Hong Kong Marathon prize fund slashed, with no overseas runners

By Chan Kin-wa
Christy Yiu wins the women's half marathon at the 2019 showpiece. She will lead a strong local contingent for the delayed 2021 Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon in this month. Photo: Nora Tam

For the first time since 1997, there will be no invited overseas winner of the annual Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon, with prize money also being slashed at the delayed event.

Christy Yiu Kit-ching will head a strong local contingent at the October 24 showpiece, the first mass participatory sporting event in Hong Kong since 2020.

Entry numbers have been capped at 18,500 runners, way down on the 74,000 entries when it was last held in 2019.

In the men’s category, Ngai Kang will be the favourite as national record holder Wong Wan-chun is still training in the mainland after competing in the recent China National Games in Xian.

The Hong Kong Marathon is finally set to return after a series of delays. Photo: Handout

“We inquired with some low-risk countries to see if they would send runners to our event but the reply was not very positive,” said Kwan Kee, chairman of Hong Kong Association of Athletics Affiliates, regarding the absence of invited overseas runners.

“It’s very difficult during the pandemic because of the quarantine control measures in Hong Kong, and when they return to their home countries. Still, our event this year is able to meet the technical requirements of World Athletics as a certified road race with elite status.”

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Hong Kong’s flagship event was first granted a bronze label for the 2012 race by the world governing body before it was promoted to gold label for 2016.

However, Covid-19 travel restrictions and heath control measures mean the system has been suspended.

The Hong Kong marathon has been won by overseas runners since the Standard Chartered era began in 1997 until 2020, when the event was called off two weeks before it was set to take place as the Covid-19 pandemic began to hit the city.

The women’s podium at the 2019 Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon. Photo: Edmond So

The impact of the pandemic has been felt in this year’s reduced prize fund.

The winners of the 2019 marathon each received US$65,000, as part of a total prize fund of US$300,000, with another HK$144,000 going to local runners.

But the 2021 winners will each receive only US$15,000, with a total prize fund of US$73,000.

Under the government’s social distancing measures, the quota for this year’s event has been set at 8,000 runners for the 10km race, 6,500 for the half marathon, and 4,000 for marathon.

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The 10km run will start at the Western Harbour Crossing Toll Plaza (Kowloon side) with Victoria Park remaining as the finish line, but the race will no longer be run along the Island Eastern Corridor. The two marathon event routes remain unchanged, starting in Tsim Sha Tsui and also finishing at Victoria Park.

All runners are required to have received two doses of Covid-19 vaccine, and produce a negative nucleic acid test result within 72 hours of the race day on October 24.

Entrants will be required to collect their runner’s pack in person from October 21-23 at Victoria Park, where they will also be asked to take the nucleic acid test and submit a health declaration form to confirm they have not stayed in places outside Hong Kong in the past 21 days.

“It is not easy to stage such a big event under the pandemic and we hope all these measures can ensure the runners enjoy the event safely,” said Kwan.

Ngai Kang finishes first among Hong Kong runners at the 2018 Hong Kong Marathon. Photo: Chan Kin-wa

The 2021 event was first scheduled for April before it was postponed to October along with the reduction in scale.

The response rate was still strong, with organisers receiving applications of more than double the reduced 18,500 quota.

The organisers are still working on the 2022 race, possibly in February, but the entry quota is still to be decided with the pandemic and its related social distancing measures the prime concern.

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