I have been living away from my hometown since 1990. However, I still make a point to stay in touch with my two Alma maters in Hong Kong, namely St Louis School and the University of Hong Kong (HKU). One thing I know – no matter how far I have moved on with life, these two schools were part of my roots. It is just impossible to take it out of me. We were taught – ‘..shall rivet fast, the friendship made, in youth at boyhood’s home…’. I still try to contribute to HKU Dental School if and when I have time, which is a little more ‘transactional’. For St Louis, it is certainly more emotionally entrenched.
Since 2011, thanks to social media, I have been in touch with our younger generation of school runners. After almost a decade, a few have grown beyond St Louis and have proceeded to university, graduating from boys to peers and long term friends. A few still run competitively.
In 2018, I could not run Hong Kong Marathon due to injury. Manson, David and another runner, ‘T-Rex’, ran. They all finished in about 3 hours 30min, a respectable time for those who run semi-casually. David and T-Rex (both in their mid-20s) decided it would be their goal to run a marathon under 3 hours (Sub3) within one year. Sub3 is almost a magic word among marathon runners as only about 1% of runners ever achieve a Sub3. It is so special that in Hong Kong, Sub3 runners are awarded HK$1000 in the Hong Kong Marathon. Annually only about 100+ people achieve that. FYI, in Singapore marathons, seldom would you see more than 10 local runners achieving Sub3 due to the hot and humid weather.
David and T-Rex set off to do their work quietly. We stayed in touch online and chatted occasionally to share ideas. These two guys were a lot more serious than I had thought! After almost 10 months of hard work, David (who was faster to start off) managed to run a Sub3 in Osaka while T-Rex missed it by about 2 minutes. However, one thing I noticed was that T-Rex was improving fast! His 5000m timing was certainly among the faster runners.
David did not run in the 2019 Hong Kong Marathon due to an injury, which can happens to any athlete. T-Rex and I decided that since we were about the same pace, we would work on our goals together on the race day. Our goal was to complete the Hong Kong marathon in 2hours 55min.
On Feb 17, 2019, we both started off well in the first few kilometers on a slightly breezy cool morning before sunrise over the Kowloon side in Hong Kong. We managed to hang out for almost 30km at an affordable/happy pace. I said affordable/happy pace because it is so special and rewarding to run with worthy runner friend(s) at a good pace. Remember we hung out for ‘almost’ 30km? When we passed 28km, T-Rex said to me: “let us back off, save our legs, there is an upcoming uphill slope…” and that was the last thing I heard from him until we reached the finish line.
I slowly lost sight of his back and I saw my blood behind his footsteps, while my old nemesis, leg cramps, visited me from 30km onwards. I resolved to dial back to ‘survival mode’ and jogged to the finish line. Once there, I saw Jeremy wearing a big smile, almost looking like an enormous carnivorous dinosaur reaching out to me. Jeremy was known as T-Rex among his cross-country teammates! I touched the finish line at 2’56 but T-Rex finished in 2’51, which placed him within the top 50 overall among close to 20,000 runners! This is SPECIAL! He improved almost 40mins in one year! That is almost 25%!!
What was his secret? I asked. He was very up front (and consented to let loose his secret here) and told me the truth – there was ‘nothing special’ – he just ate rationally and trained as per normal. Then he forwarded some of his photographic diet logs and running journals to me. I would say, he was eating VERY carefully. However, beyond that, I think I found one more secret.
I know we do not always need a scale to figure out if one is over or underweight. As of 2019, Jeremy is more befitting a name than T-Rex. Wouldn’t you agree?
Jeremy and I will be cruising around at the Gold Coast Marathon, Australia in July 2019. We shall have fun. The best is yet to be…