SCHKM 2012

The AA flight was packed. Yet not a familiar face to hook up a chat.

I knew that most Penang runners heading for SCHKM had taken Cathy Pacific and departed a day earlier. Still, it wouldn't hurt to hope...

Well, I had 3 hours 40 minutes to kill. After exhausting 15 minutes on contemplative meditation and prayer, I dozed off...

Touched down and took the A21 to the bustling downtown Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong. It was 14 degrees Celsius. Augmented by hunger pangs and wind-chill, I was feeling a tad melancholic instead of the excitement that should have lifted my spirit. All this for a run? Seriously, what was I thinking?...

Woke up the next day with a brighter outlook. Took a hearty breakfast and headed to Causeway Bay to collect my race pack. Met a number of Malaysian runners captained by Sifu Terence Poon. For reasons unbeknownst to me, this year's SCHKM has sparked a lot of interest in Malaysia's running community. Droves of Malaysian flocked to the city. Many were in fact first timers too.

At the collection point, with Pui San.

We parted our separate ways and I ended up roaming the streets of Mongkok with the intention of paying my dues to HK's economy. Despite the overwhelming choices, I ended up empty handed. How bizarre was that! Perhaps my mind was too preoccupied with the race.....

For dinner, carbo loading couldn't be more delightful than to have the pleasure of re-acquaintance with Paul and Hazel (Malaysians residing in HK) at Al Dante, Tsim Sha Tsui. Steve Yap (fellow Seremban runner) was crashing at their humble abode. We all ordered the house specialty: Pastas. My linguine was exquisite! Near perfection in my book. With warm fellowship and a full stomach, finally, I felt settled in to Hong Kong.

With Paul (my right) and Steve, after our sumptous meal.

Had a very good 6 hours sleep. Woke up to a cool morning of 15 degrees Celsius and light drizzle. But none too threatening. In fact, I felt overdressed and was glad to have brought along shorts and sleeveless vest as an alternate apparel.

Last year, the organizer introduced separate starting time for the full marathon with the intention of solving the issue of congestion at the start. It helped. And this year, the same system was adopted. Mine was the first wave. And the starting time was 6:45 am.

Out in the open, although the temperature was only 15 degrees, but the wind-chill and drizzle managed to huddle up the runners like emperor penguins before the starting point. Luckily, there was not much sweat or body odor to complicate the issue.

At gun off, despite the arrangement, the congestion only started clearing up 1-2km into the race. I stuck to plan. And decided that the best policy was to go slow for the initial few km and play by ear for the rest. Did I mention? I have no specific target for this race. This was to be one of those "run and let's see how my body decides" kind of race. With many more marathons lined up for the rest of the year, this seemed like a reasonable game plan.

As mentioned in my previous blog, several elevations were anticipated. I tackled them mostly with a climbing pace no faster than 4:30 min/km. As always, strategic plans could only be as good as the corresponding vehicle's capability to execute it. I could only plan this much...

The 3 bridges were cleared without too much difficulty. And my first 21 km completed in 1:34. This was with a quicken pace of between 4:15-4:25 min/km after the initial few km. I was feeling ok. But I think at some point, with the cool weather and adrenaline rush, I might have gone a little faster. But the stunts were only kept to the downhill part of the route. The overall pace was kept at an average of 4:30 plus. So, no major deviation from the plan.

Garmin 610 was unfortunately useless in the many tunnels that we traversed. I think we must have taken up a total of 5km in the tunnels. So, the pace registered went a little haywire and I had to resort to no more than mathematical calculations according to time elapsed and km covered to figure out my pace. At about 37km onwards, the pace of 4:30 was no longer sustainable. And my GU gel was somehow causing a lot of nausea and retching. I slowed. But pushed through. No thanks to the last few elevations that further drained my fast dissipating glycogen storage. And unlike the elite, I have yet to acquire the ability to utilize fat as an alternate energy source at this juncture. Well, what could I do?

