Taipo Mountain Marathon Report - Sunday, 14 December 2003
Simply a Great Day To Be in the Hills!
Sunny, but cool and breezy made for a perfect day to run, hike or stroll the Taipo Mountain Marathon course through some of Hong Kong's most dramatic scenery. Everyone who participated was a winner. Those who weren't "going for it" (and there were plenty of those) had the time to appreciate the big mountain feel of Ping Feng ridge, the beautiful, old village of Cheung Uk, the lush green of Shalotung valley, the many islands of Double Haven and the contrast between the 2 different blues of Plover Cover Reservoir and the ocean from the gorgeous Plover Cove trail.
Some visiting expats from Shanghai who took part in the race remarked enviously at how our natural scenic beauty compares with that of Shanghai. When we get a perfect day like this, we are able to conveniently head for the hills because we live in probably the best big city in the world for mountain trail running. And when we want a challenge, there are some really fast, like-minded people on the starting line next to us.
The Full Marathon
46-year old fireman Choi Kau remains unbeaten in his last 6 mountain marathons. Usually Choi chooses a strategic point to sprint up a hill and leave the field behind. Perhaps tired after an 8 km cross country race the day before, he changed tactics and made his decisive move on the technical downhill from Shun Yeung Fung to Bride's Pool. In the process of opening a big lead on his rivals, Choi broke the 5-year old record for the fastest interval on this section of the course. His 15:17 plunge from the ridge to the road was more than one minute faster than the previous fastest time achieved by your humble (and chagrined) race director in 1998. Choi managed to best his own previous course record time by 6 minutes largely on the back of this interval to finish in 3:33:47.
Choi's main competition, road marathon ace Ho Hoi To and Alex Morgan, both finished closer to Choi than they ever have before. Ho actually managed the unthinkable with a slightly faster split than Choi on the second half of the course to take second. Alex, meanwhile shook off the fatigue of his and Peter Winn's victory the previous week in the 70 km Lantau Trail Race to run a gallant third. Daniel Brown ran a tactical, come-from-behind race for a well-deserved 4th place.
Roadie Richard Taylor was next in as well as being the first v-40 finisher. Richard remarked that the course was even harder than the China Coast Marathon (the course is 10 km shorter, but over mountains). Peter Winn also joined the sub-4 hour club on the day while edging out veteran KK Chan. Adrian King, Jan Littlewood and Peter Theimer rounded out the top ten. 57-year old Wong Pak Kun was the winner in the v-55 category, ahead of evergreen John Fowler.
Some people plan out their races ahead of time while others go with how they feel on the day. Chiaki Fjelddahl took the planned approach, writing on her hand ahead of time her desired split times for each section of the course and then running exactly those splits. The result was a 4:19:17 new women's course record (okay, she actually planned to run 4:20, but got a bit excited at the end). We've never seen Chiaki so tired at the end of a race, but she finally got the course record that has eluded her for several years.
Also fresh off a brilliant Lantau Trail Race performance the previous week, JoeJoe Fan Sui Ping ran a strong second only 7 minutes behind Chiaki, with prison guard Wong Suk Wah improving her time by 1 hour from last year to take 3rd.
Also inspiring to see was the battle in the female v-40 category. Beginning halfway around the reservoir, Chan Kwok Lin first caught up and then passed Yau Lan Kiu to win in the closest female veteran's full marathon in years. Jenny Tang grabbed the final podium spot. This has been the underrepresented category the past few years, but no longer with these ladies all running very credible times.
One other racer of note was Tom Yau Wing Hong who had a very successful weekend. On Saturday Tom finally managed to climb cleanly two of Hong Kong's hardest rock climbing routes after more than a year of effort. And on Sunday Tom successfully completed his first ever mountain marathon (2.5 hours faster than he had warned the race director to expect!).
