Photo credit: Nora Tam
Amid the blood, sweat, tears and other bodily fluids best left unmentioned, it was Ethiopia's Gullume Tollesa and Kenya's Kenneth Mburu Mungara who emerged top of their respective piles to win the Women's and Men's categories in yesterday's Hong Kong Marathon.
As the defending champion, Tollesa did more than protect her gong this year, going as far as to best her 2017 performance by an astounding four minutes- all despite having to contend with windy conditions and resisting the urge to hurl until after crossing the finish line.
"“I was very prepared for this marathon but the weather conditions made it difficult,” said Tollesa, whose time of 2:29:26 proved unbeatable on the day.
"The wind was challenging to run in, there were a few ups and downs. In general, it was OK. I’m very happy to have won last year and again this year.”
While the Ethiopian was rewarded a sizeable US$65,000 (HK$508,000) for her endeavour, running in itself remains the ultimate pursuit.
"What motivates me is the future,” she said. “I train more and more for the future, and [my aim is to] run more today than I have in any previous encounter."
Photo credit: Nora Tam
Mungara's triumph, on the other hand, was just as if not more notable, not least due to his seniority compared to the rest of the competition.
The fine wine analogy couldn't be overstated, with the 44-year-old's time of 2:13:38 denying an Ethiopian double in some style by beating 23-year-old Bonsa Dida Direba by five seconds to claim the men's crown and breaking into a celebratory jig.
Once a barber by trade, the Kenyan was delighted with his victory despite an incredibly close shave by endurance running standards.
“Very happy, because we are challenging each other there when we are coming. so you have to keep quiet and challenge this guy,” he said.
In addition, Mungara recognised the competitiveness on show on Sunday and as such the role of constant hard work in his success.
"That is a challenge, man,” he said. “That is a big challenge. Because these guys want to keep you, to take you back home and you want to stay there so you have to challenge them, you have to stay there, you have to train every day, and work hard to maintain that position number one.”
The Kenyan takes home US$65,000 for his efforts- not bad for a late-bloomer who embarked on his long-distance running career at the age of 33.
Photo credit: Chan Kin-wa
Meanwhile, it was Hong Kong's Ngai Kang who scored a victory for youthful exuberance by finishing as the fastest local runner.
Proving himself something of an early-bloomer by contrast, Ngai only needed a year of full training to complete the course in 2:31:30 but remained humble despite his landmark achievement.
“I am still new to marathon running and there is plenty of room for improvement,” he said. “The victory, and the result will also boost my confidence as I prepare for the Asian Games this summer and qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Games.”
“This is only my third marathon and I am so grateful I can continue with such a convincing result,” said the 24 year-old. “Last year, no one took notice of me until I burst to the final, but it was a lot more difficult this time.
“The pressure was piling up as I kept thinking throughout the race if I could maintain the same result. Fortunately it happened, but only after a long and tough battle with my two colleagues.”
Natasha Wong Tsz-yan, who topped the standings with a time of 2:55.18, emerged as the quickest local women's runner on the day.