Sai Kung Mountain Marathon Report, Nov 23, 2003
Hong Kong's Top Individual Running Performances of the Year!
The Sai Kung Mountain Marathon course record (3:46) had stood since 1986 and the women's record (4:47) since 1988. In recent years winning times were generally around 4:15 or slower and no one had gone under 4 hours since 1993. One major reason has been the gradual deterioration of the trail over Mosquito Hill, which has become badly overgrown and eroded, leading to slower and slower section times. Another reason has been that temperatures have been unfailingly hot on Sai Kung Marathon days for as long as anyone can remember.
When the day dawned clear and cool, expectations were high for some fast times, but few thought that the course records would be seriously challenged. Yet by the end of the day, Choi Kau and Chiaki Fjelddahl had completely rewritten the record books.
The Full Marathon
Kwok Wah Kun's 1986 Sai Kung Marathon time of 3:46 seemed safe for the ages. However, 46-year old fireman Choi Kau had other ideas. Choi used Ho Hoi To (who has ranked as high as Hong Kong's second fastest road marathoner) to pace him over the fast first half while allowing Alex Morgan to remain slightly in front. Choi made his move on Mosquito Hill and in a flash had opened up an insurmountable lead over Morgan and Ho. In typical Choi style he then got stronger and faster and finished in 3:38:38, breaking the record no one thought could be broken by an incredible 8 minutes.
For those unfamiliar with the course or trail running in Hong Kong, it is probably hard to grasp the magnitude of what Choi has done. Those who have run the course understand that Choi has done something of Herculean proportions and in so doing has made his case for being the top trail runner in the history of Hong Kong.
While Choi was sprinting across the finish line, Morgan and Ho were still fighting a all out battle for second place with each passing the other several times. Morgan finally took advantage of a rough down hill section to surge ahead of Ho for good and secure second place in 3:50, six minutes ahead of Ho. Poor Alex has to be content with running the second fastest course time of the past dozen years and still finishing 12 minutes behind Choi.
Following Ho, a strong and deep field including Jan Littlewood, Rob Parks, Peter Winn, KK Chan, Gavin Lewis, Lau Yu Chun and Michael Maddess rounded out the top ten, all having run times that would have made them the winner in recent years.
Then came Chiaki Fjelddahl who was not to be outdone by anyone in the records department. Taking advantage of experience gained from two previous times racing the course, Chiaki paced herself perfectly, survived the Mosquito Hill
Rough stuff and then surged over the final hills to smash Katherine Orange's 1988 course record (4:47) by seven full minutes. Chiaki said that she was aware at the halfway point that her half marathon course record had already been broken that day and that that had given her the motivation to try to add another record to her portfolio.
Also putting in a stellar performance was Bob Whitehead who led the MV-55+ division from beginning to end, setting an age-category record of 4:51:48, and beating archrival Lam Ngok Yam by twelve minutes in the process. Chan Kwok Lin won the women's FV-40+ race with a strong performance, but was unable to break the age-category record.
Mike Gault, Marcus Giles and Gregor Andersson all set out bravely to break the incomparable Neil Tait's course record. In the end, Giles won, ahead of Andersson(2nd) and Gault(3rd), but was still a minute off the record. Asked later if he was upset a missing the record, the humble Mr. Giles remarked that he was simply happy to have lowered his PB on the course by 12 minutes and thought that Tait would have taken advantage of the cool weather to knock another 5 minutes off the record had he been there.
Simon Phillips, Justin Searle and Rene Frauendfelder followed before Babs Bukunola cam in to claim the first veteran's place along with a new MV-40+ course record. Hui Yee Man was shortly behind and outside of the MV-45+ record time. Ross Dawson, Dean Lewis, Robert Clark, and Ng Ping Sing rounded out the 40 something podium placements while John Tanner in his last week in Hong Kong before moving to Taiwan for a new job won the M-55+ category.
Rachel Sproston won the women's half marathon and set a new course record almost by accident. Running comfortably in the cool weather and pacing herself off the blokes, Rachel found herself at the second checkpoint at Hoi Ha 3 minutes ahead of her optimistic race plan. Realizing finally what that meant, she then ditched her pacers and stormed to a 1:56:52 course record finish.
Catherine Leonard chased the entire way and finished second with a PR 2:00:01.We certainly hope that Catherine will venture forth from her own backyard to try other mountain marathons around HK. Maureen Olsson finished 3rd, making up significant ground later the race after a relatively slow start.
Old friend Marie-Helene Arnauld returned from various injuries to reassert her ownership of the women's 40+ half marathon category. Her 2:11;53 was a couple of minutes off her own course record, but still a strong return to form after missing last season. New comers Edwana Estolan and Sarah Pearson added some depth to the division with credible second and third place showing respectively of regulars Wong Yin Yee, Brigitte Widmer, Leung Oi Yim and Evelyn Lim.
The next race in the series starts in Taipo on December 14th. With the half marathon course going over Cloudy Hill and the Pat Sing Leng, and the full marathon continuing around Plover Cove, this is a much hillier course than the one just run in Sai Kung. Please see www.seyonasia.com for details.
Results - Full Marathon
Male Open: 1) Alex Morgan, 3:50:53; 2) Ho Hoi To, 3:56:00; 3) Jan Littlewood, 4:04:03
MV-40: 1) Chan Kwok Keung, 4:08:50; 2) Chung Man Sing, 4:41:53; 3) Ho Yuk Ming, 5:06:55
MV-45: 1) Choi Kau, 3:38:38; 2) Ho Hon Ming, 4:26:47; 3) Leung Wing Leung, 5:02:55
MV-55: 1) Bob Whitehead, 4:51:48; 2) Lam Ngok Yam, 5:03:37; 3) John Fowler, 6:08:31
Ladies Open: 1) Chiaki Fjelddahl, 4:40:59; 2) Wong Suk Wah, 5:50:32; 3) Lau Yee Wah, 7;19:28
Ladies Veteran: 1) Chan Kwok Lin, 5:41:11; 2) Jenny Tang, 6:30:05
Results - Half Marathon
Male Open: 1) Marcus Giles, 1:38: 46; 2) Greger Andersson, 1;42:09; 3) Mike Gault, 1:42:18
MV-40: 1) Babs Bukunola, 1:50:04; 2) Ross Dawson, 1:53:18; 3) Robert Clark, 2:02;20
MV-45: 1) Hui Yee Man, 1:52:41; 2) Dean Lewis, 2:01:05; 3) Ng Ping Sing, 2:05:42
MV-55: 1) John Tanner, 2:07:34; 2) Jim White, 2:31:15; 3) John Cable, 2:35:16
Ladies Open: 1) Rachel Sproston, 1:56:52; 2) Catherine Leonard, 2:00:01; 3) Maureen Olsson, 2:06:42
Ladies Veteran: 1) Marie-Helene Arnauld, 2:11:53; 2) MA Edwana Estolatan, 2:21:38; 3) Sarah Pearson, 2:24:42