Central Park, New York, USA
For Deputy Law Draftsman Gilbert Mo, a hobby that emerged after getting inspired by a movie has now become a way of life. Running, specifically marathon running, has led Mo to some unforgettable experiences. Today, after having ran almost thirty marathons, he is not only keener than ever to maintain his commitment but has inspired his family to run with him too.
Mo first became inspired to run after watching the 1979 sports-drama Running. “The movie, starring Michael Douglas, was about a disgraced marathon runner who tried to pick up the pieces of his life and give Olympic glory one last shot. I was deeply moved by the scene featuring him limping towards the finish line,” shares Mo. “I told myself - marathon running is really something for one to give it everything. I shall do at least one in my life,” he adds. While life had its own plans for Mo and took varying routes, his desire to run a marathon did not dwindle. Finally, after closely witnessing a friend’s metamorphosis into a changed man after his first marathon, Mo participated in the Hong Kong Marathon in 2004. “I finished in very punishing cold and rainy weather. It took me five years to muster the resolve to do it again. After the second, I got addicted to it. Another twenty-seven followed,” he recalls. Speaking about the Hong Kong Marathon, Mo believes the route has room to level up to the likes in other cities. “Hong Kong Marathon is a big event, but not a great event. I hope to run a course that takes runners through the heart of our city instead of highways and tunnels where spectators are denied access. Though I reckon closure of roads is only possible to the extent that the citizens of Hong Kong are willing to sacrifice some convenience for. I would also love to see more races in Hong Kong, as our runner community is expanding steadily,” he shares.
Besides Hong Kong, Mo has ran in Athens, New York, Berlin, Chicago and Tokyo, with each race and each city bringing in a unique experience. “Marathon is very special in that the races vary so much in so many aspects. The course. The weather. The runners. The cheering crowd. The atmosphere. The places to visit before and after the race. The people to run with. The form of myself. Few other sports offer that kind of variety,” he shares. “Football fields are pretty much the same. So are ping pong tables, badminton courts and swimming pools. Golf is comparable, but unlike marathon there is no way an amateur can be in the same event with the top athletes on the planet. I ran Berlin Marathon in 2011 in which a new world record was set. I guess not many golfers in Hong Kong have played with Tiger Woods,” he adds.
A particularly noteworthy experience for Mo was the Athens Classic Marathon in 2010, which marked the 2500th Anniversary of the Battle of Marathon or the world’s first marathon. “The course largely duplicated the route used by Pheidippides, the soldier who delivered the victory message and died of the resulting exhaustion. We finished at the Panathenaic Stadium, the main stadium of the first Modern Olympics held in 1896,” recalls Mo. “It is difficult for me to put that electrifying experience in words. It felt like being connected to the joy and sorrows of the people who lived, fought, and competed in those years. It was a pilgrimage for runners,” he adds. What made the experience even more special was having his son and wife run with him. “I managed to drag first my son, then my wife, into the sport. The Mos finished a total of four full races, running past the finish arch hand-in-hand. I cannot be grateful enough for that experience,” he shares.
Marathon running has benefitted Mo both on a personal and professional level. “Marathon running does my health, both physical and spiritual, a wonderful service. Participating in (and paying for) a race is a commitment that helps me to fight off the temptation to stay indoors to avoid the need to brave blistering heat and freezing rain,” he shares. On the professional front, Mo believes marathon running helps cope with his day-to-day work. “My job is very demanding in terms of brainpower. Running allows me to keep a healthy body and a sharp mind. It is proven science that the organ that benefits the most from exercising is the brain, not the heart or the legs. Endorphins are also the best cure for work-related stress. And it is relatively easy to find the time and place to run and reap its benefits,” he adds. Even for a seasoned runner like himself, maintaining the self-discipline to run can be challenging. “Self-discipline is crucial in marathon running. Very few can finish without serious practicing. There is always a voice in one ear suggesting skipping a session for other tantalizing pleasures and a weaker one in the other calling for the opposite,” he shares. “Running a marathon requires a sound training programme. There are bound to be disruptions and distractions. You have to put in real efforts to stick to the plan and adjust if and when necessary. It is like many other things worthy of pursuit. A runner doesn’t just finish a marathon. He or she earns it,” he adds.
For those looking to get into marathon running, Mo suggests cultivating an enjoyment for running. “Enjoy the run. Enjoy every practice session. Always be grateful for what it takes to run a marathon, particularly one outside Hong Kong. Listen to your body. When the time comes, switch your goal from running faster to something else. The world of marathon is a big one. One can always find something else to run for. I have.,” he shares. Mo also suggests (of course, subject to COVID-19 restrictions) signing up for marathon events that are held in cities that appeal to you and suit your schedule. “I am fortunate enough to be able to afford running in five continents. I have never won any prize in physical form. I run for other things, many of which are to me far more valuable,” he shares.