HONG KONG - Two Hong Kong expatriates embarked Wednesday on a 102 kilometre (63 mile) ultramarathon course in the shape of a giant umbrella to support pro-democracy protests in the southern Chinese city.
The pair plan to run over 15 hours on a path taking them from the city's mountainous country trails to finish at the main protest site opposite the government's headquarters.
John Ellis and Andrew Dawson, both seasoned ultramarathon runners, said they wanted to show solidarity for those camped out on the streets demanding full democracy for the former British colony.
"We deliberately wanted to make it long because it's symbolic of what we think will probably be a fairly long struggle ahead," Ellis, a 36-year-old Australian who works in investment, told AFP hours before the pair began their run at 4am (2000 GMT Tuesday).
The protests have been dubbed the "Umbrella Movement" following the creative ways demonstrators have used them to shelter from the heat, torrential rain, tear gas and pepper spray and police batons.
Ellis and Dawson wanted to find a route that would look like the protest movement's symbol if superimposed on a map of the city.
Their race began at the Upper Shing Mun reservoir in Hong Kong's New Territories, a hilly rural region close to the mainland and far removed from the concrete jungle which the Asian financial hub is better known for.
Their route will take them on a loop of the outlying New Territories before turning south towards the city's densely packed Kowloon district and then across the harbour to Hong Kong Island.
By 4pm they had hoped to make it to the first protest camp in the Mongkok district before ending their run at the main protest site in Admiralty opposite the government headquarters some three hours later.