Saturday, February 18, 2012

Hong Kong: Marathon and the City

I've been so looking forward to blogging about my running team's first out-of-the-country trip (and race) in Hong Kong. The new year has just started but I know this would definitely be one of the highlights of 2012 for me.

Inspired by one of the running blogs I follow - The Scientist Runner - let me share with you my Hong Kong full marathon and travel experience, in 42 photos!

It all started on October 3, 2011 - the first day of registration period for the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon. I have been monitoring their official website and was one of the lucky registrants on the first day of registration. Below's the acceptance letter I received last October 7.
The race route of the full marathon - starting from Tsim Sha Tsui and ending in Victoria Park at Causeway Bay. The race ultimately crosses all Hong Kong territories, with a number of bridges and tunnels as part of the route.
Hong Kong Marathon is known for its very challenging elevation. The first 8 kilometers is a grueling gradual incline until the first bridge is reached. The 37th kilometer at the Western Harbour Tunnel is a killer uphill which will definitely test one's endurance. Just looking at this picture days before the big day gives me butterflies in my stomach.
February 3, 2012 (Friday). Here's the Team Alpha1 full marathon runners upon arriving at the Hong Kong International airport - Jesy, Eugene, me, Rolly and Bryan.
International participants of the race would enjoy looking at this big "You've arrived" billboard at the airport.
After almost an hour of travel from the airport to Hong Kong island via the Airport express train, we've finally arrived at Causeway Bay. This is where all race categories converge for the finish of the race. Here's us walking to our hotel.
Finally arrived the the Regal Hong Kong Hotel - the official hotel partner of the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon. Ironically, when we asked one of the hotel crew about the marathon, he just gave us a blank stare. Haha!
After leaving our luggage at our hotel rooms, we headed to Victoria Park, location of the race kit collection.
The race kit collection for the international participants was hassle-free. When we went there, there were only a few runners claiming their kits. Much to our disappointment though, there is no more race expo. The race expo was opened only during the race kit collection of the locals during the early part of the week. So much for the merchandise craving.
During race claiming, we got to meet Purito Rosero, a contributor for Runner's World Magazine Philippines. He was there to join the half-marathon and to take some pictures of Filipino participants. He took this picture along with the next...
...which we're hoping to be published at the next issue of Runner's World Mag. That would be such a treat! We asked to have our picture taken with the race officials manning the race kit collection booth. They pose for pictures better than us.
Before leaving, we had to take our picture at the runner's pack collection entrance.
I wasn't able to take a picture of the race kit contents so I'm grabbing this from Rolly's. Hehe! The bag contains (an oversized) shirt, race bib, timing chip, runner's guide and...
...a souvenir medallion with a year of the dragon design! Nice!
After claiming our race kits, we were famished. We passed by the Times Square mall in our search for a place to have a quick bite since we still have a packed schedule ahead. We ended up eating in McDonald's. Ha!
After lunch, it's time to go to travel destination #1: Hong Kong Disneyland! It's my third time to visit the theme park but the excitement level's the same. The Disney MTR ride is such a thrill-builder!
The 15 degree weather in the park was perfect!
Oh Mickey!
Still my favorite part of the park is Tomorrowland. Aside from meeting Buzz Lightyear in this area, the thrill-seeker ride Space Mountain is located here.
The only characters we had a chance to have a picture with are Woody and Jessie from Toy Story. It was quite a long queue but the picture was worth it. (I still find the resemblance between Woody and Jake Gyllenhaal quite disturbing.)
No visit to Disneyland would be complete without a picture with the Sleeping Beauty Castle as the background, and of course, watching the Disney Fireworks. Right after the fireworks display, we sprinted to the MTR station to avoid the big crowd and the long queues at the train. Day 1 ended with good memories of the happiest place on Earth!
February 4, 2012 (Saturday). Right after having breakfast at the nearby McDonald's, we passed by IKEA since it was Jesy's favorite place. We had fun looking at different home designs. Funny that we left IKEA with a purchase of just a pathetic lint remover. LOL!
Day 2 itinerary: Go to The Peak. We tried out riding the tram instead of the MTR just for the experience of it.
After having lunch at one of the local restaurants (I should mention I had the BEST milk tea at that place), we had a boy band pictorial with the International Financial Center (IFC2) building as the background. Cool eh?
Forget Starbucks! Pacific Coffee is the best in Hong Kong!
After an hour and a half of falling in line, we finally rode the Peak Tram, the oldest form of transportation in Hong Kong.
The Sky Terrace 360 is the best vantage point to see the city. We waited until it got dark to see the beauty of the city lights from the highest peak in Hong Kong. Then it was time to go back to the hotel for some much needed rest since the next day's the big day.
February 5 (Sunday) - Race Day! I took this picture from our hotel window. It's the finish line area and the race village. That's how near our hotel is from Victoria Park.
Race-ready! I'm the only one wearing a sleeveless top. Good thing I had arm compressions on, to at least protect me from the cold weather. It was drizzling by the way.
The full marathon category had two waves - the first wave of runners (Eugene, Bry and Jesy) had a 6:45am gunstart. The second wave (me and Rolly) leaves thirty minutes later at 7:15am. I paced with Rolly for the first 11 kilometers. By km-12, Rolly had to go on a urinal break, so I went ahead and was on my own. I was happy with my half-marathon performance, clocking in at 1 hour and 54 minutes. I was doing an average 6-min per kilometer pace. Well, until km-29 when I faced the dreaded marathon wall. From there it was pretty much a walkathon, me doing 9.5-min per kilometer snail pace. The last kilometer I ran again while fighting cramps, since I did not want to be caught walking by a number of photographers. Stepping into the blue and green path at the finish line was pure ecstasy!
Meeting up with my running teammates after the race, each of us has lots of stories to tell. As we took pictures of us proudly wearing our medals, we can't help but smile for achieving something BIG. Another full marathon finish.
Back to our hotel, I took another pic of Victoria Park from our hotel window. The 6-hour cut-off for the full marathon is over. The runner approaching the finish line on the below picture is probably one of the last finishers of the race. The rest who did not meet the cut-off were swept from the route.
It's time to celebrate with a satisfying post-race meal! We had lunch at Din Tai Fung, a top 10 New York Times-reviewed restaurant...
...serving the best Xiao Long Bao, or soup dumplings. Can't have enough of these! With our stomachs full, we headed back to our hotel rooms for a few hours of rest.
Late afternoon, it was time to go to Tsim Sha Tsui on Kowloon to witness the Symphony of Lights. I found it a bit underwhelming show since I was already able to watch this with accompanying fireworks before. After the lights show, we craved for coffee. On our way to the nearby Starbucks, we had our picture taken at the Aqua Luna. Looks like one of 'em ships at the Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides movie.
The Avenue of the (Chinese) Stars! The Hong Kong skyline is amazing!
We capped the day off with a (big) glass of beer at The Whiskey Priest, an Irish pub at Lan Kwai Fong. One of the waiters was a fellow Filipino. I'm sure one more beer would make me drunk.
February 6 (Monday). It's time to say goodbye to our home for 3 days! We had this picture taken while waiting for the airport shuttle.
We had an early dinner at Crystal Jade and had one more shot at Xiao Long Bao. Unfortunately, it didn't match Din Tai Fung's, and the place was quite over-priced. We then did some last-minute shopping at the airport before boarding our plane bound to Manila at 10pm.
February 7 (Tuesday). Two days after race day, the official results were released, along with the photos available for purchase online. I played around with the photos and the results and came up with the picture below which I posted at the Team Alpha1 Facebook page.
I plotted my Soleus GPS watch data onto Excel and created a graph for my per-kilometer performance. I hate the parts when we had to pass through tunnels and I would lose the GPS signal. Kilometers 29 to 41 oh how I hate you too! Haha!
I had a very poor performance on my first full marathon at Singapore last December 2010, with a pathetic time of 5:47:57. I was able to cut quite a big chunk off marathon #2, finishing 4:55:22. I targeted for a sub-5 finish which I achieved at Hong Kong. That will do for now, but there are still a lot of room for improvements on my upcoming marathons. Isn't it obvious I'm such a fan of Standard Chartered runs? I'm a proud owner of two full marathon finisher medals!
Whew that was tiring but this blog post was definitely worth my time writing. Don't you just love Hong Kong?


