I ran the Hong Kong Half Marathon last Sunday, and I am very tired. After taking 18 months off of serious running (I hadn’t done a run of more than 4 miles since graduating from university), I started running 3-5 days a week, and building up my longest run to 9.5 miles. Then Sunday, I did 13.1 miles with 20,000 other runners. (I was 103 place out of about 400 women in my race group, yay!)
It actually might be the longest run I have ever done (unless you count once in High School when I ran 2 hours in the rain and got lost, but that may have only been 11 or 12). And it was also one of the most fun running experiences I have ever had. According to their press releases, the run had 72,000 participants (10k, half marathon, and full marathon). It was the most runners in one place that I have ever seen. At one point we were running down a highway, and the marathon had just started, so the peloton of runners were coming up one side of the road towards us, and our half marathon peloton was running back towards them and it was just runners both directions as far as you could see. All in the middle of a race.
To get there we woke up at 3:30 am, after an 8:30 bedtime, and ate omelets, moseyed over to the starting line. The MTR opened at 4:15 to facilitate transport. I was texting a friend who was still out and waiting for a cab to go home, I told her the MTR was opening in 10 minutes. We arrived in TST-near the most crowded neighborhood in the entire world-at 5:15. The entire area was shut down. Blocks of roads that are usually dense with buses and expensive cars and red taxis, filled with runners in bright shoes doing warm up exercises in the predawn light.
The countdown to the start was the best part. It was in cantonese, so we sort of fumbled over it, but number 5 was amazing. In canto 5 is ‘mm’ with a sort of rising tone. With a thousand people saying it at once it is as though everyone just bit into a delicious bar of chocolate.
It is completely worth the experience of early morning and running just for running in the middle of the busiest roads in the city. We ran past the tallest buildings in HK, and along the harbor, and through the most densely populated neighborhood and through a tunnel that is closed to pedestrians. Can’t beat it.
Today, of course, I went running in a completely different area: the mountain on Lantao Island, where I was in a cloud and couldn’t see or hear any hint of a city. One day I’m running amidst thousands in the middle of skyscrapers, the next I’m running on a mountain with one other person and dogs, no one else in sight. This is why I love Hong Kong.