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Mini marathon runs into big trouble

Top News | Cindy Wan Feb 12, 2019
The organizer of the Standard Chartered Marathon is under fire over an l1th hour notice issue to runners of the "half marathon challenge" that they have to finish 25 minutes quicker.

The Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association has apologized to the 1,500 participants for its "miscommunication."

This came after participants of the half marathon challenge - a category of the 21-kilometer half-marathon race - received a notification just a week before the race, which is to be held on Sunday, that the cut-off time will be 25 minutes shorter than the other half-marathon categories.

Instead of issuing an official notice to the affected 1,500 participants, the association only updated the information in the runners' race handbook, which was distributed and posted online last Sunday.

Under the new arrangement, those taking part in the half-marathon challenge will need to start running near the Mira Hotel on Nathan Road at 5.45am and reach Victoria Park in Causeway Bay by 8.10am.

Two additional cut-off points will be introduced at the toll plaza of the Western Harbour Crossing at 7am and the junction of Hung Hing Road and Marsh Road in Wan Chai at 7.46am.

In other words, runners will be forced to run faster to reach the cut-off points and finish the whole race within two hours and 25 minutes instead of three hours.

Angry runners bombarded the marathon's Facebook page, saying it would be impossible for them to intensify their training just days before the event.

Some even demanded a refund of the application fee of HK$400 or asked to be moved into one of the unaffected categories.

One participant wrote online that she had lodged a complaint with the Customs and Excise Department about the false description on the marathon's official website, which states that the total time to finish is three hours.

Dennis Ng Yu-ho, executive director of the Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association, apologized for the "miscommunication" after being hounded by reporters yesterday. But he did not apologize for the abrupt change in the rules.

He said 100 slow runners in the half marathon challenge category clashed with the faster runners of the full marathon at the toll plaza of the Western Harbour Crossing last year.

Therefore, the organizer reduced the number of participants from 3,500 last year to 1,500 this year in the hopes of reducing the chance of it happening again, he said.

However, it later received a letter from the International Association of Athletics Federations, which warned that the marathon would be downgraded from its current Gold Label Race to silver or bronze if the situation did not improve this year.

Consequently, the new arrangement was imposed to ensure no clashes occurred during the two races, he said.

Regarding requests for refunds or changing race groups, Ng said the organizing committee was still discussing about the matter and will announce its decision in two days' time.

But last night, the organizer said it would allow half-marathon challenge runners to transfer to another group, half marathon run 1, whose starting time is 8am.

There are three categories of half marathon, with more veteran runners choosing to run in the "challenge" category as priority is given to runners who can submit their race records which meet the organizer's time requirements.

With more veterans in the group, the overall running pace is faster. But anyone from the general public can join the category if there are vacancies.

As for the transport arrangement, 280 bus routes will be affected due to the road blockage from 11.30pm on Saturday night until 1.15pm on Sunday. Twenty-five bus routes that have the letter "R" will be arranged to facilitate transport, while the nine major lines of the MTR will start running at 3.25am on Sunday.

The temperature on Sunday will be around 23 degrees Celsius, while the relative humidity will hover at 90 percent, making it the hottest marathon in nine years. Runners have been reminded of the risk of heatstroke, and to ensure they get enough rest before participating in tsplayin‰Ō¨

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April 2019