Hong Kong Marathon to welcome 4,000 extra runners to its main event in 2019 with organisers out to foster long-distance ‘culture’
The total number of participants in the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon programme will remain the same, with the other distances cut
The Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon will welcome 4,000 more marathon runners in 2019 as organisers seek to foster a long-distance running culture in town.
The annual Hong Kong showpiece, which will take place on February 17, will cater to a record 22,500 marathon runners, while the total number of runners will remain at 74,000.
“There is always a great demand for the event and most of all we want to develop a culture for marathon running,” said Hong Kong Athletic Association chairman Kwan Kee.
“The annual event has been running over 20 years and it’s time we produced more runners in the marathon category.”
The marathon is the only road event among the three distances that is included at major games such as the Olympics and Asian Games, which sees the quota for the two others – the half-marathon and 10km run – reduced.
The half-marathon takes a hit of 1,000 entrants, while the 10km will be open to 3,000 fewer people, with the number of entrants for next year’s event set at 19,500 and 32,000 respectively.
Despite the increase in the marathon, organisers remain confident of filling the quota after oversubscription in recent years.
“We received over 50,000 applications for the marathon over the last couple of years and even if we have increased the quota, there will still be people who will be upset,” said Kwan.
“The Tokyo Marathon features over 30,000 participants in the category and they can still start in one big group. Hopefully we can achieve the same level one day.”
The overall quota of 74,000 has not changed for several years and chairman of the organising committee, William Ko Wai-lam, said they had little room to increase it.
“If we continue to use the existing route we have little room to increase the number of participants,” said Ko. “The Hong Kong Marathon has developed its fame for covering three bridges and three tunnels and we are quite happy with it.
“The only thing we can do is to make adjustments among the three categories, just like what we are doing for the 2019 event.”
Some have suggested extending the finishing time from 2pm, as it is now, to late afternoon to accommodate more runners, but Ko said that is not a feasible option.
“We have to balance the needs of other road users,” he said. “Already there are people who want us to finish the event earlier so that they can use the road again.
“But at the same time, we can’t employ more officials and volunteers – which [already] reach 7,000 – as they will have worked 20 hours for the race. We can’t change all of them if we extend the duration of the race.”
The organisers will introduce new times for priority entry based on the participants’ age to allow more elite runners of different ages to join the showpiece.
In the past the same time for priority entry has applied to all ages. All participants will also receive a personalised bib printed with their first name, offering runners a souvenir and making it easier for people to cheer them on. The public ballot for the 2019 event will open on September 12.