The Standard Chartered marathon is the equivalent of Nike's RunTO in TO... a big corporate-sponsored marathon with the aim to unite the whole city with the joys of running ["The race that unites Hong Kong".] Unfortunately I didn't run RunTO so I can't directly compare. Instead, I ran the Don River Run for Recovery which was a way smaller run in comparison, with a total of 152 runners, but probably much more enjoyable!
The Standard Chartered marathon (I only ran 10K) was ridiculously huge, with 55,000 applications, of which 33,000 are for the 10km race. However, who knows how many people actually turned up on the day of the race and nobody has reported estimated numbers. Still, there were SO MANY FREAKING PEOPLE.
To control the flow of so many runners, there had to be many pedestrian flow control mechanisms. Plus, because it is not like Toronto where you can just lock away your few valuables in your car and run with your car keys. The event headquarters was in Victoria Park in Hong Kong [route map], and included a huge baggage storage area before you are channelled into the starting area. It was very organized overall.
The 10K is all run on highway road, the Hong Kong Eastern corridor, with the starting point ON the highway. From the bag check area to the finish line is a good 15 minute walk from the park to the road entrance to the (elevated) Eastern Corridor [imagine the starting point being on the Gardiner Expressway, where you had to walk up the ramp from the Don Valley so that the starting point is above Lake Shore Blvd], up the car ramp to the starting line, all within a huge crowd. This was at 5:30am to prep for the 6:00am start. They staggered the 10K races (the 'challenge' one started at 5:15am); the 6:00am start was the third race but probably the most populous. I didn't have a choice and had to run this race since E&Y sponsored my entry [And I got an E&Y T-shirt, yeah!!! Actually, it's a pretty nice shirt!] The race runs east to ShauKeiWan (essentially running from Causeway Bay to a little past my house), and then turning around onto the highway of the opposite traffic direction to end up back in Victoria Park.
There were so many people that my official start time as clocked from the timing device tied to my shoe was 3 minutes into the race.
Once the race started, the crowd thinned out and I could generally run pretty freely. But because no race etiquette was laid out prior to the race (i.e., stick to the right or the left to allow for passing), the first 10 minutes were very much like dodging an obstacle course. This made it hard for me to find my own pace because I'm not good at that in the first place, and I don't know how to *not* 'continuously pass' people. [I know this comes from driving -- if someone is in front of you, pass! Even if they are not overly slow!] Though I didn't think my passing was overly fast that I would completely tire myself out in the first half.
Along the race, it was evident that many people signed up for the heck of (a) getting a chance to run/walk on the highway, or (b) taking pictures. After all, we are in Hong Kong.
The first water station was 4 km into the race. Right after the water station is a pile of huge paper cups -- quite amusing sight, isn't it? --> take a picture!! Then, at every km mark thereafter, there were many "V" signs. And of course, doesn't everyone bring their mobile phone (to talk) to run a 10K race?
The race had a some ups and downs, essentially running down the exit ramp, doing a quick U-turn to run up the opposite direction entrance ramp back onto the highway. At 9km into the race, this was a little painful! Plus, because the highway is built for cars, at various curved points (most prolonged bout Tin Hau before Causeway Bay), the road was not level which made for weird balance control.
The reason why the race is so early in the morning is because it is impossible to shut the roads for so long. So by then time I was on the return leg on the Eastern Corridor back near Tin Hau/Causeway Bay about 7-8km into the race, they had already opened up the highway on which we ran the first leg. If you ran off course, you would get run over. It was also quite a memorable "Oh.. HK" moment when a bus drove by and I breathed in its exhaust. Yummy!
The final stretch was down an exit ramp (though technically from a 'car' perspective, it could have been an entrance ramp and I wouldn't have known the difference) to take the local road back into Victoria Park to the finish line. I had used much of my 'boost' energy passing people on the up ramp that I didn't overly sprint to the finish, but it was a good race! After the finish line, the people traffic control started again and it was another 10-15 min walk back to the bag check area. There is no room to collapse if you are dead tired!!
Since I have been exercising relatively regularly for half a year now, I felt quite ok for this run. Definitely much better than the "Run for Recovery" in Toronto when I had a sore knee for the whole race which was likely a result of the ultimate frisbee tournament that I played in the day before. All of those two was on no training in general. :p
My time was 1:00:03. I'm relatively happy with my time since 60 mins was my target. But I *so* could have been under an hour... I blame it on the people because continuous dodging, often lateral dodging, is tiring. :p My time at Run for Recovery was 1:03, which put me in the 75 percentile range for females. My time here, given the # of runners in general and the # of non-serious runners, my "overall position" was 552 and "gender position" was 60. I have no idea what that means, though I'm guessing that's the ranking for the "Run 2 race" meant for people with best achievement times listed as below -- which means it is not meaningful a ranking. :p I would have run in the Challenge if it weren't for E&Y sponsorship.
Anyway, probably no more 10Ks for another few years... not sure if I want to try to fight the HK crowds again, either... and finally, I enjoyed the race because the spiritual parallel from Paul is an apt encouragement:
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. -- Phil 3:12-14
No matter my physical ability, God's strength sustained me for the race, as he does in this continuous marathon of life.
To the next race then, this is Gladys Yam.
[Aside] When filling out the Race application, you are 'recommended' to participate in a race based on your previous achieved times:
Challenge races - Under 1:10:00
Run 1 - 1:10 - 1:25
Run 2 - 1:25 - 1:40
Run 3 - Over 1: 40
To anyone who has run, you will realize that these times are slow. But now I realize they could be adjusted for a "crowd factor", haha. The times also remind me of a warning from the Red Cross blood donor clinic: people whose weight is under 90lbs are not recommended to donate blood. It tells you something about the (unhealthy?) 'benchmarks' of the population! [In contrast, Canada's warning is at 110 lbs -- though I'm not sure which is more unhealthy.] The discrepancy makes me wonder whether the warning is truly related to safety or simply a statistical cutoff.