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MIND : Nature & Travel
The Power of the Human Spirit ! The Hong Kong Marathon 2009
by Nomadic Chris, 12 February 2009

I always wondered how long it would take me to get from Tsim Sha Tsui to Victoria Park, HK Island without swimming or taking the MTR, a bus, taxi, car, sampan, rickshaw, minibus, star ferry or err…helicopter!

On February 8th 2009, I had the chance to find out. Yes, I was about to undertake yet another ½ marathon.

What compels nearly 52000 people to wake up at around 3 or 4 am to pound the streets of Hong Kong? The challenge? Fitness? Sentimental reasons?

Probably all of the above and more!

Everyone has different motivations. From the average person on the street to Olympic champions to legends such as Steve Prefontaine (see clip below).

So why do people push themselves?

* The Challenge! So how hard and far can you actually push yourself?

* Emotional and Sentimental Reasons! Every runner has a story. Some have battled back from illness, have a disability or are running in honour or memory of someone. (See BBC and New York Times articles below).

* Cheap and Convenient! Running is cheap and convenient. All you need is yourself, a route and some shoes. Sometimes, you don’t even need shoes!

* Fitness! Running is one of the best forms of cardiovascular fitness.

* Anyone can run! The young, old, able bodied, people with disabilities. There are no limits to what a person can do!

* Discipline and Confidence! Losing weight and achieving a ‘runners high’ is good for confidence!

* Community and Charity! Running in races is good fun and can help raise money.

* Escape! Stressed out? Want some time alone? Then plug in your iPOD and hit the road.

* Love!!! Yes, get out there and impress the young lady you like!

The best is the sense of individuality. How well you do depends on your own abilities! There is no one else to blame.

Well, this challenge entailed stumbling out of bed at 4am in the morning and trundling down to the MTR which was already filling up with runners and early birds. I was not as prepared as I should have been. Excessive Chinese New Year eating had put paid to my goal of being super-fit and stream line! Ha!

The Start:

I arrived early and squeezed into the first wave of runners. There was a sea of people. With people of all ages, standards and backgrounds eager to start and off we went!

Around the 7K mark, I started to develop a stitch. (Mental note, don’t eat too much cereal before a major run. Stick to bananas and toast!). I ploughed on. Water breaks were a welcome relief but the real challenge is too not spill water all over! Once you get into your set pace, you notice people at the same pace as you:

* Guy in red T-shirt and guy in bright yellow top from 4 km to 17 km mark - I am sure we could be friends in normal circumstances.

* Very pretty young lady at around the 8 km mark - I am sure a cheesy line such as ‘So how fast YOU running?’ would be wasted on you.

The Tunnel:

You eventually reach the Western Harbour tunnel. Aside from taking a few months off your life by inhaling the fumes; it is a pretty interesting experience to run under the harbour. I loved the irony of the ‘NO SPEEDING’ signs that were flashing incessantly inside.

The End:

I got across the line in a reasonable 1 hour 52 minutes. 6 minutes off my personal best set in Toronto. The last 2 km finally saw crowds and it was a nice buzz. Though, from being lucky enough to witness several London marathons where up to 1.5 million people line the streets from start to finish, the lack of supporters on route was a downer.

Yes, Hong Kong is small and people do need to get from A to B, one simple morning out of 365 days for several main streets to be closed, would be beneficial for the City’s international image. Regardless, congratulations to all runners of all abilities, the organizers, the volunteers and the people who did come out to support!

Personally, I still have the running buzz and will continue to do so! Roll on April 26th. 40,000 runners with 40,000 different reasons to run! I have mine. That of course will be another blog!

Anyone can run but it’s up to YOU!

P.S: Well done to S for completing her first half marathon in 2 hr 12 minutes and to M for completing his first marathon in 5 hr 14 minutes.

Men's Marathon - Cyprian Mwobi - Kenya: 2 hours 14 minutes and 57 seconds
Womens Marathon - Winnie Nyansikera - Kenya: 2 hours 41 minutes 25 seconds

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