Junji Konomi works for a Honda subsidiary involved in the manufacture of motorbikes in Japan. But he did not need to get on his bike as his feet were enough to motor him to victory in the men's overall category in the half-marathon yesterday. Konomi, on his first visit to Hong Kong, clinched first place in one hour 11 minutes and 27 seconds and was pleased as punch at his snap decision to accept an invitation to run in the city. 'I got an invitation from an organisation called the 'World Club'. I'm the number one runner in Japan right now and they wanted me to come here, and I'm glad I accepted it,' said the 29-year-old, speaking with the help of an interpreter. Hong Kong's hopes of a 'local' runner taking the ribbon were dashed when leading light Thomas Kiprotich limped home in fifth place with a sore knee and it was left to Stefano Passarello, who runs for local club AVOKH, to provide a familiar face on the podium with a second-place finish (1:13:08) ahead of Mendel Lopez (1:13:13). 'My only aim was to compete against Thomas. I had never beaten him before in a race and that was my goal,' said Italian Passarello, who has made Hong Kong his home for the past six years. Passarello, who says he took up running 'to lose weight' - he is down from 83kg to a svelte 58kg - and Kenyan Kiprotich have a healthy rivalry. 'We are neighbours in Discovery Bay and are very good friends. Although I finished ahead of Thomas today, he is by far still the best runner,' Passarello said graciously. But they were both upstaged by the Japanese raider. Defending champion Kiprotich had hoped to celebrate his visa - granted to him by the Immigration Department last month - with a victory. However, he struggled with a hamstring injury in the build-up and although that cleared up, it was a sore right knee which cost him any chance of winning yesterday. 'I was really struggling today. At one stage I thought I might have to pull out, but I somehow managed to carry on and finish,' said Kiprotich, who finished in 1:16, almost five minutes behind the winner. 'It was very hot and humid, in fact the toughest conditions I have ever run in Hong Kong,' he added. The newly married Kiprotich left for Kenya last night for a one-month training session on the grass plains of Eldoret to prepare for his first marathon in nearly two years. 'I plan to take part in a marathon in China on March 28. I hope to run in more marathons in the future, and I definitely want to do the Hong Kong Marathon next year,' he said.