It was my first time racing in a cool weather, with temperature ranging between 16 to 20 degree celsius. With the relatively lower humidity level in Hong Kong, I was confident that I would be able to attain a new personal best for my half marathon. As I could see some progress in my recent trainings, I was really excited to find out how I would fare in this “mock exam”.
Race Day: 24 Feb, Sunday, 6am
My heart was filled with excitement as I stood waiting at the start line. 30 mins before flag off, there were already many runners gathering at the waiting zone. I had to squeeze my way through to make sure I was not too far away from the start line. Earlier in the morning at 415am, Jackie and I met up with the Laichee, Joe, Stella at the hotel lobby before we proceed to the baggage deposit area. It was nice of them to accompany me as their marathon actually starts later. We could feel the chill and cold wind the moment we stepped outside the hotel. Despite wearing my t-shirt over my running singlet and clad in arm warmers and gloves, I was still shivering and my teeth was chattering as we walked towards the baggage deposit area. Visited the toilet and deposited our baggage at the truck allocated to us. Decided not to wear my arm warmers since I will probably feel warm once the run started. Wished the rest good luck for their marathon before I made my way to the pen which is located along Nathan Road (TST), near Hotel Mira.
Now, tucked nicely inside the race pen with many runners around me, I was beginning to feel a little warm. Removed my t-shirt and switched on my Garmin. Took my gel while I get ready for the final countdown. Right till the last minute, I was still thinking about my target. Would 1hr 30 min be too ambitious? After all, I have the rolling terrains to consider. Eventually, I decided on 1hr 31min, which was about 4:20″/km pace.
The race started promptly at 6am. I moved with the flow. As I ran past the 1km marker, I took a glance at my garmin and noted that the distance recorded was 200m ahead of the distance marker. My average pace was close to 4mins then! “Too fast, slow down.” I reminded myself.
Finally, I settled close to my race pace after 2km. As I continued the run onto the highway, it seemed to get colder. I was glad Jackie and I purchased a pair of Nike running gloves the day before. Having protection on the fingers just made the cold seems more bearable. I was gradually catching up with a few female runners in front. A female runner, clad in blue singlet and wore black calves sleeves came from behind and overtook me. Looking strong and steady, she was soon ahead of me, possibly trying to catch up with another female runner in ponytail ahead. As I was already running at my intended race pace, I resisted the temptation to give chase.
Water points were located approximately 3 km apart. I took a cup of water to hydrate myself at the first water station. I was quite impressed with the long water station as this means less choke up at the water points. Refreshed with the water, I continued my run, making sure I was on target when I pass each distance marker. As I approached the u-turn point, I get to see many of the faster runners at the other side of the road.
Did my u-turn and was still feeling ok when suddenly I felt a gust of head wind blowing against me. The wind slowed me down a little and I had to force myself to keep going and just adapt to the conditions. Fortunately the head wind did not persist for long and it ceased after a while. At the next water station, I noticed that the isotonic drinks were all in sealed packets. I thought it would be difficult to remove the cap with my gloves on, so decided to do without it and stick to water instead. I was also quite surprised to see cold sponges being handed out to runners too. Brr.. wasn’t it cold enough already? Decided to give the sponges a miss too.
At the third water station, I took my gel and a cup of water to wash it down. 9km done and I’m still feeling quite alright.
Time check at 10km distance marker: about 43min 26 sec. (6 seconds behind my target.)
A male veteran runner who was all the while ahead of me was slowing down and I tried to close up the gap. Soon, I was running alongside with him and managed to overtake him. But, he soon caught up and was ahead of me once again as we cruised down the slope leading to Western Harbour Tunnel. I took note of the distance registered in my Garmin (about 13.2km) as I knew I would lose the satellite once I entered the tunnel. Time check at 13km distance marker: 56mins. Realised I have actually sped up by a bit, probably because of all the down slopes.
Entered the tunnel and true enough, Garmin lost the satellite. I rely on the next distance marker (14km) to determine my pace inside the tunnel and ran according to how I feel. Felt slightly dizzy though, probably due to the lack of ventilation? I overtook the male runner again just when we were about to exit the tunnel.
Once I was out of the tunnel, my Garmin quickly captured the satellite again. Distance registered now was about 15.2km. With just 6 km away from the finishing point, I was feeling very excited and was determined to push a little more. However, I couldn’t seem to control my legs as I ran down a particular winding slope. I seemed to be tilting sideways as I ran. Glad that part was over soon enough.
The sky was brightening. I could see a lot of supporters standing by the side of the road or on the overhead bridge, cheering for all the runners who ran past. Soon, I arrived at a roundabout. In the far distance, I could see the two female runners ahead again, the lady in blue singlet and black calves sleeves and also the lady with a pony tail. The latter was still leading but seemed to be slowing down whereas “calves sleeves” was still going strong. Soon, I saw her overtaking the pony tail girl. “Surely, I could catch up with pony tail girl too.” I thought to myself. I pressed on and overtook her at about 18km mark, cheering for her as I ran past.
There was a really steep upslope after that. I could see the calves sleeves lady running up the hill. She seemed to be running faster and faster and I knew it would be quite hard to catch up with her. I focused on running up the slope instead. Fortunately, it was a short one and trainings at M&M have prepared me well for this.
Down the slope and turned into the streets where I could hear all the cheering from the crowd. Suddenly, heard someone called out to me! Turned to my left and spotted Alice and Richard (they were there for 10km race) and I waved to them. Richard shouted that the finishing point was near.
Motivated, I sped up. With about 1km to go, surely I could push a bit more. I ran hard and quite suddenly found myself turning into Victoria Park where blue and green mats were laid. Stepped onto the green carpet and I saw the clock ticking away. 1:30:48.. 1:30:49..1:30:50.. It was getting closer and closer to 1hr 31min. And I knew then I couldn’t possibly run under 1hr 31min. It would be nice to come as close as possible though so I gave my all at this final stretch.
Completed my first half marathon in Hong Kong with a net time of 1 hr 31min 14sec. Came in 7th for my age category and gender overall no. 11th. =)
Was quite happy with the result since I came close to my target. Though after I race, as I did some reflections, I wondered if I could have run a bit faster on some stretches to shave that 14 seconds. Guess I need to be more focus on my time and pace during a race the next time.
Overall, a great racing experience and I enjoyed every bit of the run. Love the climate!