The Hong Kong Marathon is one of the largest marathons in Asia, with over 50,000 people running it, the half-marathon or the 10K. I first became interested in the Hong Kong Marathon when I saw it featured on a Chinese television a few years ago in Bangkok. Before that, I hadn’t realized the Hong Kong Marathon existed or that it was such a big event. I also didn’t know how big Hong Kong itself was and what a pretty city it is.
Sponsored by Standard Chartered, the Hong Kong Marathon is an annual road race that’s usually run in February every year. In 2009, the race will be run on Sunday, February 8th. About 10,000 people run the whole marathon, with another 40,000-plus running the half-marathon or the 10K. This year’s marathon is going to be really exciting too as last year, for the first time, a Japanese man won the marathon. Before that, it had been completely dominated by Kenyan runners for years. People are already talking about the upcoming marathon, wondering if the Kenyans will be back to win or whether the winner’s trophy can be kept in the hands of an Asian runner. Runners from North Korea won the women’s marathon division last year so the hot topic is now whether Asian runners can keep up the good work or not?
Asians, overall, aren’t big on running, at least not in high-level competitions. It’s not a sport that’s as popular in Asia as in other areas of the world, primarily because Asians are usually quite short in stature so cannot compete with the longer legs and larger stature of African, European or American runners. Times are changing in Asia though and, in many Asian countries, young kids and teenagers are already at the same heights as their Western counterparts. What this means is Asians are likely to begin to compete in marathon events, like the Hong Kong Marathon, in the same kinds of numbers as other ethnicities.
The Hong Kong Marathon is very popular though. Hong Kong is a cosmopolitan city with people living in Hong Kong from all over the world. Also, unlike countries like Thailand and Cambodia, where the heat and the bad roads negate much marathon training, Hong Kong is fully-modernized and also much cooler as a general rule. Running therefore is an easier sport to participate in Hong Kong. Hong Kong even has several very active runners’ organizations, so support for the marathon from the general public is huge.
Another reason why the Hong Kong Marathon is so popular is because of the prize money on offer. Total prize money is US$100,000. This year too, because it’s Standard Chartered’s 150th anniversary, it’s giving away 150 plaques to runners who are permanent residents of Hong Kong. The first three winning runners in each category also get trophies and certificates will be given to every runner that passes the finish line within the time allowed. Every runner also gets a cool t shirt, a marathon program, and lots of promotional and souvenir items.
As we all know though, it takes an amazing amount of dedication and training to be able to run a marathon. That’s why the Hong Kong half-marathon and the 10K race are even more popular (less distance run, but still quite a lot of glory!). In 2008 too, the Hong Kong Marathon organizing committee decided to change the finish line of all the races, with everything ending in Victoria Park on Hong Kong Island. What that did was put the finish line in a place that could accommodate a lot more spectators, so thousands more people came out to see the runners cross the finish line. People loved it so much it stirred up even more interest, so this year’s Hong Kong Marathon and other races are expected to have even more spectators.
If you’re interested in running in the Hong Kong Marathon, unfortunately, it’s too late for this year’s race as entries have already been closed. But, it’s not too early to start training for the Hong Kong Marathon 2010. After all, if you’ve just spent the last 20 years of your life on the sofa watching TV and eating Doritos, you’re going to need a bit of time to get back into shape.
Meanwhile though, if you’re in or around the Hong Kong area on February 8th, make sure you go down to Victoria Park and help cheer on the runners who, after all that effort, really do deserve a round of applause.