One person who did not hang around to admire the scenery was hill gun Neil Tait. In typical fashion, Neil led from beginning to end and recorded the fastest split on every section of the course and bested his own course record by over 3 minutes. Marcus Giles tried to keep up with Neil for as long as he could, but ultimately had to settle for second place ten minutes off the pace. Marcus recently came in second in a trail race in California by a much smaller differential, lest anyone underestimate the quality of our mountain goats.
Simon Phillips showed great form to edge Babs Bukunola by a whisker for third overall. Babs was happy to be the first veteran finisher, but disappointed to miss the veteran record by one minute. ("Dam, now I have to run it again next year." - Babs). Benjamin Blain, Justin Searle and Lee Yu Ming were next in, all in very fast times, just ahead of an avalanche of veterans: Ross Dawson (v-40: 2nd), Philippe Guillo (v-45: 1st and new record), Tim McCosker (v-40: 3rd), Dean Lewis (v-45: 2nd), and Hui Yee Man (v-45: 3rd). Jim White won the v-55 division in a very respectable 2:38. Finally, a bravery salute to Peter Northam who did a header on the final downhill and still ran into the finish line despite a broken and bleeding nose. Peter reports that after a few stitches and a bit of rest that he'll be ready to run again.
Ladies frontrunner, Rachel Sproston, opened up an early lead but then fell on her way down Cloudy Hill and had to withdraw. The report from Rachel is that she broke her pinky and won't be able to play the flute for a couple of months, but that her knee is fine and she will resume running this week.
With Rachel missing, the wondrous Marie-Helene Arnault claimed first overall for the veterans, just beating open winner Wan Nga Yi by 7 seconds. Becky Kong was next in, comfortably in front of late starter Melissa Lo. Brigitte Zeltner Widmer claimed second place among the veterans with Evelyn Lim the 3rd. vet
The next race in the series starts is on Lantau on January 4th. The Lantau half marathon is the easiest in the series, while the full is the roughest and most arduous in the series. Please see www.seyonasia.com for details.
Also of note, we are introducing the first King of the Hills style race to Taiwan on Saturday, January 10th, featuring a 16 km mountain half marathon. Neil Tait has already accepted an invitation to represent Hong Kong against the Taiwanese mountain goats and we are awaiting word from Choi Kau as to his availability.
Results - Full Marathon
Male Open: 1) Ho Hoi To, 3:37:53; 2) Alex Morga, 3:38:34; 3) Daniel Brown, 3:54:14
MV-40: 1) Richard Taylor, 3:56:42; 2) Chan Kwok Keung, 4:03:22; 3) Li Cheuk Ming, 4:17:50
MV-45: 1) Choi Kau, 3:33:47; 2) Mak Ping Yin, 4:19:10; 3) Ho Hon Ming, 4:27:25
MV-55: 1) Wong Pak Kun, 5:28:01; 2) John Fowler, 6:05:56
Ladies Open: 1) Chiaki Fjelddahl, 4:19:17; 2) JoeJoe Fan Sui Ping, 4:27:54; 3) Wong Suk Wah, 5:12:02
Ladies Veteran: 1) Chan Kwok Lin, 5:35:01; 2) Yau Lan Kiu, 5:37:46; 3) Jenny Tang, 5:47:50
Results - Half Marathon
Male Open: 1) Neil Tait, 1:36:43: 2) Marcus Giles, 1:46:03; 3) Simon Phillips, 1:54:25
MV-40: 1) Babs Bukunola, 1:54:25; 2) Ross Dawson, 1:58:50; 3) Tim McCosker, 2:00:43
MV-45: 1) Philippe Guillo, 2:00:33; 2) Dean Lewis, 2:03:10; 3) Hui Yee Man, 2:04:44
MV-55: 1) Jim White, 2:38:05
Ladies Open: 1) Wan Nga Yi, 2:18:54; 2) Becky Kong, 2:25:29; 3) Melissa Lo, 2:31:59
Ladies Veteran: 1) Marie-Helene Arnauld, 2:18:47; 2) Brigitee Zeltner Widmer, 2:35:13; 3) Evelyn Lim, 3:12:31