I was not too keen on joining this race this year. I did 4 half marathons last season, 3 of them (UNICEF, Standard Chartered and Sydney) in almost identical 1h38mins time. The 4th one was the heavily jet lagged slightly hilly China Coast half marathon in Sai Kung at 1h45mins. I was so jet lagged that day I have no idea how I finished that one …
Anyway at the end I decided to sign up for this UNICEF Half Marathon again. I like the route and as I am planning to finally do a full marathon this season and a half marathon early on into the season could be a good test.
I haven’t had any special preparation for the road race. All my training is aimed at trail running this season so I simply decided to show up and enjoy the ride, or run.
I took the shuttle to the race start are at Hong Kong Disneyland, it was still dark when I got there. I had no support crew with me and I had nobody to watch my drop bag while warming up. So I did not really warm up. I took off all the excess layers of clothing about half an hour before the start, put it all in my drop bag and slowly jogged to the starting line to get a reasonable starting place. The one thing that would definitely spoil the party would be spend first 2km trying to pass all the people aiming at 2hrs+ finish who simply have to start from the front …
I expected the never ending boring speeches like last year but surprisingly there were none. Just some quick intro, countdown and off we went. I was pretty much in the right place at the start as from the go I could keep steady pace without getting stuck behind anybody. First few kilometers passed and I was feeling well keeping steady pace around 4:20-4:30 per km.
After few twists and turns within the Disneyland area I soon reached the long stretch on the road and paced ahead towards the turning point (still about 5km away). This was the stage where I struggled a bit year ago but I still felt great this time. I kept on going, the pace still steady. I spotted a pink T-shirt few hundred meters ahead and made it my target to overtake whoever it was wearing it before the turning point – no reason just to have something to aim at. I kept on going, I drunk some sports drinks and the refreshment point (it was pretty far away from the start I must say), eventually overtook that pink T-shirt, ate one gel after 40 mins and soon I was turning around and running back towards the Disneyland.
The next 5km were good fun. Long downhill stretches and I enjoyed my speedy run, still managing 4:20-4:30 per km. And then the bottleneck…
This is a decently well organized race, except for somewhere between 15-16km of the half marathon race. You are running in your pace, in clear air and then all of sudden you hit a wall of the slowest of the 10km runners who are turning around and block the half marathon runners. I am not blaming the slow runners at all, it is not their fault, they just follow the directions. It is all about the totally stupid race arrangement. If they would at least somehow split the road into the 10km lane and half marathon lane… I experienced the same last year and I heard from other people that this has been the case even in previous years. I wish the organizers do something about this for the future. It can be a simple fix that can greatly improve the running experience at this otherwise great event.
I found some sort of clear space near the tape at the middle of the road and went for it swearing loudly. I got so fired up that the adrenaline rush pushed my pace up to about 4 mins per km for the next kilometer or so until the overcrowding subsided a bit around the Inspiration Lake and after calming myself down normal running could resume.
I took the last sip of sports drinks and water at the water point just before the seaside section and went on to finish the final 2km of the race. I did not have any extra pace to give but I could still keep the usual 4:20-4:30 per minute all the way to the finish line.
I was really surprised to have finished this half marathon at 1:34.24 – about 4 minutes better than my previous personal best, especially without special preparation for this race. I am not sure if I will be running another half marathon anytime soon so this may remain my personal best for a while.