13 November 2019
Quincy Wong Lee-man, an expert in finance and marathon, says StanChart's marathon has failed to live up to international standards. Photos: HKEJ, AFP
Quincy Wong Lee-man, an expert in finance and marathon, says StanChart's marathon has failed to live up to international standards. Photos: HKEJ, AFP

Cross-border marathon, anyone?

An increasing number of business leaders in Hong Kong and the mainland are falling in love with the sport of long-distance running.

That’s not so surprising because aside from being a straightforward affair, marathon offers a nice platform for charitable causes.

Of course, Hong Kong’s leading marathon event is the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon, which the British bank has been sponsoring for the past 17 years.

Despite its popularity, the high-profile event sometimes manages to stir up a bit of controversy among local running enthusiasts.

Over the weekend, Convoy Financial Holdings chairman Quincy Wong Lee-man, a well-known marathon man, fired shots at the annual event, saying it has failed to live up to international standards.

In an interview with TVB News (which, ironically enough, is the media sponsor of the event), Wong complained that participants have to get up very early in the morning to run for a race where 90 percent of the designated course is not accessible to the audience.

Given the circumstances, Wong said some people may boycott the race, and he, too, would not participate in next year’s event. 

The chief complaint, though, is that signing up for the race is as difficult as trying to acquire an iPhone 6 Plus. (Check out the public response for the event’s entry-level 10 kilometer run on Tuesday morning.)

What raised some eyebrows is that Wong, while being so critical of his bigger financial rival’s annual project, is himself the sponsor of Totem Run, a mini-marathon event for the Christian Zeng Sheng College scheduled for next month.

To his credit, though, the wiry executive was one of the three starters of the local version of the Ice Bucket Challenge, a cool event in the city this summer. 

In his company’s financial report, Wong and his chief executive Rosetta Fong Suet-sam were attired in track suits to show that the company is imbued with the marathon spirit.

Which brings us to the idea of cross-border marathon.

This idea sprang up while we were reading an interview article on China Vanke president Yu Liang, who talked about his marathon management philosophy and the company’s motto, which is “running on a marathon without a finish line”.

“In Chinese management, there is nothing more effective than saying ‘follow me’,” Yu said. “I run 10 kilometers every day, and a half marathon (21 kilometers) during holidays.”

The head of the Shenzhen-based company then tells his management team: “Sorry, you have to run with me and also run ahead of me.”

Five years ago, Yu was a middle-aged man weighing 75 kilograms (165 pounds). He did not feel good about himself. And so he decided to train up and lost 12 kilograms to follow the tracks of his chairman Wang Shi to Mount Everest.

Aside from taking the pressure off his many responsibilities, running has also opened up communication channels that enable him to know more about what is happening in the workplace, Yu said.

Now with the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock connect coming next month, would it be too far-fetched to imagine a cross-border marathon is in the making?

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EJ Insight writer