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Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon

Feyera Gemeda of Ethiopia is looking to return to the form which won him his first two marathons, the second of which was the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this Sunday (17th). Gemeda’s victory remains the course record of 2hr 11min 27sec.

Gemeda’s victory here in 2014 was a gamble which paid off handsomely. The Ethiopian was not an official entry, but he paid a thousand dollars for an air ticket, slept on a colleague’s hotel room floor, ran away from the field in the last five kilometres, and netted the $65,000 first prize. Having won the Tiberias Marathon the previous year, he followed up with a fast ‘half’ win in Yangzhou, mainland China, and another victory in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He missed last year’s Hong Kong race with a leg injury, but returns officially this year, yet is no more convinced of potential victory than he was last time - which could bode ill for his opponents. 

“There are lots of other good Ethiopians, and good Kenyans here this time, and I don’t feel in top form, so it might be more difficult to win on Sunday,” he said at the press conference held with the impressive backdrop of a junk floating in the harbour. The proposed trip around the harbour had to be cancelled due to an impromptu rainstorm, which left Gemeda worrying about Sunday’s potential weather, which at a likely 14-18C, with a 
06.15am start, seems ideal.

In contrast, his colleague, Koren Jelela was uncharacteristically confident of her chances of victory in the women’s race. It’s over four years since Jelela clocked her fastest, winning Toronto Waterfront in 2.22.43, but said, “My training is very good at the moment; I feel strong, and think I will run well”.

Her likeliest opposition is from her colleagues Tsehay Desalegn, who finished third here last year, and Letebrhan Haylay Gebreslasea, who finished fourth. Another Ethiopian, Askale Tafa’s best year goes back even further than Jelela, to 2007/8, when she won Dubai, Paris and Milano, and recorded 2.21.31. But two years off following the birth of her son, Kena have given her new impetus to train. The principal European challenge comes from Volha Mazuronak of Ukraine, who ran 2.25.24 in Prague last year, and Rasa Drazdausakaite of Lithuania, former world military games champion.

The principal opposition to Gemeda in the men’s race will be his colleague, Fikre Robi, who finished second last year, after making most of the running; and another colleague, megersa Bacha who ran a personal best 2.06.56 in Paris 2013. Then, almost inevitably there will be the Kenyans, given that the East African neighbours have provided winners in over half of the previous nineteen editions, since the race was revived in 1997.  The fastest man in the field is Albert Matebor, with the 2.05.25 he clocked in his best finish in a major event, third in the Frankfurt Marathon 2011. And Samuel Mwaniki, Robert Kipchumba and Cosmas Mutuku, Laurence Cherono and Isaac Kosgei have all run sub-2.10.

Already in their inaugural race, the Hong Kong organisers achieved a victory of sorts, ie daring to stage a marathon in one of the most densely populated city-states in the world, with some of the heaviest traffic circulation. That race in 1997 crossed the border to the mainland city of Shenzhen, celebrating the return of Hong Kong as a Special Administrative Region of China. The 1000+ participants in that event have escalated in the intervening two decades, and Sunday’s marathon and ancillary events will involve 74,000 runners, making it by far the largest event in SE Asia.

 

Copyright 2016 Road Race Management, Inc.

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