2019 Hong Kong Marathon Race Report

I registered for the Hong Kong Marathon on a whim. I was already going to Asia to attend my friend Christine’s wedding in Thailand and then run the Tokyo Marathon the following weekend. My friend Dave posted on Facebook about the Hong Kong Marathon, which was a week before the wedding. I entered the lottery not expecting to be selected, but I was. It was going to be a two-country-marathon adventure. 
It’s the year of the pig (or boar) and we got this medallion in our race packet. 

I was woefully under-prepared for the Hong Kong Marathon. My training suffered through the winter, but knowing I had a 6-hour time limit for the marathon, I wasn’t terribly worried - until I got sick. At the end of January I caught a severe cold that I’m still not fully over, three weeks later. I was weak, slept little, and worked out zero times in all of February. But the Asia trip was coming anyway, and being a realist, I gave myself permission to DNS (did not start) or DNF (did not finish) the race, as my health and my body dictated.

I left the US on Thursday. My air travel was miserable with coughing and headaches. I arrived in Hong Kong on Saturday after a night in Tokyo. I went to the expo and had a meal with my friend Dave. I felt a little better Saturday night, enough that I knew I would at least start the race and see what I could do. 

Ready to start wearing my Marathon Globetrotters shirt and my new flag skirt from Wildcat Runner Gear

Race morning came after the best sleep I’d had in days, but I still woke up with coughing fits and was popping cough drops in the start corral. The weather was nice though, and the race well-organized, and I had a job to do. I started in the third wave of runners. The first contained age qualifiers and challenge runners. They were followed by the Run 1 group, and finally I was in the Run 2 group, which started 50 minutes after the first group. It was crowded for several miles/kilometers before the pack thinned out. I’m not going to fully describe the course because Dave does an outstanding job of that in his race report, if you’re interested. 

Approaching the starting line

My AirBNB was in this building right next to my start corral - how's that for location?

I’ll just tell you that the Hong Kong Marathon was bittersweet for me. It was a difficult course due to lots of bridges and tunnels, so lots of uphill that either went on for a very long time (e.g. the 2+ mile long Tsing Ma suspension bridge) or was very steep (tunnels). I was not fit and healthy enough to run the uphills and had to only walk them, so that slowed me down, but it was all I could do. I constantly worried that I would be swept from the course. When I wasn’t going uphill I did run/walk intervals most of the race, and I ran the downhill sections as fast as I could without walk breaks. I had to mitigate my slow walking pace on the ramps. 

Selfie on the big bridge

Heading into one of many tunnels

The marathon was run mostly on highways, but there were some spectacular views. There were no spectators until the final few kilometers in the Central district on Hong Kong Island. There was no entertainment at all. Mostly, my negative thoughts were with me all morning. Yes, I could have trained better, but no, I could not have anticipated being so sick for so long. 

We had some tough headwinds on some of the bridges and I had to hold onto my hat so it wouldn't blow away. Some of the winds were so severe that they almost pushed me backward. Aid stations were advertised to be every 5 kilometers, but they were more frequent than that. After the first one, all had sports drink and some had bananas or Kit-Kat bars. Unfortunately, more than one aid station ran out of supplies for the back-of-the-pack runners. I was happy that I chose to carry a water bottle, which I refilled occasionally.

This was the sports drink, very mild in flavor; it came in a squeeze-able pouch, which made it easy to drink

The race had several cut-off points and I barely squeaked through the last two. The last one was at 41K, so very close to the end. I figured that anyone who made that checkpoint was safe. Not so. There were about 20 of us who made that cutoff and finished the race, but we will be removed from the results or listed as disqualified because we were over the 6 hour limit. I crossed the finish line timing mat in 6:02:55.

I finished the Hong Kong Marathon.

We late finishers were also denied medals when we crossed, so that added insult to injury. I understand that beyond 6 hours I would not be considered an official finisher. But usually in these cases, US marathons will still issue medals to those who went the distance. Several of us appealed to the race crew, both in English and in Cantonese, but they all just said no to giving us medals. What’s unfair is that runners in the earlier waves may have also finished over a 6-hour chip time, but still been issued medals because they finished before 1:00 PM. The last finishers with me finished no more than 3 to 4 minutes over the limit, with the finish line still assembled and timing mats still operating. 

The medal that I didn't receive; I will settle for a photograph and maybe look for one on eBay (photo credit: Dave Holmen)

Proof of finish, even though it doesn't "count"

This was a hard day for me. I pushed my sick self through a tough course that any sane person wouldn’t have done after being ill for almost three weeks. Earlier in the race I fully expected to be swept from the course, but somehow I found the drive to keep going even while feeling quite weak. Only in the finish chute did I finally feel a sense of joy that, yes, I made it! And then after crossing the line, there were no volunteers with medals, there never would be, and I would have nothing to show for my effort. 

I have my shirt, my bib, a finish line towel, and my year of the pig medallion, but no medal

So, did I run the Hong Kong Marathon? Yes, I did, all 26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometers of it. You just won’t find me in the results and I can’t claim a “finish” that counts in any of my running clubs’ stats. 

Even after that let-down, I'm feeling good about Tokyo, my real goal race. The temperatures will be better for running, the course is easier, and I'll be two weeks healthier. So I guess Hong Kong was just a training run. 


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