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Elite Runners from 23 Countries to Compete in Standard Chartered HK Marathon 2013

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International elite runners from 23 countries and regions will compete at the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon 2013 on Sunday (24 February).

Following its upgrade to Silver Label Road Race status by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) the race is more eagerly anticipated than ever, especially since it has the added prestige of incorporating the 14th Asian Marathon Championships.

The 14th Asian Marathon Championships, a focus of this year's event, have attracted 38 top Asian runners to compete for the titles on offer.

Although defending Men's Champion Qatar runner Mohammed Abduh Bakhet has had to withdraw due to injury, the field still contains 2008 Men's Runner-up Bat-Ochir Ser-Od from Mongolia and Kenzo Kawabata from Japan, and a fierce battle is expected.

Kim Kum Ok from North Korea, Women's Champion of 2006 and 2008, will return to Hong Kong to battle for the title. She will be hard-pushed by Jin Lingling from China and Andreeva Luliia from Kirghizstan, who has a personal best of 2hr 30min.

Hong Kong runners Lai Hok Yan, Wun Yiu Cheong and Lai Ho Ki will represent Hong Kong in the men's category; Fan Sui Ping, Angelina Kong and Chow Chi Ngan will run for Hong Kong in the women's category.

Along with the Asian elite runners, the organizer has also invited overseas runners from countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya, renowned for their distance athletes. Adding to the excitement is the return of the top three men's marathon runners from 2012. Last year, Dereje Abera Ali from Ethiopia, Julius Kiplimo Maisei and James Kariuki Mbugua from Kenya crossed the finish line almost neck and neck, with all three breaking the record set in 1998 by Wolashe Belay. They will once again jostle for the champion's title this year, in what is sure to prove a gripping battle. Morocco athlete in the field is Rachid Kisri has a personal best time of 2:06:48. He poses a genuine title threat to last year's top three, and has the potential to break Ali's record from last year of 2:11:27.

 Speaking of his title defense this year, Ali said, "It will be of course very challenging. Last year I won by barely a second. With more and more top runners now competing in the Hong Kong Marathon, I will have to perform at my very best to repeat my win."

Misiker Demissie from Ethiopia was last year's women's Marathon champion, while Shitaye Gemechu from Ethiopia and Winfred Nyansikera from Kenya were runners-up. All three are back for this year's race. Including Demissie and Gemechu, four female runners in the field have personal best times of under 2 hours 27 minutes, three minutes faster than the current event record. The race is expected to be one of the most enthralling ever.

 "We have been constantly striving to improve the organization of the marathon and the caliber of runners," said Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association Chairman, Mr Kwan Kee. "Our efforts have proved worthwhile, with the race being upgraded to a Silver Label Road Race and also this year incorporating the 14th Asian Marathon Championships, which have attracted 38 elite athletes from 20 Asian countries and regions. I would like to thank the international runners who have supported us ... I wish them and our local distance runners the very best of luck and a great marathon experience."

Hong Kong elite runners are expected to perform with credit in the other events, with women's Half Marathon defending champion Yiu Kit Ching looking forward to repeating her win. The 2012 men's Half Marathon winner Gi Ka Man will be competing in the Marathon this year, giving Hong Kong-based Kiprotich Thomas, the 2011 Half Marathon Champion and 2012 1st runner up, an even better chance of returning to the top step of the podium. Champion of the 2012 men's 10 km race Chan Ka Ho will also be striving to retain his title.

Additional events will include the Leaders Cup, Corporate Challenge, SME Marathon Cup, Disciplined Forces Cup, the 2nd 3km wheelchair race, as well as a Half Marathon wheelchair race being held for the first time.

The Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon has received international Silver Label Road Race recognition, and the total prize money on offer has been raised to US$258,400.

See also: High Res Still Photography from 2013 Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon.

See other recent news regarding: Interviews, Pictures, Videos, Standard Chartered, Triathlon, Marathon, Hong Kong Marathon, Hong Kong

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