How do you pick a trail runner? They are the ones who wear sneakers in summer to cover their manky toes… or the ones who simply don’t care and don thongs anyway. In a sport with little reward up for grabs other than the incredible feeling of crossing the finish line, toenail-less feet are a trail running warrior’s badge of honour.
Trail running over long distances, once the domain of a small group of whacky nature-loving self-masochists, is exploding in popularity. And if you’ve ever headed out into the wilderness and felt the freedom of running over trails, jumping rocks, free-falling down scraggy slopes and then sucking for air up steep ascents (who would of though UPHILL would ever be a form of recovery?!) – then you will know why.
Hong Kong has a huge trail running scene which is growing in numbers each year. Due to the heat, humidity and creepy crawlies lurking around during the summer, the trail running scene here kicks off in October and continues until May. There is a race (or at least a hiking race, which trail runners claim as their own) of anywhere between 15km to 40 km on almost every weekend. There are also a handful of 50 kilometre+ distances races during season.
Below is a list of some of the races that I’m getting excited about this season. Get involved!
The season kicks off with the Lantau Twin Peaks Race in early October, a 15km or 21km race on Lantau Island, which scales Lantau Peak and involves a total elevation gain/loss of 10650 feet.
October also offers some longer distances, including the Moontrekker (25km and 40km options) and MSIG50 Hong Kong, the first in a three series 50 kilometer trail around Hong Kong island. The additional new races – in Sai Kung and Lantau – will be held in December and March this year.
The Raleigh Challenge, offers a 30km, 48km, 78km and – for the nutters- a 156km race.
November is the month of the Oxfam Trailwalker – a team of four 100-kilometer hiking/running event along the MacLehose. In the same month, trail runners can also run the Sowers Challenge – a marathon race covering five sections of the Wilson trail.
December kicks of the “Hong Kong Top Ten” – a two-day, 50km- odd mile course over Hong Kong’s ten highest peaks on Lantau and the New Territories.
In the same month the King of the Hill series (KOTH) begins. KOTH is one of Hong Kong’s – and arguably Asia’s – longest running trail running series. Organized by local trail running legend, Keith Noyes, there are four races to the series – in the north, south, east and west of Hong Kong. There are “half marathon” and “marathon” type distances, attracting around 500 of the local and expat community fighting it out to be named “King” and “Queen” of Hong Kong’s hills.
The Green Power Hike in January is a 50 kilometre flat trail around Hong Kong Island. [Oops. It's actually Feb this year... check it out here...http://www.greenpower.org.hk/hike/eng/main.html%5D While it’s advertised to the community at large as a “hike”, Hong Kong’s trail aficionados take it as another opportunity to run the trails.
January is also the month for Hong Kong’s longest solo trail running race: the HK 100. The 100-kilometer course starts on the Sai Kung Peninsula and covers some of the most beautiful scenery in Hong Kong. The course is based around Hong Kong’s famous MacLehose Trail, but with some diversions, and finishes with a descent from Hong Kong’s highest peak (Tai Mo Shan). The course involves a cumulative elevation gain of over 4500 meters (14763 feet). It also offers UTMB point and is a qualifying race for the Western States if completed in under 14 hours.
As the temperatures begin to rise again in February, Action Asia Events, a Hong Kong based adventure operator, organizes the “Action Asia Sprints” – a forerunner to the mud runs that are now rising in popularity. The 10 – 12 kilometre Sprints run through to May and take participants scrambling over Hong Kong rocky river beds, scaling rock faces and narrow ledges, swimming through local reservoirs and beaches, negotiating dense Hong Kong scrub and tumbling down steep hills. Your protection against the elements? A bike helmet. A real sight to be seen, and a cool diversion for trail runners during the season.
Early March 2013 will see the Lantau50 on Lantau Island for the second year. The Lantau50 is a beautiful, 50 kilometre race held in the south of Lantau island, which is run over 90% on trails and involves a cumulative elevation gain of 8530 feet. Although it offers some stunning views for the eyes – it’s full of sustained climbs and fast technical descents, which are tough on the body. But for a race at this length, there is probably no comparison in Hong Kong and it is definitely a must for the racing calendar. It’s also qualifying race for the UTMB and CCC ultra trails, carrying 1 qualifying point.
The AVOHK Round The Island Race is also on in March – a 64km flattish race around Hong Kong Island. Literally, all the way around!
Check out these great little HK bloggies which also give you some more info on how to get trail running in Hong Kong and the run down on the upcoming races.
See you on the trails!