There are two full marathons offered in Hong Kong. The big one is the Hong Kong Standard Chartered Marathon and the other, smaller affair, is the China Coast Marathon. For most people, it’s a matter of choosing one or the other since they are usually only a few weeks apart. This morning I ran in the China Coast half marathon, my third time taking part in this event.
The best thing about the China Coast Marathon is the local amateur feeling. The Standard Chartered is a lot of fun too, but this one is more of a runner’s race and feels to me like pure running. There is no prize money, not much fanfare (or fans for that matter), and there only about
3000 1200 people (almost 10 times fewer people than Hong Kong’s biggest marathon). The people who organize it obviously take pride in doing it well and it feels good to support their organization. They pull it off very well and I think most would agree that it’s a great experience.
The half marathon course is very challenging. With 2650 ft (808 m) elevation gain (according to my watch), this is not the race where you are going to get a PR. For trail runners, this kind of elevation gain wouldn’t seem like much, but for a road race it’s quite a bit. In fact, I don’t know of any other road race with quite so many hills. But as you follow a service road around the coastline, the scenery is spectacular and the air is crisp and fresh. This morning it very windy (as if it needed to be just a bit harder!), so windy at times that I thought the gusts might rip my number right off my shirt!
My plan was to run at around my projected marathon pace, rather than go all out (I’m running Tokyo marathon in 4 weeks). I think I’m in sub-three shape now and so I was thinking that around 1:28 would be good. I soon realized, after running for a just a few minutes, that it would be hard to hit that kind of average pace. Before the first mile was finished, we were already heading up the first major hill and my pace was reduced to around 7:30 per mile. I just tucked in and did my best. From there it levelled out a bit, went up, went down, seemingly ad infinitum. There are a few level sections as you pass over a dam or a small stretch of road, but everything else is either up or down.
I think my pacing was good and I finished the last part going strong and steady. It’s an out and back course so you can get some idea of how to pace for the return trip. It was faster in the second half with the wind at my back. For a while I thought I might have went out too hard because I started to suffer and my legs were really hitting the limit. But somehow, from where I do not know, I found the strength to hold on. My last mile was 5:55! (ok, it was a steep decent:)). My final time was 1:26:58 which
might have put me in the top 20 put me in 12th place overall (hurray!)
I’m totally pleased with the result but I have to admit that I did not stick to my plan. This was not marathon pace: it was an all-out effort. I had nothing left and was really pushing to the end. I guess it’s ok. I’ll just have to rest and hopefully recover soon. I definitely feel wiped out and my legs feel pretty thrashed — like I ran a full marathon!
If you are ever in Hong Kong, or if you live here, you should seriously consider this race. I will definitely do it again. Maybe the full next year?