King of the Hills – Hong Kong (2012)

3rd consecutive weekend, 3rd consecutive race. Today was the last of the King of the Hills (KOTH) races. This one took place on Hong Kong island, Repulse Bay to be precise.

The assembly point reminded me of Mong Kok on a Sunday. Except, you’ll have to replace eager handbag shoppers with eager racers. Also, these racers walk a little faster than the 0.00000000005kmh speed of a Mong Kok shopper. I met fellow Plover Cove contester Hannes at the start who took our battle for Plover Cove to a whole new level. He warned me that he would toss my motorbike into a ditch near Wu Kau Tang if I violated his Plover Cove ownership rights. I could have said the same thing to him but his BMW motorbike weighs a hell of a lot more than my Kawasaki Ninja. I’ll have to hit the gym and develop stronger biceps before I can make a bold threat like that.

Then I saw my arch rival Claus, a 60-year-old man who beat me on this very same KOTH Hong Kong course last year. His words to me at the end of the race last year echoed in my brain as I saw him today: “Tell your mom you got beaten by a 60-year-old”. So, today, my mission was simple: under no circumstance was I going to let Claus finish before me! That mission seemed like a sure success when I learnt at the start of the race that Claus was recovering from Dengue fever. No real man would compete with a recuperating racer, so I decided to modify my mission to “just have fun”. (You might argue, no real man should compete with someone twice his age but let’s just say that Claus’ fitness hasn’t quite caught up with his age).

The costume boys were there. Nick “007” showed up in his usual “Branson, Nick Branson” style and another group came dressed up as pirates. They had daggers that looked pretty real. After I did some pirate talking with them, they told me that the daggers were being carried “to chop up fast runners”. My mind made an immediate note: avoid this bunch at all cost!

The half marathon started slightly after 9am and the full marathon started at 9.20am. I ran as per the 2012 edition of my Rules of Running but found a major flaw in it. The rules state that I am supposed to start slow and easy. However, in this particular race where hundreds of people had started before me, I found that I was stuck in a massive running jam. It was a narrow trail and several hundred people were trying to find some sort of footing to climb this trail. I felt a bit of frustration and half decided to just bare the frustration and go with the flow. But then, suddenly, it hit me. Life often presents these kind of scenarios and most of us simply sulk and blame something else or someone else. BUT, the real doers take some sort of action and turn these frustrating moments into something they really enjoy doing. (Don’t ask me how I came up with that. I got no idea!) So, I decided to take action. I was going to breathe down everyone’s necks. Literally. I turned on my heavy breathing mode and made my voice sound remarkably husky in order to scare the person in front of me. (Ok, maybe the husky thing didn’t work but the heavy breathing sure did). I then aptly yelled “dude, PASSING LEFT” or “lady, PASSING RIGHT!” as the situation warranted. (“Chick, passing right” didn’t quite sound right).

Janet was right behind me and leveraged my new found bravery to her advantage. When I did one of my “dude, passing left” yells, she simply added “me too!” and overtook the guy after me! And, when we occasionally encountered one of those rather stationary runners who looked like John Rambo, I let Janet to do the “passing left” scream out of concern for my own safety. (Hey, they say you should only pick battles you think you can win!)

After climbing Violet Hill and her cousins and doing some flat running for quite a bit, we met THE GENERAL. This General was like a US Navy Seal kind of General. I am, of course, referring to General Rock and the super steep and slippery climb up to the top. It was, well, super steep and slippery! On some parts, it felt like a vertical climb and on others it felt almost like a vertical climb! I took a leaf out of Charles Darwin’s evolution book and brought out the ape inside me (it wasn’t difficult. Maybe I am more ape than human). I told my brain that I had four legs instead of two hands and two legs. Then, I started climbing up General Rock ape-style. I met Romain on the way up, he was still making human movements. Once I reached the top, I went back to human mode (this change was tough) and ran straight down to some place where we had to cross a little stream. I was slowed down at this junction by a Chinese hiking group who were taken aback by my heavy breathing and simply froze instead of moving to one corner of the trail. I had to roar to un-stun them and got moving once they got out of my way. Then there was a long, undulating stretch all the way to the junction where the full marathoners had to climb The Twins and the smarter half marathoners could skip that and proceed to the finish.

I saw super fast runner Pig Chan climbing the Twins, not like a pig, but more like a wild boar. Zoooooooooom. I decided to let him be (remember what I said about picking battles that you think you can win?) By the way, The Twins might sound like that slim, gentle and feminine Cantopop band but that definitely ain’t The Twins I am talking about. These Twins are two sister mountains that require any potential suitor to climb roughly 400 steep steps to flirt with them. (Talk about playing hard-to-get).

Anyway, after flirting with The Twins, I had to run along a concrete pavement for eternity before I took a downhill stretch that took me back to Repulse Bay. Some mini running along the beach took me to the finish where I saw Rowena. My first question to her was “Has Claus finished?” I know, mission changed, but just making sure nonetheless. Having learnt that he hadn’t, I high-fived her (talk about having a little fun at the expense of someone twice my age who is recovering from Dengue fever).

The score? 3 hours 46 minutes and 19th position overall. Now to go and repaint my motorbike just in case Hannes delivers on his threat…