Kickin’ ass on Hong Kong Trail (while getting cooked..)

Kickin’ ass on Hong Kong Trail (while getting cooked..)

Today’s Hong Kong Trail Runners (HKTR) Bastille day celebration attracted 32 partygoers. And the definition of this “party” is slightly different to the one we are accustomed to. This party didn’t quite feature drinks or food; instead, it featured a 25km/50km run under boiling hot weather! And, btw, don’t ask me what Bastille day is. All I know is that it’s some French holiday which invariably means another opportunity to run in the trails of Hong Kong.

A formidable bunch! – photo by Romain Riche

I gave myself a target of 5 hours and 30 minutes to do the 50km run. I started off strong and took full advantage of the rain in the beginning by increasing my pace wherever I could. I reached the halfway point (Park View) in 2 hours and 21 minutes.

Continue reading about the Bastille Day party

Hong Kong Trail on Buddha’s birthday

Here’s a million dollar question.

If you were to leave Hong Kong for good, which of the following would you *NOT* do before you leave?
(a) Eat at many fancy restaurants
(b) Go shopping
(c) Say ‘bye’ to friends
(d) Run over 250km on trails as a “farewell tour”

If you chose (d), well, I’m sorry, you just lost your million dollars! Teammate Steven’s leaving-Hong Kong routine involves exactly that! And, as part of that routine, we decided to run the 45km Hong Kong Trail today, on Buddha’s birthday. What can be a better way to celebrate a public holiday and Buddha’s birthday other than to run 45kms in hot and humid weather?

I missed the minibus to The Peak (start of the HK Trail) this morning and was a whole 30 minutes late. Sunny and Tina had a head start while Steven waited for me. We started the run at about 7.30am. We caught upto Tina during Stage 3 (I didn’t realize it was her and I think I startled her as I ran past her) and to Sunny during Stage 4. I also saw an injured Guido on the way. He seemed to walking instead of running due to a knee issue.

2 hours 20 minutes later, we reached Park View for some much need air-conditioning and refueling. I was a little ahead of Steven on Stage 5. About 30 minutes into the Mount Butler climb, I got a text message from him saying that he felt nauseous and was unwell. So, we decided to head back to Park View and concluded the run there. Besides, Stage 7 of the Hong Kong Trail involves running about 8km on concrete, right beside a boring water catchment. I was glad to have given that a miss! On our way back, we saw Sunny who told us that he’d be quitting too! We later learnt that Tina left after Stage 3 as well. She underestimated the heat.

Overall though, I would recommend Hong Kong Trail highly, especially if you want to prepare for a marathon and don’t want to run a course that is too technical. And, don’t get me wrong, the trail can be very, very beautiful too! There’s a lot of greenery, some majestic views and formidable hills en route! Just watch out for the heat and humidity on a hot summer day!


Distance: 27.84 km
Time: 4:02:37
Avg Pace: 8:43 min/km

Before I finish, today being Buddha’s birthday, I will leave you with one of Buddha’s teachings. He might not have advocated trail running but as you will see from the below, he does know how to deal with abuse!

Buddha was well known for his ability to respond to evil with good. And there was a man that knew about this reputation and he traveled miles and miles to test Buddha.

When he got in Buddha’s presence he verbally abused him, he insulted and offended him.

Buddha was unmoved.

He simply turned to the man and said: ‘May I ask you a question?’
The man agreed and said: ‘Well what?’

Buddha: ‘When someone offers you a gift and you decline to accept it, to whom then does it belong?’
Man: ‘Well then it belongs to the person who offered it.’
Buddha smiled: ‘That is correct.’

Buddha: So if I decline to accept your abuse, does it not then still belong to you?
The man was speechless and left.

HK Trail (most of it) and a bus ride!

So, the plan was to do the whole of the Hong Kong Trail (50Km) on a hot, hot day! It was 33 degrees today and the sun was shinin’ bright.. make that super bright!

We started at 0800 in the morning from the Peak at a fast, fast pace! I was following Romain for the first 45 minutes or so but eventually managed to get to the front. Had no issues until Park View (25km mark). Steven caught up and was at the #2 spot.

It took us about 2 hrs 15 mins to reach Park View. After refueling at Park N Shop, we got going and the time was about 1100. After a couple of hills, there was a super boring 10km around-the-reservoir run. That’s when I got hit by the sun.

I was waiting for Steven just before the climb to Dragon’s Back after this reservoir run and when he showed up, we got climbing. I thought of buying water at a nearby shop but I was too lazy to walk down to the shop. BIG MISTAKE. I should have listened to that inner voice which warned me that this could end up being one of those silly mistakes that would invariably come back to bite me in the ass.

As we were climbing the super exposed Dragon’s Back, my sun situation got worse. To remedy the issue, I began sucking on that water-pipe from my Hydrapack. Zilch. Zero. Nada. There was no water! That’s like riding a motorbike on Gear 2 with no petrol in the tank. I knew it was Game Over for me. I was telling myself that I should have managed this risk better and bought water at that Lan Kee shop. Shoulda woulda coulda. Hindsight is 20/20. Well, anyway, Steven overtook me at this point and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to power my engines again without water!

