Hong Kong Trailwalker 2008 preparations

This weekend I flew to Hong Kong to do some serious running/hiking practice with my Trailwalker team mates. The actual race will be on November 7, so we have about 2 months left to get in shape. In case you are not familiar with the Hong Kong Trailwalker, it is a 100 km race over the MacLehose trail in the mountains in the New Territories. You participate in a team of 4 people that all have to run (or hike) the full 100 km in order to get a race result. Because only a few parts of the race are on flat terrain it is quite a challenge to finish it, especially if you set yourself a goal to finish within 20 hours like we do (the maximum time allowed is 48 hours, but by then I should be back in Shanghai already!).

My team mates are Marcel Ekkel (a Dutch friend living in Hong Kong, former Marine and endurance sports enthousiast) and Dolphin (Her nickname actually, a Hongkong lady very active in outdoor sports, among others the Hash House Harriers :). Until this morning we had a fourth team mate, but for personal reasons he decided not to join. A pity, but because there are many more people who would like to join the race than there are teams that get accepted, we should easily find a replacement.

Today we did a 25 km run/hike over the first two stages of the MacLehose trail. It was my first time on the trail, and I was not disappointed by the route. We took the MTR and then a minibus to get to Sai Kung, and from there a cab to the start of the MacLehose trail. Nature in that part of the New Territories is stunning, I did not realize that Hong Kong is so beautiful. I did some hikes before on Hong Kong Island and on Lantau, but this is much more beautiful. Deserted beaches, steep mountains, some rain forest – a fantastic combination less than 1 hour away from downtown Hong Kong. And hardly anybody on the trails, do people in Hong Kong never go here?I am getting into a decent shape, because I am running almost daily in my gym (I set up a small gym in my house, with among others a professional running machine). And that is a good thing, otherwise I would have had a very hard time today. Not that it was easy now, but at least I managed without too much trouble. It was hot when we left, the sun was burning and there were hardly any clouds. But the temperature dropped below 30 degrees about halfway through the run when it became overcast. We even thought there might be some rain, because we heard thunderstorms in the distance (HK Island had some rain we were told later).

The trail is tough, even though we only did the first two stages today that are easy (stage 1) and fairly difficult (stage 2). But if it would be too easy it would not be a challenge, so I don’t mind. My team mates are in pretty good shape as well, and we all managed to keep up with each other. That’s one of the important things during the Trailwalker, you have to stay with your team – in good times and in bad. Not always easy when you feel you can go faster, but over a 100 km route everybody will have his or her difficult moments, and then the others should be there to support you to get through that stage.

The most difficult parts were the long steep climbs up the mountains, but if you pace yourself it is possible to get to the top in a decent speed without blowing yourself up. Going down is easier at first, but after many kilometers of downhills your muscles start to protest. My new trailrunning shoes also did not help to make it easier: my feet hurt more because of the new shoes than because of the long run!

I look forward to the actual race on November 7, but I am also a bit afraid. Can I really do a full 100 kilometers? I never ran or hiked such a long distance before, and certainly not in a mountainous area. Hopefully it won’t be as hot as today, because that would be a killer as well. At least I have a very good motivation to train hard over the next two months to get in excellent shape. I am going to cut down on alcohol, eat more healthy food, and get more sleep. Together with 5-6 training sessions per week I hope I will be able to finish together with my team. The result will certainly be posted on this blog!

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  1. The biggest problem is the heat, not the distance. I wanted to go jogging this morning, but decided to go to the air conditioned gym… 30 degrees is to much for me! Respect though, and good luck at the actual trial!

    I did some hiking last week by the way, went up mountain/hill Daedunsan; quite a nice sport!

  2. Not sure if the heat is the biggest problem, a 100 km is almost 2.5 times the marathon distance… But it certainly has a huge effect, probably 2-3 degrees difference can be a 2-3 total finish time difference.

  3. Looks very beautiful, and in October the temperature should be better as well. I didn’t know about this race before, but now I would also like to participate some day. Need to run further though, now I only do a few km 🙂
    Only thing that scares me is the distance…yikes…

  4. The distance is doable I can say. A few challenges are added. The total vertical ascent is close to 6000M if I recall it well. So a continous up and downhill.

    Altough the event takes place in November…temperatures can still hit a 34 with say a 90%+ humidity 🙂

    The good thing is that it is a charity event for OXFAM….

  5. Marc Your taking it serious, so with enough water and salt after the 42 it is all in the mind, your teammates are experienced enough so just keep going & happy running!

  6. Hi Marc,

    You’ll love it. I’ve done the trailwalker twice (in around 20 hours but that was almost 15 years earlier when I was much fitter) and it’s one of the most beautiful races I know.

    My (humble piece of) advice:
    – don’t be discouraged by the Gurkas, who run the whole trail and finish in less than half your time; and
    – keep some stamina for Needle hill, that’s where distance started to seem too much (for me)

    Take care and enjoy it, lucky you!

  7. @nociceptif I indeed heard the Gurka stories, although I would love to be able to follow them I am afraid they are far out of my league.

    I’ll keep Needle Hill in mind, it’s after 66 km I just read. Tai Mo Shan (HK highest peak @ 957 meters) after 75 km also seems like a challenge.

  8. I would like to do the event but am not in a team. My name is Corinna. I am passionate about running and recently won the adventure running series HK 2008 for my age ( over 40 ). I would love to have the opportunity to be part of a team. I run every day with long off road at least twice a week. email :

  9. I join trailwalker this year and it is my first time. 100KM is really a challenge. stage 1, 9 and 10 are easy, stage 3, 4 and 7 are the hardest part.

    I run marathon. It should help. My target is 22 hours.

    see you on November 7

  10. Hi Chris
    I have done the trailwalker twice. The first year we did it in just under 24 hours, the second year, just under 18. In neither year did we ever train stages one or two. I think it’s a lot more important to know how you might feel on 9 and 10. I think a key factor in doing a good time is having a good support team who will have your food/ water etc ready for you during rests. Be disciplined about your rests, even if team leader has to be bad cop and get everyone moving. You should be comfortable eating while you walk, not just during the rest stops. Also, i recommend that you DO NOT run during stage one. A brisk walk is fine, and you will help save energy for the grueling 3, 4, 7 and 8 stages. Too many people start out too quickly—it’s hard not to because you are so excited—but as in any race, it’s better to accelerate at the end. I do, however, recommend running short intervals on the flats of the harder stages like 3 and four. One other thing: I highly recommend using walking sticks. This helps save your legs and gives huge stability on the down hill.
    good luck

  11. Looking for a team for Nov 2010
    I’m an active hill runner in Lantua
    I aim to to 10-20km every 2nd day when in HK. A a big one +30km every 2nd week.

    Has anyone got some contacts for me to join a team please.