Vibram Hong Kong 100 – Recap

The recap went longer as expected, but just a day after this great event the emotions are still high. Maybe the recap can also motivate someone to set a target, go out and achieve it.

Now, back at HK airport, sitting at Starbucks and still some hours until I will fly back to Shanghai, it´s perfect time to write this recap. I’m suffering in pain, and still cannot really realize my achievement. So happy and so proud about my first 100k run.

So let’s start at the beginning. I arrived Thursday afternoon in HK and went with the bus to downtown Kowloon. My low budget hotel was not easy to find. The area is crowded with drug dealers and fake-Rolex vendors. Low budget travelers might know the Chungking mansion. Strange place. But it is safe there and the best deal in town if you just need a bed and pillow.

IMG_3265There was still time enough in the late afternoon, so I went directly to the „racing the planet“ store to pick up my race equipment. Package included a buff, a t-shirt, bib with time- and GPS tracker, bags for transition at CP5 and finish line, a foldable cup and several other give-aways and sponsor flyers. Amazing well equipped outdoor sports store in the 22nd floor somewhere in HK Central. In HK you need to think including the 3rd dimension, the height. Not only sports stores are located in the height, also the race trails, and I still feel it in my legs. IMG_3264IMG_3263On the way back I saw St. John’s cathedral, a typical British church, which looks completely strange in this Chinese city. So inside I took some legal mental doping for the upcoming race. Never have done this before, but all legal possibilities should be used to make a target successful.

As the race gear pickup was already done on Thursday, I could spent the whole Friday for some sightseeing and Geocaching. I’m already so many years in China but never been in HK. It’s a melting pot of cultures and nations. Chinese, but with milk in the tea. 🙂 It’s worth a visit, definitely.
Unfortunately I haven’t tried all this nice street food here. An important rule in running is, not to try any unknown food or gear before a race.

IMG_3305Saturday 5:30AM a shuttle bus waited for the runners at the YMCA Kowloon and brought us to the starting line, about 45 minutes away up in the new territories. Quite chilly (I’m a whiny boy when it comes to cold 🙂 ) we waited until 8AM.IMG_3312 1800 runners started there. This race started 5 years ago with just 185 runners, so it is a very successful story. And the answer why it will become Asia’s best ultra-trail event I got later on every checkpoint. I’m still speechless about all these enthusiastic volunteers.

It became 8AM and off we went. First 800 meters on pavement and then straight away to a narrow trail. Back on roads again we crossed several dams which must be provide power and water for the millions down in HK. We went down to a beach, had to run on fluffy sand and up to hills on 350 meters again. And down to the next beach and the next hill. And again! My thoughts at this point: „Jesus Christ almighty, if this is just the very easy part of the race, what the hell is coming up next and how it will be at the end, when we will climbing up to 1000 meters?“

Time went by and I reached checkpoint after checkpoint. At CP3 all runners was cheered by several visual handicapped runners. All people who joined the ballot entry last year had to pay a 100 HK$ entry fee, and with this money these blind runners from HK could join the Taiwan marathon a few weeks ago. It’s good to see that our race entry fee is going into some social benefits and not into someone’s pocket.

At CP4 (km45) I saw the first „mountain“ just in front. „Kai Kung Shan“ with 399m alt. was the first real hill and several higher ones followed.

I reached CP5 (52km) at 5PM, 10 hours after the race started. I gave up my sub20 target and readjusted into sub24. At CP5 my drop bag waited for me and I prepared for the night. Off with sunglasses and sun cream and on with head lamps, long tights and wind breakers. And for sure I also used my trekking poles from now on, because the fun in the hills just waited for us behind CP5.

IMG_3414Straight away after I left CP5 at 5:45 it went dark. Here, close to the equator the dawn is very short. The long march into the mountains started with the ascent to „Ma On Shan“. The peak is on 580 meters and even if the trail haven’t brought us to the top, it was not a motivating view to see this long line of head lamps walking into the foggy clouds in the sky. The distance between CP5 and CP6 was the longest leg in the race with 13km with many many ups and downs on the trail and also in the brain.

After CP6 an easier leg brought me to Beacon Hill. The trail is following for some km the border between civilization and nature, Kowloon and New Territories. Never saw such a sharp edge between light and dark before. Amazing view.

IMG_3417Beacon Hill, the location from CP7: What should I say, what can I write? How to describe this amazing point? No idea, but I try.

