Taipo Mountain Marathon Report, 12 Dec, 2004
Running in Fast Company
We are blessed to be living in Hong Kong at a time when more and more athletes are taking up trail running. We all run faster when there are other fast people around us running. Call it the competitive juices or simply positive momentum, but we push ourselves harder and go faster when there is someone else to race against. And as we get fitter and faster, we motivate others to do the same, which in turn motivates us to try harder. Such is the virtuous cycle we are in right now in which athletes across the different race lengths and age and gender categories are pushing back the frontiers of Hong Kong trail running.
In the recently completed Trailwalker the Cosmo Boys became the first Hong Kong team to break through the 13-hour barrier. In yesterday's race, it was the front running exploits of Gary Mandy and Neil Tait that propelled both to course records that would have seemed unbelievable only a few years ago.
The Full Marathon - Lose a Record, Gain a Record
Only Neil Tait would have the audacity to embark on the full marathon at half marathon record pace. Swapping leads with Gary Mandy over the steep mountains of Cloudy Hill and Wong Leng, Neil set a ferocious pace that saw him reach the halfway point faster than his own previous course record time. After stopping to high five Gary for breaking his half marathon record (see below), Neil then continued on solo along the endless ups and downs of the beautiful Plover Cove Reservoir trail. By the end, he looked more hot, bothered and tired than we've ever seen him on any race previously, but he had held on to record the fastest second half split in the history of the race and an obscenely fast new course record of 3:18:27 (15 full minutes faster than legendary Choi Kau's previous record.)
Marathon ace Lai Kat made a smooth transition to the hills with a very solid 3:41 second place finish. Lai appeared almost effortless as he glided across the finish line, suggesting that he probably still had considerable energy in reserve. While Lai appeared effortless, the following runners all showed the strain of running through the hot noon sun following a morning that had started promisingly cool. John McKinven timed his race perfectly to finish exactly 5 seconds under his 4-hour target time to round out the top 3.
A hobbling Peter Lee came in 4th, followed by ageless (okay, he's 47) Mak Ping Yin who recorded yet another personal best (4:06) to finish 5th overall. Peter Lee blames bad-luck charm Franz Nel for his injury as it appears that Peter gets injured or lost in every race in which both he and Franz are both competing. Franz led in a group of three v-40's that included himself, Michael Maddess and Li Cheuk Ming, who all finished within 5 minutes of each other and unlike Peter, remained injury free. Cosmo Boy Leung Wing Leung, recovered completely from Trailwalker, was the second V-45 finisher though he looked so fresh at the end that we suspect the course is too short for his liking. And in a mark of true consistency through the years, Ho Hon Ming was the third V-45 finisher, exactly 10 seconds slower than in the 2003 race.
Antony Wood took advantage of a bicycling-related injury to his Trailwalker teammate Bob Whitehead to win the V-55+ category, though Antony sure looked a lot more tired than his older teammate ever does at the finish line. Lo Shun Shing expressed disappointment with his result, but it was still good enough for second in the V-55 category. Lo was aiming for 5.5 hours but found the conditions too hot for such a time on the day.
In the women's division there had been some speculation as to whether Kin Hang Hiking Club star Lam Lai Po or adventure-racing star Keibun Kin would rise to the challenge of beating Cosmo Girl Joejoe Fan Sui Ping. Kin faded early, but Lai Po chased valiantly through the halfway point. After that, however, the Cosmo Girl showed the phenomenal endurance that made her the first woman to finish Trailwalker this year and won going away. Her finishing time was only 2 minutes off of Chiaki Fjelddahl's course record, which is ironic because Fan Sui Ping also just missed Chiaki's Trailwalker course record by 2 minutes this year. Joejoe has now won the first 2 races and is one victory away from locking up her first Queen of the Hills title. Lam Lai Po cruised in easily in second place in her first mountain marathon and clearly has the talent to put in some much faster times in the future. Running consistently, Wong Suk Wah managed 3rd place, 19 seconds better than her time the previous year.
A word should also be said about Luo Shudong who journeyed from Shenzhen to take part in his first King of the Hills race. Luo told us after the race that King of the Hills is actually quite well known across the border, but that none of his marathon running mates have dared to cross the border to try before. Luo eventually volunteered to be the first guinea pig. Luo has run a 3:20ish road marathon but said that this was much tougher. He seemed to enjoy himself thoroughly, however, and managed to find the time and energy to talk with all the checkpoint marshals and all the other competitors who ran with him along sections of the trail. We certainly "huanying" Luo and his mates to run with us again!
