China Coast Marathon 2016
Background: After my good sub-4 hour race in Macau the previous month (December 2015), I was ready to use that race-fitness to have a crack at this highly regarded but tough and hilly race. It's a lovely course and I'd run the half-marathon there the year before - this was double that with an extra hill thrown in. What could go wrong?
Logistics: The race takes place one of the farthest corners of Hong Kong - out in the depths of Sai Kung. A delightful setting, but not easy to get to, so they lay on buses from Central and other areas. It was an early start to get on the bus, but once settled and on the way, you could relax a little and start to focus on the race plan. It's a relatively small race, but very well-organized and almost back to basics when compared to the bigger showpiece races including the main Hong Kong Marathon.
The Race: I was pretty fit at the time, so felt good but had no serious race targets. I knew it was going to be tough out there, so a decent run and a strong finish would suffice. The first 1.7km features a serious hill, so right from the off it was hard to keep your splits consistent. It was just a case of getting up the hills in one piece while trying to pick up up the pace on the downhills. I maintained a sub-2 hour pace as I approached the half-way mark, so although on course for a decent finish, I was under no illusions that there would not be trouble ahead. That trouble came soon enough as those running the half-marathon turned round towards the finish, while the full marathon runners continued up a very nasty hill. This set the tone for a very tough second 21km, but I hung in there with a reasonable pace up until 27km when the hills caught up with me. I made it home in one piece though, in a respectable 4'20". No complaints. A low-key finish, but you're in a very nice corner of Hong Kong, so worth hanging around to make the most of the day. Very family orientated too - a nice day out for all. For me though, I worked my way home by bus, several MTRs and more buses.
Post-race thoughts: This race is a true test of your ability with around 1,350m in elevation on my garmin (not sure if accurate). It's well organized for sure, but being more of a local race, the atmosphere was more friendly than at the bigger races. Given its location, there is not much support along the way, but because of its local nature, there is a lot of support from within - runners encouraging other runners. Well worth doing once - might be better to try the half marathon first, but completing the full distance is almost a badge of honour.