I tried playing it cool and killed speed on the uphills to try and finish the run. There was only about 6-7km left anyway. But, nope, the combination of no water + a strong sun is like the combination of an open wound plus salt! It hurts double! The signs were telling:

– I couldn’t run anymore. Each time I attempted to gain speed, I got a stomach cramp! No salt in the body or fuel in the tank
– pee was super green. (I am sure nature lovers will like the color but the body sure doesn’t). Sign of low salt in the body
– visual feed from the eyes slowed to about 10 frames per second instead of the usual 40 frames/sec. It was like watching everything in slow motion!
– My reflex actions weren’t as spontaneous anymore
– I felt dead tired all of a sudden. I needed a nap!

I still managed to finish Dragon’s back but HAD to get to some water source. I thought of asking someone on the trail for water but refrained from doing so. After completing Dragon’s back, I saw two signs (a) Shek O road – 2Km (b) somethin’ else [where I was supposed to go to finish the trail] – 2.5km.

It sounded to me like the best way to get to a water source was to head to the road. So, I abandoned the run and started walking to Shek O. This was by far the MOST boring 2Km walk I have done in a long, long time! But even at my slow walking speed, I managed to overtake quite a few people!

I was thirsty as hell by the time I reached Shek O and took the first bus I saw without even checking where it was headed. Forgot to turn Garmin off. I reached Sai Wan Ho eventually! That was apparently where the bus was headed! I jumped into a 7-11, gave the Bonaqua bottle a kiss (7/11 lady thought I was weird) and gulped the water. Then turned Garmin off!

Energy came back. Power in the legs returned. Sleep disappeared. And I could run again! That magic of water. The MOST precious liquid in the world.

For a change, I was relishing the cold MTR ride back to Kowloon.

Nice run! Did about 45km of HK Trail (5km short of finishing) but a good lesson learned in Risk Management. Moral of the story: always pay the premium to mitigate considerable risks. The cost of them materializing is far higher!


Elevation Profile
Speed Profile

HK Trail 1-4 + Sharp Peak Circuit

So, our original plan was to run the whole of Hong Kong Trail with a target time of 5 hours.

Started at 0742 from the Peak and looked like everything was going great. We seemed to be on track.

Weather was HOT but the clear visibility made Hong Kong look even more beautiful that it already is. Unfortunately, I didn’t carry my camera with me to save on weight. Next time, I am going to take it nonetheless.

After stage 4 (Wanchai Gap I think), teammate Steven’s knee injury resurfaced. So, had to stop at Park Avenue. I think we got there at about 1015 or so and did around 22Km until that point.

I didn’t know the way from there to complete HK trail so decided to change venue and continue trail running at my all time favorite Sharp Peak.

Tried a Garmin reset to make the HK trail and Sharp Peak show up as two separate events but as you will see from the map, that didn’t work! It looks as if I flew from HK trail to Sai Kung!

Reached Pak Tam Au at 1210 and started the engines
Reached that little turn to Sharp Peak at 1239 (target was 1240)
Reached Sharp Peak summit at 1310 (target was 1310 – bull’s eye)

Took a break for 9 minutes and left at 1319 (was allowed to stay there until 1320)
Reached Sai Wan at 1419 (against target of 1420)
Took a break (To Fu Fa, 3 * Tau Cheung) for 10 minutes and left at 1430 (allowed to stay until 1430)
Reached Sai Wan Pavilion at 1450 (against target of 1450 – bull’s eye)
Reached Pak Tam Chung at 1520 (against target of 1520 – bull’s eye)

Precision was impressive despite the heat plus the 22Km already done in the morning.

– none really, heat was managed the usual ways (middle eastern hat, water, gels, salt)
– towards the end, the run from Sai Wan Pavilion to Pak Tam Chung was grueling because it was completely exposed – had to do a lot of heat management! Wasn’t easy.

– consumed almost 6L of water (2L during HK Trail, 2L to Sharp Peak, 2L from Sai Wan to Pak Tam Chung (stream water)

- 43.11Km in 5 hours 15 minutes

Garmin Link.

Hong Kong Trail Stages 5-8

There are some parts of Hong Kong Trail I like. The ones with waterfalls (mini ones), streams, greenery and proper, hiking trails (not concrete). However, majority of the trail is on concrete and gives you views of buildings. Those who like to see skyscrapers on a weekend will enjoy the views. But, my preference is for greenery and nature (a sort of getting way feeling..)

I really, really wanted to do Plover Cove after that for the greenery but finishing in Shek O and traveling from there to Wu Kau Tang after that is like traveling from Australia to America. (Not such a great analogy as the world is round but you know what I mean..)

Did about 23Km in good time (don’t have exact records since I forgot to resume Garmin after pausing it on Stage 7)

Garmin link.

Elevation Profile
Speed Profile
GPX file.