever time over the course.

Chan Chun-hing placed third overall in 3:22:30 to repeat the placings of the Hong Kong top-three finishers in December's Macau International Marathon.