Don't get me wrong. Though tired, I still had some reserve but wasn't sure if that would sustain me all the way to finish. I had to conserve. But as I inched towards the finish, it was becoming clear to me at 38km that I was not going to get my pace up. Energy level was already depleting fast. In fact, at 41km, the muscles were starting to twitch as I tried to speed up. An impending cramp was ominously hanging on the balance. Nonetheless, I maintained my pace as best I could without triggering that dreaded thing.

Finished with 3:18. At first, it was a tad disappointing. 3 minutes shy of PB. But when I analysed the whole thing, I realize that I didn't do too poorly. Sure there was the factor of cool weather that helped. But let's not forget the elevations. The hilly terrain was too demanding to tackle, leave alone attempting a PB. So, 3:18 was as realistic as it gets. Overall, it is still a PB in HK for me having done 3:28 last year. And in terms of overall feel of the race, I wasn't as drained as before. In fact, recovery was quicker than most of my previous races. This proved that I am physically more able to cope. I have to be happy with this outcome. And I am, actually.

Perhaps something note worthy is witnessing some seriously fast HK runners in action. And from my observation, the sub 3 and sub 3:15 runners were plentiful. Like the Japanese, to them, this kind of result is the normal run of the mill thing. I feel like Superman back in Krypton. No longer super or special. In fact, very ordinary....

But that said, these runners were just truly inspiring! Makes me realize that sub 3 is not that unattainable.

Well, HK was sort of a time trial for me. And from what I gathered, it was memorable for most the Malaysian runners. Some even had their photos taken with Edison Chan. There will be loads of stories to tell. No doubt.

Yet, for me, I think perhaps it is time to move on. 3 consecutive HK marathons is more than enough.

I will be on the look out for other interesting places to go. Til then, Tokyo will be next on the list.


  1. 3:18 is definitely NOT shabby. Shaping up well Francis! A few weeks to go and hopefully I won't be feeling as blue traveling alone. Hope to hook up with you there.

  2. I agree with Jamie. I'd kill to achieve a fraction of your pace over a distance like that!

    Happy Feet

  3. Yup, Jamie. I am really looking forward to Tokyo. It is currently ranked as number 1 in my book among all the races I have done. Flat, Fast and seriously Fun place to be! We'll have a good time there. I am sure of that! So, in the mean time, train hard!
    Nick, I am constantly inspired by the HK runners. They are just as hardy as the Japanese. Marathon is a personal thing, don't be bogged down by time. But at the same time, seek to improve that personal best. It certainly gives us something to look forward to...

  4. 4:15 pace? I would love to kill for a pace like that for myt 10-k now. Haha. Shaping up well...

  5. Khoo, it was only in the first half...It would be nice IF ONLY it was sustainable....ah well, have to keep working on it. Boston beckons, eh?!

  6. wow~ "run and let's see how" and it was 3:18, plus the quicker recovery, your body is definitely well-prepared for the next level..

    1. ya, Kent. it is better at times Not to set targets especially when I wasn't too sure what was my level of fitness. less pressure too...i think if i can maintain my current stamina, Tokyo would be better...i.hope...

  7. It's great pace & race you did in HK. Have some good rest and have fun in Tokyo in few weeks time :)

    1. yes, Neoh. Race strategy can certainly decide the outcome of a race. But am just happy that I didn't feel drained after the race. looking forward to Tokyo. u shd consider HK next year!

  8. I was one of the Malaysians who ran the SCHKM for the first time, after reading a lot of good reviews on this race. I share your observation on the fast runners. They were truly inspirational. Like you, I was, initially, rather disappointed with my timing (despite shaving about 28 minutes off my previous PB at the SCMS), given the advantage of the cool weather. But I guess finishing so close to my target spurs me to run even better (and smarter) in my coming marathons. It's good to feel hopeful.

    Have an awesome run in Tokyo!

  9. hi, Hairyberry. Shaving off 28 minutes is a major accomplishment! Congrats!
    Yeah! I agree with u, when I see those fast runners striding past, can't help but be awed by their fantastic pace! Well, let's strive to improve, shall we!?


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