Hong Kong Mountain Marathon Report - Sunday, January 25, 2004
Run Like a Monkey
The weather was cold, but clear. More importantly, the factories across the border were shut for the holidays. The result was perfect visibility, clean air and some very fast running. 197 started the race, wearing everything from down jackets to topless. Either way, the Tai Tam based course is known as a tough half marathon and a relatively easy full marathon (except for two super steep hills) because of some nice long contour and catchwater trails that eat up the mileage. In the end, the start of the year of the monkey saw some stunning new course records and some great personal achievements. KK Chan even handed out Lai See to full marathoners who finished in under 4 hours (if you are eligible and didn't get one, contact me as I still have some leftover.)
Full Marathon: No Monkey on Neil Tait's Back
We have been wondering for a while what would happen if Neil Tail stepped up from the half marathons to the full marathons. Choosing the course best suited to his style from among the 5 races (he wouldn't have tried it if he didn't think he could win), Neil answered our questions with a thoroughly dominating start to finish obliteration of the field and the course record. Pacing? That's for endurance runners. Just attack every hill as if it were the last. Oh, and break the course record by 23 minutes, while beating the next guy in by 11 minutes (over 22 seconds per kilometer average). Given that this was the deepest full marathon field yet in the history of the race and that the weather was perfect, we speculated that the course record would fall to 3 hours or so. However, Neil ran 2:52:48 and recorded the fastest interval on every section of the course, making it his most impressive performance to date.
On another day, Ho Hoi To's 3:03 run would have given him first place and the course record. As it was, he had to be content with finally beating Choi Kau on a mountain marathon and a phenomenal time. Choi Kau fell and hurt his toe early in the race, but still managed third place overall while setting a new age-category (MV-45) course record. He passed Alex Morgan going up the Twins, thus denying Alex his last chance to beat Choi in his farewell race. Alex Morgan finished 4th, followed by Daniel Brown, Peter Lee, Jan Littlewood, Adrian King, Michael Maddess and Peter Winn. Veteran V-40 KK Chan was next in, just ahead of fellow veteran and road running ace John Myatt. Li Cheuk Ming rounded out the veterans medal winners with Leung Wing Leung and Mak Ping Yin doing the same in the V-45 category.
In the v-55+ category, Bob Whitehead was impressive yet again, lowering his own record time to 3:54:36 to easily beat Lam Ngok Kan and Paul Chillingworth.
With Chiaki Fjelddahl absent, JoeJoe Fan ran a personal best time 3:48:58 to claim first place in the ladies division. More impressively, she out sprinted her Cosmo Boy teammates Ho Hon Ming and Lau Yu Chun on the last section to beat them across the line by several minutes. Ladies V-40 Melissa Yeung was second over the line overall in a course record 4:06:16. Given that this was her first-ever KOTH competition, this performance suggests her potential! We certainly hope that she has now caught the trail running bug and won't be spending all of her time on the roads.
Melissa Lo and Wong Suk Wah followed for second and third place in the ladies open with Chan Kwok-lin and Fung Yuk-ling taking silver and bronze in the ladies vets. Perennial ladies vet half marathon winner Marie-Helene Arnauld stepped up to try her first full marathon. In the end, an ankle twist and a lack of desire to climb the Twins caused her to call it an early day, but we still salute her attempt to move out of her comfort zone.
There was also excitement at the back end of the race. Making up 13 minutes on the last section of the race, ever-smiling Ngan Kwok Wa finally caught up to Shanghai visitor Jon Byrne on the way down to the beach and galloped past to edge out Jon by 12 seconds. Given that this was Jon's first time to attempt or complete a mountain marathon and Ngan's first time to out sprint anyone, both were happy.
Half Marathon - Peter Hopper, Philippe Guillo and Rachel Sproston Not Monkeying Around
Veteran Peter Hopper took advantage of Neil Tait running the full marathon to record his own impressive start to finish victory. Pushed by Gregor Andersson, Peter not only won outright, he set a new V-40 course record of 1:54:06. Gregger Andersson still managed second (first open), just ahead of Wong Wai Kin and "Fourth Place" Freddy Bourquin (third open), with veterans Babs Bukunola and Tim McCosker also managing to finish in under 2 hours. Tim got the "cheesin gweillo" award for the day, starting and running the entire race without a shirt despite the cold weather and half the field being dressed to assault Mt. Everest.
Philippe Guillo and Hui Yee Man fought a spirited tactical battle in the V-45 category. After swapping positions several times, Philippe eased ahead on a technical downhill to claim a new v-45 course record. Hui was second, followed by Dean Lewis. Bob Pardoe and Jim White had a similarly spirited battle in the V-55 category with Bob eventually winning out by 20 seconds. John Cable managed third.
Another contender for run of the day was Rachel Sproston who shocked the monkey by beating Chiaki Fjelddahl's 1999 course record by 3 minutes. Her 2:06:28 earned her first lady honors and placed her 13th overall. Grace Balintong came in a strong second - the day after another strong performance in the Fat Choy race - with newcomer Hannah Webb third. Julie Leung won the ladies vet division easily, ahead of Sarah Pearson and Leung Oi Yim.
Also of note was the performance of Clydesdale John Moss who ran a great race and had one of the fastest sprints across the beach to the finish of anyone.
The last race in the series takes place in Sham Tseng on 29th February. This course features both the longest full and half marathons in terms of distance, but takes place over very beautiful trails with not that many steep or rough hills to contend with. For those battling for awards dinner placings, it also serves as the tie breaker in the event that two runners accumulate an equal number of points during the series. Please see www.seyonasia.com for details.
Results - Full Marathon
Male Open: 1) Neil Tait, 2:52:48; 2) Ho Hoi To, 3:04:30; 3) Alex Morgan, 3:13:39
Male V-40: 1) Chan Kwok Keung, 3:30:21; 2) John Myatt, 3:34:01; 3) Li Cheuk Ming, 3:42:28
Male V-45: 1) Choi Kau, 3:10:41; 2) Leung Wing Leung, 3:34:12; 3) Mak Ping Yin, 3:48:34
Male V-55: 1) Bob Whitehead, 3:54:36; 2) Lam Ngok Kan, 4:09:38; 3) Paul Chillingworth, 4:13:11
Ladies Open: 1) JoeJoe Fan Sui Ping, 3:48:55; 2) Melissa Lo, 4:11:59; 3) Wong Suk Wah, 4:24:29
Ladies Veteran: 1) Melissa Yeung, 4:06:16; 2) Chan Kwok Lin, 4:37:05; 3) Fung Yuk-ling, 4:53:41
Results - Half Marathon
Male Open: 1) Greger Andersson, 1:56:03; 2) Wong Wai Kin, 1:56:30; 3) Fred Bourquin, 1:57:21
Male V-40: 1) Peter Hopper, 1:54:06; 2) Babs Bukunola, 1:59:50; 3) Tim McCosker, 1:59:59
Male V-45: 1) Phillipe Guillo, 2:01:43; 2) Hui Yee Man, 2:03:02; 3) Dean Lewis, 2:10:02
Male V-55: 1) Bob Pardoe, 2:36:45; 2) Jim White, 2:37:05; 3) John Cable, 3:08:39
Ladies Open: 1) Rachel Sproston, 2:06:28; 2) Grace Balintong, 2:11:45; 3) Hannah Webb, 2:20:44
Ladies Veteran: 1) Julie Leung, 2:34:41; 2) Sarah Pearson, 2:49:36; 3) Leung Oi Yim, 3:04:54