Half Marathon - Mandy is Dandy
Gary Mandy finally managed to do what no one else has done in the past 2 years: keep up with Neil Tait in the HK hills. After passing and re-passing each other several times all the way to the Wong Leng ridge, Gary decided it was time to push that little bit extra. Over the next several steep undulations along the ridge, he surged on the up hills to open a 30 second lead on Neil at the second checkpoint. He then held on over the final technical downhill to cross the line first and break Neil's previous course record by 3 minutes. He then immediately turned to wish Neil luck on the full marathon before stopping to savor his victory. Clearly these 2 guys are enjoying pushing each other to the limit. This is Gary's first year running in the series and he promises to come back even faster in 2005 following his wedding and honeymoon over the new-year holiday.
Apparently new to Hong Kong and entering his first KOTH race, Bob Shorrock made a stunning debut. Its not just that he came in second overall, he also smashed the V-40 record by 12 minutes. In the entire 20-year history of the race, only 2 people, Neil Tait and Gary Mandy, have ever run the Taipo Half Marathon course faster! Open and veteran category racers swapped places over the next several spots with Nathan Coast (open) just ahead of Tim McCosker (veteran) who finished in front of Benjamin Blain (open) and Mark Doel (open) and Peter Northam (veteran). Dean Lewis stamped his authority on the MV-45 category ahead of a tired looking Philippe Guillo and a fresh looking Paul Keeler.
Peter Wong recovered from a wrong turn to win the MV-55 category though he did not exactly stick to the conventional course route and ran a few extra km at the end. Bob Pardoe was second while John Tanner journeyed back from Taiwan to take third ahead of Jim White, Gordon Robinson and Peter Hopkins in what turned out to be a very competitive category on the day.
After finishing 4th in the Sai Kung half, Cheung Sze Lam strolled to victory on this course. Looking at the split times, Cheung appears to be a very strong climber, but seems to have found the last steep downhill slow going. Rosanna Wan finished second and then did something we've never seen before: Instead of stopping for some water or a rest, she immediately started running up the road toward Luk Keng and did not come jogging back for another 10 minutes. The race director would like to remind her that she is free to continue on to do the full marathons if she finds our half marathon courses too short and easy. Rapidly improving Erica Hung came in third, showing great courage to persevere through a twisted ankle early in the race. And in her first KOTH race since maternity leave, former Queen of the Hills Kawaski Chisato came in a very respectable 4th.
The same 3 ladies vets took home the hardware as in the Sai Kung race, but the placings were swapped around a bit - not surprising given how different the terrain is between the two courses. This time Wu Wai Yee moved up from third to first, Leung Oi Yim remained in second and Edwana Estolatan fell from first to third.
The next race in the series starts is on Lantau on January 2nd. 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.
Results - Full Marathon
Male Open: 1) Neil Tait, 3:18:27; 2) Lai Kat, 3:41:37; 3) John McKinven, 3:59:55
MV-40: 1) Franz Nel, 4:11:55; 2) Michael Maddess, 4:13:03; 3) Li Cheuk Ming, 4:16:45
MV-45: 1) Mak Ping Yin, 4:06:48; 2) Leung Wing Leung, 4:19:17, 3) Ho Hon Ming, 4:27:35
MV-55: 1) Antony Wood, 5:23:02; 2) Lo Shun Shing, 6:32:50
Ladies Open: 1) JoeJoe Fan Sui Ping, 4:21:00; 2) Lam Lai Po, 4:48:02; 3) Wong Suk Wah, 5:11:43
Results - Half Marathon
Male Open: 1) Gary Mandy, 1:33:54: 2) Nathan Coast, 1:45:18; 3) Benjamin Blain, 1:53:48
MV-40: 1) Bob Shorrock, 1:41:16; 2) Tim McCosker, 1:47:47; 3) Peter Northam, 1:53:57
MV-45: 1) Dean Lewis, 2:03:44; 2) Guillo Philippe, 2:06:10; 3) Paul Keeler, 2:07:54
MV-55: 1) Wong Peter Chung Tung, 2:07:45; 2) Robert Pardoe, 2:23:19; 3) John Tanner, 2:25:45
Ladies Open: 1) Cheung Sze Lam, 2:08:21; 2) Rosanna Wan, 2:17:06; 3) Hung Yuen Yi, Erica 2:23:13
Ladies Veteran: 1) Wu Wai Yee, 2:36:31; 2) Leung Oi Yim, 2:51:02; 3) Edwana Joanne Estolatan, 2:51:35