Janet Rono paid $1,000 for an airline ticket to Hong Kong and won the
race, set a course record, and in the end, won $34,000! Would you do
that? photo by PhotoRun.net.
Butcher, our global runner, is in Hong Kong. That means that he is
wafting poetically about all things marathon. This race had a
fascinating pedigree. Suppose you invite some athletes, but some one
shows up, on their own dime, who not only wins, but breaks the course
record? Well, then you have a marathon that someone (you, kind reader),
might actually want to read about! Write on, Mr. Butcher:
EAST YOUNG WOMAN
it was a gamble or an investment, it paid off handsomely for Janet Rono. The
Kenyan was not one of those invited to run the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon on
Sunday morning; but she decided to spend a thousand dollars on a air ticket,
entered as a member of the public, slept on a colleague’s floor, and then
proceeded to break the course record, if only by one second, but more
importantly carried off the first prize of US$34000. Normally, that is the sort
of stunt that only a hedge fund manager can get away with.
the latter will be vilified for it nowadays, the 22 year old Rono is deserving
only of praise for her initiative. On an unusually cool day, even for February
in Hong Kong, Rono clocked 2.33.42, beating the mark set by Irina Bogacheva of
Kyrgzstan in 2001. Second was the veteran Moroccan Samira Raif, in 2.33.51, and
third was Bifa Yeshinabet Tadesse of Ethiopia, in 2.34.14.
is a little remarked phenomenon on the marathon circuit, but there are so many
good Kenyan runners nowadays that, even with the hundreds of marathons
worldwide, a 2.15 East African man or a 2.35 woman (Rono’s previous best was
2.37.08) finds it hard to get race invites. So more and more of them are
assessing their chances in some of the lesser known races, particularly in the
Far East; and paying their own way. That shouldn’t be a problem for Rono from
colleague Julius Maisei took a similar chance. But though he was catching race
leader Nelson Rotich in the final two kilometres, he had to give best to his
compatriot’s 2.16.00 victory. Nevertheless Maisei also made his trip well
worthwhile, netting $15000 for second, in 2.16.06. In third place was Tesfaye
Girma Bekele of Ethiopia, in 2.16.31.
the weather warms up, Hong Kong can be insufferable; the heat and humidity
combining with the pollution to put a damper on even the most enthusiastic
runner. But though Hong Kong does have a winter, albeit mild, this race has had
its share of overly warm days in the past. This morning would have been perfect,
but for the rain showers which made the road slick in places. Temperature at
06.20 for the marathon start was 12C, and barely rose before 0900, by which
time, both men’s and women’s winners were through the line in Victoria
organizers concede that if they employed pacemakers, they might get a faster
race, and men’s winner Rotich concurred. “Yes, you might get a 2.12, or even a
2.10 (the record is 2.13.09, from 1998), but even big races like Boston have
tried not to have pacemakers. But this course is very hard, it’s the hardest
marathon course I’ve run (out of 14 races), and today was slippery. But it was
also slow, because we were all watching each other. Everyone was playing it
safe, because of the road conditions. The field was still together at 37k (of
42), but I had made a couple of attempts to get away, and I could see no one was
going to follow me, so I had a good idea I could win”.
also won $34000, and said some of it would go to the less fortunate runners in
his training group, “so they can rent houses when they come to train with us,
and buy food”.
to the philosophy which brought Rono here to race, most of Rotich’s marathons
have been in the Far East. For example, he has won marathons in Korea, Malaysia,
The Philippines, India and Thailand. Accordingly the next two events on his
schedule are Kuala Lumpur and Taipei.
overall terms, the event was a huge success. Hong Kong is under-populated by
Chinese standards, but so successful have local health initiatives been since
the SARS scare in the early years of the century, race entry has escalated.
There were over 10,000 in the full marathon today, and another 55,000 in the 10k
Nelson Kirwa ROTICH
KEN 2.16.00 34,000
Tesfaye Girma BEKELE ETH 2.16.31 6,500
Robert Kiplagat KOSEKEI KEN 2.16.53 3,600
MAR 2.16.55 1,800
Julius Kiprono MUTAI
KEN 2.17.04 1,600
Janet Jelegat RONO
Bifa Yeshimabet TADESSE ETH 2.34.14 6,500
Negash Hadush LETAY ETH 2.35.35 3,600
CHI 2.35.49 1,800
KEN 2.38.06 ——–
Special thanks to Pat Butcher, who you can read almost daily, at www.globerunner.org.
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