I often google race dates before booking a holiday, just checking to see if there’s anything I can sign up for while I’m there. Typically it’s a local 5K but every once in a while you hit the jackpot and manage to overlap your dates *coincidentally with a big city race.
Or you adjust your dates to ensure they overlap as I may have done in this case! (we were invited by some friends to a villa in Thailand and came via Hong Kong using Tom’s staff plane tickets).
The Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon weekend is a sell out race weekend boasting a full, half and 10K race option. The marathon kicks off at 6am, whilst the first waves of half marathons start just before 8am and the 10K had race starts from 6-8am. There’s also the possibility of doing both the 10K and half marathon if you get your timings right (and needed to get a long run done!)
My race morning started getting changed in the hotel bathroom (we stayed at Nina Hotel Causeway Bay conveniently located near the finish line and expo – kindly organised and covered by Discover Hong Kong). Fellow runners and I piled into McDonalds to get a coffee at the only place open locally before jumping on the MTR train to the start line by Kowloon Park. For runners who wanted to drop their bags,
Octopus cards work like Oyster Cards/Debit cards in Hong Kong (you can only tap into the MTR using an Octopus card or VISA – no Mastercard as I discovered on race morning having spent the last of my Octopus balance on my coffee!) If you saw my Reel then you’ll know I also spilt some of the coffee onto another runner on the MTR much to my horror (and his!).
Race morning was efficient, with certainly no way you could squeeze yourself into an earlier start corral. Apparently half marathoners were seeded by their predicted finishing times (can’t remember what start time I gave to be starting in wave 3) The one thing missing was pre-race loos with seemingly only a few for thousands of runners. I utilised the facilities of another McDonalds before my 8.30 race start.
Bang on 8.30 our wave started. It was VERY crowded as that first mile often is, but unfortunately it felt like that for most of the race.
The race takes you through Kowloon along West Kowloon Highway with views over Hong Kong Island, before you run through the tunnel at Western Harbour Crossing, a 2KM tunnel connecting Kowloon with Hong Kong Island. Whilst this feels a little suffocating at mile 8ish of the half marathon, it hits around Mile 20 of the marathon which must be brutal! I wish they had blasted music or had a band in the tunnel, to help keep runners motivated.
Aid stations were roughly every 2 miles or so, with water, sports drink and weirdly at one aid station, water with oil??
The route itself was thankfully less hilly than I was anticipating, and the weather was on our side, with temps around 16-17*C and 59% humidity while I was running. The tunnel was pretty stifling without the breeze but other than that, the running conditions were good and I imagine even better if you were doing one of the ‘challenge’ races that started at 5.40am. These ‘challenge’ races (the marathon, half marathon and 10K) required proof of finish time, the equivalent of London ‘Good for Age’ and the race had to be completed within a certain time. Find out more here. If I was going to run again, I would try to apply for one of the Challenge races to start/finish early and then go out and cheer!
Talking of spectators, there were areas that were well supported, particularly in the early stages on Kowloon and on Hong Kong Island, however there were large stretches along the highway and within the tunnel that were quiet. I took headphones but didn’t end up using them, preferring instead to just take in the sights and sounds of the race.
Tom was waiting as the final spectators before the finish line (he’s not sure why more people weren’t in the bleacher area as apparently it was open to the public, but gave Bertie a good area to run around in while they waited). He asked if I wanted to take Bertie with me over the finish line (apparently someone earlier had finished with their 4 year old), I checked with an official who said it was fine, and grabbed Bertie – attempting to run the final 100m. Bertie was laughing away having a great time…
However as soon as we crossed the finish line he wanted to be put down to walk by himself. With runners finishing the half, full and 10K races, the finish area was organised chaos, with people collecting their medals, water, bananas and being funnelled out via various exits into Victoria Park. I slightly regretted taking him with me as I wrestled to keep him in my arms until a friendly runner gave him a banana which kept Bertie occupied until we found Tom and the buggy!
I really enjoyed the race, although I’m not sure it would be one I’d go for a PB at. Mostly though, I just really appreciated the fact that I’m finally back in shape to run a half marathon without stressing about it. Whilst I’m no-where near the speed I was previously, or want to be, it’s all base building with the goal of a BQ marathon in the autumn.
For now, it’s focussing on getting fit to have fun in my Spring Marathon!
How much is entry to the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon/Half Marathon?
Entry for locals is $600 HKD for full, $520 for the half and $420 for the 10K, whilst international runners are charged $90 USD for the full marathon, $85 for the half, and $70 for the 10K – making it a pretty cheap marathon but rather expensive 10K race for those coming from abroad!
When does registration open?
Entries for the 2024 race opened on 31st August until 5th October.
Is there a bag drop?
Yes, bag drop was at the race start with bags brought to the finish line in Victoria Park. For the 10K runners, the start and finish was in Victoria Park alongside bagdrop.
What is the time cut off for the marathon, half marathon and 10K?
Marathon cut off is 6 hours, half marathon is 3 hours and the 10K is 2 hours. If you are completing the half marathon challenge you need to finish within 2 hours 15 minutes.