On the climb to Beacon Hill an hour before midnight I reached a point where I listen not only birds, wind, trekking poles and my own breath. „Saturday Night Fever“, not loud but… I mean WTF? The music was louder as closer I came to CP7 at km73.IMG_3418
I came around a corner and I got cheered by dancing and partying teenagers!!! At midnight!!! On 500 meter Beacon Hill in the middle of nowhere!!! Disco music loud as a jackhammer!!! Bonfires to warm up the runners!!! And the same amazing food and drinks as on every other CP, served by all these young teenagers. That was the point where I decided to sign in again for the next HK100 next year. I mean, a 100k races you can run anywhere, many times around the world, but I believe this experience at CP7 is absolutely unique and so extremely motivating. IMG_3420Many many thanks to the „28th Hong Kong West Island School Scouts“. You guys are the best, really! Fact! No discussion!

I really not wanted to leave this home away from home at CP7, but hey, just 27km to the finish line. So another 10km brought me to CP8 at km83. Another hot tea, some brownies, and the hardest leg of the race started. The climb of Needle Hill and Grassy Hill. Evil, very evil. No idea which sadistic person decided to build this stairway to hell straight up to Needle Hill. It is so steep and when you think you reached the top, walked around a corner, you can see from the head lamp line in front that it was just half of the ascent. These long line of head lamps to the summit of Needle Hill looked like the old pictures from the gold rush at Chillkoot trail in northern Canada. IMG_3424But these pictures in mind gave me power again and I moved forward. I mean, how pussy we are now in 21 century with all our functional clothes, head lamps, electrolyte drinks, GPS watches and blah-blah, compare with these tough men who explored Alaska 120 years ago? So I went on my personal gold rush target what was now the sub24 trophy which was just 10km away after I reached CP9.

The final leg: Reaching CP9 means you are ‚just‘ 10km away from the finish line. 10km are normally a nice wake-up-run in the morning but not after 20 hours and 90km rough and tough hill running in the new territories. Another ‚little‘ problem what is between the runner and the final line is the „Tai Mo Shan“, Hong Kong’s highest mountain with the peak on 957 meters. But so close to the finish line not even this ‚enemy‘ was able to stop me. It was extremely windy, chilly, and misty fog let me see the trail just a few meters ahead, but after around 4km the trail changed to an old pavement road what made the run over the hill and the following descent run easier. Just following the white middle line on the road brought me straight away down to the final destination where I crossed the line after 22h:18m:41s. Also there; great atmosphere, a lot of cheering people and many exhausted athletes. I got my bronze award for finishing sub24, gifted with a nice warm hoodie and got released to take the shuttle bus back to civilization.

Some more date from the race:

From 1822 athletes on the starting line, 1320 made it to the finish line within the 30 hour cut-off time. I finished on position 785 in 22h:18m:41s.

The winner Yan Jong Lei from China finished with a new course record in 9h:52m:42s. The female champion Wyan Chow Pui Yan from Hong Kong reached the finish line after 12h:24m:56s. Around 600 volunteers made this event a full success.

More info on the event website:

What I will keep in mind:

  • millions of stairs
  • the extra ordinary organization
  • the nature landscape just on the edge to one of the most crowded cities in the world
  • the well prepared CPs which are overstuffed with all kind of food and drinks such as coffee, tea with milk or sugar, coke, water, Gatorade, seafood noodles, vegetarian noodles, tomato soup, brownies, chips, snickers, peanut butter sandwiches, jam sandwiches, rice balls, bananas, oranges, salt cookies, nuts, and many more. There was on any CP enough food even for the slow athletes.
  • the happy and motivating volunteers even during the dark and cold night
  • the amazing partying teenagers at Beacon Hill. You guys really rock. Next time I will run faster to have more time at your disco camp. 🙂
  • the knowledge that anything is possible. Human body is an amazing construction, and is able to do more than most people can imagine. With some discipline and strong will power all targets are achievable.

Next target: I heard, 100 miles are not that far 🙂 🙂 🙂

Comments 9

    1. I was leaving your checkpoint when One Direction – What makes you beautiful was played in the background.
      You guys made the night felt so much warmer, well done!
      You Rock!

  1. all CPs were doing an amazing job, particular CP7, i have little to add, as i shout loud „Party time ?!“… when i reach there in night at 11’ish o’clock, i sat down on chair with a bowl of warm pasta and a hot chocolate, thence a smiling teenage girl immediately gave me a blanket, that is absolute classy, Porsche, touching warm, felt like better than in a first class cabin, they given out some small gift of colorful handmade rubber bracelet (that’s what i got) and red pocket (don’t know what is inside, assuming some encouraging words for us to carry on till finish line, maybe Kieran can tell ?) when we leave the „party“.
    Maybe organizer can consider to rename CP7 into „Beacon Hill Party“.

    Eric Li

  2. Pingback: Back to the Vibram® Hong Kong 100 | Alex runs global

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