At 7:30 am on Sunday morning, I ripped a hole in a black, plastic trash bag and stuck my head through it. Next, I draped a second plastic bag over the top of my head. Enjoying one last moment of dryness, I then ducked out of Hong Kong’s Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station and walked into the steadily falling rain.
Seventy-four thousand runners were due to participate in Hong Kong’s Standard Chartered half and full marathons that morning, but something like 13,000 of them looked out of their windows, pulled the blankets tighter and stayed in bed.
Those of us that showed up were now lumped in a great crowd spanning much of Nathan Road. I wasn’t the only one wearing plastic, disposable rain protection, but most other (wiser) runners wore classier, purpose-made, plastic ponchos with built-in hoods.
Waiting for the starting horn, the rain suddenly fell harder and we thousands collectively shrugged our shoulders and laughed. Rain spattered our glasses, saturated our hair and ran in cold trickles down our arms and legs. We were all in the thick of it together, all about the start running in the pissing down rain for several hours and there was no turning back.
It was difficult to hear the forcefully cheerful announcers over the sound of the rain, but at one moment the starting horn sounded and we were off. Choosing to be wet with rain rather than sweat, I ripped off my plastic rain protection, but I was one of the few. Many others chose to jog the race fully swathed in plastic. As a result, the dominant sound of the the race was not of cheering crowds, but of rustling plastic.
Initially, most of us tried to dodge deep puddles, but it was soon apparent that this was useless waste of energy. Now fully giving-in to our wet circumstances, the sound of squelching shoes slowly eclipsed that of rustling plastic.
Just before the half-way point, the rain lightened and the fog lifted, revealing Kowloon’s high rises below the mist. The crowd’s pace jointly quickened a hair.
However, turning back toward Hong Kong Island we soon spotted dark bands of rolling black clouds that would soon engulf us. A deep, collective groan rose up as the rain once again heavily pelted down.
It was then that the entrance to the Western Tunnel Harbor Crossing beckoned to us. It was a dark, but dry oasis that promised a rain-free kilometer. Upon entering the tunnel we all joyously cheered.
Out the other end of the tunnel and back in the rain, we mechanically ran the final, wet kilometers through the skyscrapers of Central Hong Kong and toward Causeway Bay.
At last approaching the finish line, we were more a great mass of half-drowned rats than a group of triumphant runners, but we knew we had done it and that we would soon be warm and dry.
We few, we soggy few, we band of crazy runners were jubilant!