Lantau Mountain Marathon - Sunday, January 5, 2003
Ringing in 2003 with some new records
On a cool Sunday the flock returned to the hills to welcome in 2003 on the steep and rough trails of Lantau. The weather was the coolest for this race since 1999 leading many to predict that records would fall. And fall they did. At the end of the day it turned out that the same people who had run well in hot weather during the previous 2 races in the series were the same people who were record bashing in the cool. And others who had suffered in the heat turned into trail blazers in the cool.
Also, if anyone left a plastic bag with a set of car keys in it at the finish, please contact me.
The Full Marathon: All Hail King Choi
The Lantau Mountain Marathon record had stood at 3:44 since an amazing run by Kwok Wah Gun in 1988. Many had gotten close, but none had managed to crack this standard for grit and speed on one of the roughest and hilliest courses imaginable. Enter Choi Kau fresh off a record setting performance in Taipo. Additional pavement in Tung Chung and a trail alternative to the old San Tau streambed may have quickened the course by a few minutes, but the Tung Chung descent has fallen into disuse and is clearly slower than it used to be and several other sections of the course are less often traveled and more overgrown than they used to be. Who then could have predicted Choi's 3:29:38 annihilation of the field and the old course record? The answer is probably anyone who has witnessed his running in the previous 2 races. Choi decimated a field that included the previous King of the Hills, Raleigh Mountain Marathon and HK orienteering champion, 3 time Trailwalker winners, the current Lantau Trail Race winner and course record holder, a 2:22 London Marathoner, and the winners of most of the recent Asian adventure races. With this performance, Choi wrapped up the King of the Hills title for the series and set a benchmark that we dare to say is not far off world standard. For those interested, Choi does 2 runs per week. One short one for speed and one 5-6 hour endurance run. His fire services job doesn't afford more training time.
Alex Morgan celebrated his 39th birthday by also breaking the course record after winning the race, but falling short of the record the previous 2 years. His 3:38:30 time was a great testament to his trail running acumen. Having his children waiting at the end with birthday presents was clearly additional motivation to chasing Choi. When Alex first started winning the mountain marathons, the local runners dubbed him 'superman.' While Choi has yet to acquire a nickname that sticks, but Alex described Choi's decisive move past him on the way up to the Buddha as being passed by a mountain goat. Alex will not win the series this year, but on his birthday, he gave everything he had to make Choi Kau earn his victory. They were both the faster for it.
Demonstrating home field advantage, Daniel Brown captured third, ahead of Peter Lee, Leung King Yan (who has become significantly faster this year) and Adrian King. Just behind them were MV-40+ veterans KK Chan and Ho Hon Ming, 2 remarkable members of the Sunhing Millenium Cosmo Boys running team who had run 100 km for charity just 4 days prior to the race. (Note that this training strategy is neither sanctioned nor endorsed by any leading running coach.)
M-55+ results were the same as in the previous race with Lam Ngok Kan winning in an age group course record time of 4:38:53, ahead of Bob Whitehead and Lee Kwok Kwong. Don't let anyone tell you that the competitive juices dry up with age, these 3 guys were all quite interested in each other's times and how to gain an edge for the next race. They were all remarkably fresh at the finish line as well, showing the advantage of proper pacing learned over many years practice.
A close battle marked the women's race with half marathon ace Rachel Sproston stepping up to the full marathon to challenge recent winner Kawasaki Chisato. Chisato finally caught up with Rachel at the last check point and then powered to 9 minute victory over her sometimes adventure race teammate, sometimes rival. Chisato was also 20 minutes ahead of her husband. Two more Sunhing Cosmo participants in the 100 km charity event, JoeJoe Fan and Margie Cheung finished in 3rd and 4th respectively. Meanwhile, Yau Lan Kiu, lowered the women's 40+ record to 4:59:47. Could some veteran ladies please come out to give Yau a bit of a challenge.
Half Marathon: Tait breaks another record
Neil Tait decimated the field yet again. His 1:17:01 time was 8 minutes faster than the 1999 record and afforded a comfortable victory over Gregor Andersson and Bernard Murphy. For those who wonder about how tough the mountain marathon courses are, Neil ran the Reebok 15 km in about 55 minutes the previous week, while the 14 km course today took him 22 minutes longer. Neil is that rare combination of fast roadie (he was only 20 seconds behind the winner of the Reebok) an accomplished trail runner. His split time for the final, rough and hilly 7.5 km interval was a jaw dropping 34 minutes.
Wong Ip Chor appeared to have the M-40+ race sewn up, but went astray near the end. This allowed Andy Pickles to sneak by for a 1 second victory over Wong. Andy managed to set an age group course record along the way, but the record he broke was his own from 2001. Gary Streight rounded out the veterans medal winners. Peter Widmer ran forcefully to capture the M-55+ category ahead of Bob Nipperess and Frank Pilkington. Clearly Bob and Frank did some secret training over the holidays as they both ran their best races of the season. Peter's victory tightens the race between himself and John Tanner for series honors in the category, though both wonder about a return to form by Mike Cooke, who still has a chance to win the series on points.
Chiaki Fjelddahl casually added another course record to her resume with a 1:35:02 result. Chiaki simply hates anyone but herself holding the KOTH course records and now has all but three of the ten total records. The field, however, was noticeably deeper than normal with Maureen Olsson finishing only 3 minutes behind and Mira Orell, a Finnish resident of Shanghai a further 15 seconds behind. Grace Balintong and Cheryl Beach also ran great times that would have insured them prizes in previous years. Julie Leung paced the W-40+ field, ahead of Brigitte Zeltener Widmer, Leung Oi Yim and Grace Wong.
The next race in the series starts at Repulse Bay on Hong Kong on January 26th. While the half marathon is challenging for its distance, the full marathon is the easiest full in the series. Please see www.seyonasia.com for details.
Results - Full Marathon
Male Open: 1) Alex Morgan, 3:38:30; 2) Daniel Brown, 3:50:20; 3) Peter Lee, 4:00:49
Male Veteran: 1) Choi Kau, 3:29:31; 2) Chan Kwok Keung, 4:11:08; 3) Ho Hon Ming, 4:13:19
Male Senior: 1) Lam Ngok Kan, 4:38:53; 2) Bob Whitehead, 4:49:18; 3) Lee Kwok Kwong, 4:55:04
Ladies Open: 1) Kawasaki Chisato, 4:31:18; 2) Rachel Sproston, 4:40:48; 3) JoeJoe Fan, 4:50:35
Ladies Veteran: 1) Yau Lan Kiu, 4:59:47
Results - Half Marathon
Male Open: 1) Neil Tait, 1:17:01; 2) Gregor Andersson, 1:27:12; 3) Bernard Murphy, 1:27:57
Male Veteran: 1) Andy Pickles, 1:32:57; 2) Wong Ip Chor, 1:32:58; 3) Gary Streight, 1:38:02
Male Senior: 1) Peter Widmer, 1:52:00; 2) Bob Nipperess, 1:57:35 3) Frank Pilkington, 2:0503
Ladies Open: 1) Chiaki Fjelddahl, 1:35:02; 2) Maureen Olsson, 1:38:09; 3) Mira Orell, 1:38:24
Ladies Veteran: 1) Julie Leung, 1:56:49: 2) Brigitte Zeltner Widmer, 2:01:16; 3) Leung Oi Yim, 2:12:48