Last year, I really wanted to travel to Asia. I had never been before and I felt like it was time to go. While I can’t remember exactly how it was decided, my dad and I agreed to travel together and to time the trip to so that I could run the Hong Kong Half Marathon. I was excited! The half would be my first international race – okay first race outside of North America. I have run many times in the U.S. before.
The Hong Kong Marathon lets runners chose from three different distances – the full, the half and a 10K. I decided on the half for two reasons (1) I didn’t want to train for a full during the winter months and (2) I wanted a race longer than a 10K.
Registration for the Hong Kong Marathon is through a lottery that opens in the fall. I put my name into the hat and crossed my fingers. In December, I received an email that I was in! Awesome!
Since I wasn’t sure how well I would handle jet lag and a 15+ hour flight, the plan was just to have fun and finish the race. So training was on the easier side; I regularly did easy-paced runs regular with longer distances on the weekends.
Packet-pick up was at the Kowloon Park Sports Center. It was easily accessible by car or by public transit at the Tsim Sha Tsui station. I went shortly after it opened on Friday morning and there were no lines. I was in and out in almost no time at all.
Twelve hours before the start of the race, I was hit with a stomach bug. The timing was unfortunate. I wasn’t sure whether I should be running, and I wished I had at least another 24 hours to recover.
After talking it over with a few friends (thank goodness for early birds), I decided I would sleep on it and at least start the race. With an 08:00 start, I felt as long as I had stopped throwing up, I would be okay to go.
I woke up after a good eight hours of sleep and felt well enough to get dressed. I still had a slight stomach cramp so I was limited with food. I decided to use run/walk intervals as I knew I wouldn’t have much energy and would start the race dehydrated. Luckily, the start line was a quick five minute walk from the hotel and I was able to take my time getting ready that morning.
At 08:00, we were off! No national anthems or anything like that but there was a countdown and confetti! The course started in Kowloon on city streets and then runners headed out onto a closed section of highway and onto the finish line in Hong Kong. Despite the area in Hong Kong being somewhat hilly, the course itself was relatively flat. There were a few inclines but nothing difficult. Water stations were located about every 5K and had water and a sports drink option. Some stations had bananas and Dove chocolate!
After 5K, the run/walk intervals were becoming increasingly difficult. I slowly increased the walking breaks until I was about 18K in and just walked from that point until I saw the finish line.
Below are a few pics I took at different points during the race.
I finished in 2:55:15 which was far worse than any half I had run but I could still say I finished my first race in Asia!
Though I wish things had gone differently, I enjoyed the race. Packet pick up was easy and well organized. There were a lot of course marshals and medical personnel on hand. The water stops were well stocked and placed on both sides of the course, definitely a plus given the size of the race. There were a ton of people out cheering during the first few kilometres in Kowloon and especially on the last three kilometres in Hong Kong.
The things I didn’t like were the narrow sections of the course that remained crowded with runners. Even with wave start times, the course never thinned out until we reached the turnaround point in Kowloon. The course became crowded again around the last kilometre to the finish. Given those kinds of conditions, I feel the course would be difficult to run for time.
Runners also need to be aware of the time limit for the race they’re running. The cut off for the half was 3:00 and I was pretty close but was sure I was okay as long as I could see the finish. But one of my running friends said someone he knew was cut off 200 metres from the finish line. That’s pretty harsh.
My last minor criticism is that we didn’t get a medal. I usually don’t care about medals – I have a drawer full of them at home. Maybe I missed the race information that mentioned only full finishers get them. But because the Hong Kong Half Marathon was my first race in Asia, it would have been nice to get one. I’m sure I’m not the first international runner to feel that way. Perhaps that’s something for the race organizers to consider for the future. Or just give medals to the top finishers and the top age group finishers.
I’d think about coming back to run the Hong Kong Half Marathon but for now it’s a “one and done” race mostly because of the distance and expense involved with travelling to Asia. I haven’t decided on any spring races just yet except for the Sporting Life 10K but here’s hoping I can run the next race under better conditions.
Stay tuned for a photo essay from the rest of my trip – I’ll have pictures from Hong Kong, Maccau, Shanghai, Beijing and much more.
Thank-you for reading!