  1. Replies
    1. you'll get your first full marathon's high in a month, cj! kitakits sa nuvali! :)

  2. wow! ang saya naman ng takbo mo sa HK!

    1. yep banjo! a looooot better than SG. salamat sa pagbisita sa aking blog! :)

  3. Great job Noel! I like the pix as well, parang mga movie stars :)

    1. wow Ed! hi! so you have a blog too! thanks for the visit! will go check on your blog as well. :)

  4. wow! galing! It was fun reading your blog, noel! =) Good job! =D hehehe. :D

    1. char-char! thank you! :) di na tayo nagkikita sa mga running events. :(

  5. Team Alpha-1: Aminin niyo na ang totoo!

    Di kayo running group kundi boyband...


  6. Nice photoblog Noel! Wish we were all there to complete the team. Maybe next year. See you guys on the road.

  7. thanks Gian! good luck on TBRDM! next year Tokyo Marathon or NY Marathon? haha! libre mangarap. :)

  8. Congrats Noel. Lupit a. Hoping a sub5 this year too. Doing the Borneo Marathon this May.

    1. Jinoe! Until now, yung HK marathon blog mo is one of the blog posts na hindi ko makakalimutan. it inspired me to run in HK. though ung sau stricter ang cut-off. ngayon mejo bumait na sila sa runners. good luck on Borneo Marathon and can't wait to read your race experience there. :)