We were looking for a flight home to Hanoi on the weekend of 9/10 January. However it is nearly impossible to fly straight into Hanoi on a long-haul international flight. It meant flying into neighbouring hubs such as Bangkok or Singapore or Kuala Lumpar or Hong Kong.
Via Hong Kong? Where all the mountains are? And isn’t that where the North Face Mountain Marathon Series takes place? And isn’t the 9/10 January a weekend when one of the four races happen? It was an easy decision. Fly from Doha to Hong Kong, arriving in on Saturday 9 January at 2pm, run the half marathon the morning of Sunday 10 January, and go on the 10pm flight to Hanoi that night.
Sounded like a perfect plan.
Well, apart from the jet lag, just coming off antibiotics the day before after a nasty cold, and not having run on the mountains for over six months, it really did sound like the perfect plan. Given those realities, I just decided I’d go slow, enjoy the run, and not worry too much about times or positions.
The run was on Lantau Island, south of the artificially constructed airport island. Starting from Nam Shan pavilion, the 14 kilometre half marathon course climbed up to Sunset Peak, then down to Tung Chung Au, before contouring back round to the start for the final 8 kilometres. The terrain consisted of small rocky paths, with slab steps on parts that were noticeably steep.
I felt like I was back at the start of an IMRA race, what with the small crowds and the friendly banter before the race start. The only difference was that I was wearing shorts and T-Shirt despite it being mid-January (in the meantime, back home in Dublin that same weekend, the first race of the winter league at Howth was postponed due to ice on the roads and no water at the GAA club).
After months of road running, I was happy on the ascent up to Sunset Peak, plodding methodically away as the 224 participants got quickly strung out. Mist soon covered us as we reached 600 metres, the slight chill also enticing us to keep moving on. But once back at 300 metres for the final flat contoured run in, I was able to whip out my camera and take some stunning pictures of the sandy bays below.
Overall, a really nice course, a very well organised race, a nice set of people, and a very enticing race series. The next run is scheduled for 31st January around Hong Kong Island itself. But with return flights from Hanoi at nearly 400 USDs and with hotels at 100 USDs a night, I’ll be there if only my bank balance allows it.
Full Results of full marathon and half marathon available here.