Down Under runners rank highly in HK100

Trail Run Mag Asia Editor, Rachel Jacqueline, reports in from the recent Vibram Hong Kong 100, where the Aussie and Kiwi contingent ranked well, and the Nepali runners showed they are a force to be reckoned with on the tail.

The Ultra Trail World Tour kicked off last week in Hong Kong with the Vibram HK 100 2014.  The Nepalese well and truly stamped their dominance among Hong Kong’s hills for a 1-2 finish from Tirtha Bahadur Tamang and Bed Bahadur Sunuwar.

In third was none other than the boy from Down Under, Vlad Ixel (below left), at home amongst the hilly terrain despite living in dead-flat Perth. Storming down the hill behind him and only seconds apart was Vajin Armstrong and Scotty Hawker, rounding out the top five – and making it a proud day for Aussies and Kiwis!

Photo 4_Vlad IxelAlthough a smoking course-record breaking day was expected, a combo of burn out, unseasonably hot weather and perhaps a little too much pollution combined to see a lot of carnage over of the course of the day. By half way, Claire Price, Lizzy Hawker and other Hong Kong elite, Olya Korzh, had all pulled out.

Interestingly, the three top Hong Kong male runners – Stone Tsang, Jeremy Ritcey and William Davies – were all a good twenty minutes off from last year’s time. Maybe a sign Hongkongers are having a little too much of a good thing with all the races that have popped up in the last year?

I (Rachel – Asia Ed.) caught up with The North Face’s Jez Brag  (10th) who gave a nice little summary of how the day played out from the front (while I was busy running somewhere a little further back!!!). Thanks Jez!

Photo 3_Bed Bahadur SunuwarIt was a fast start at the front, and the pace along the road to the dam at support point 1 was pretty smokey! Not too surprising given the depth of field, but it suggested there would be some casualties, which of course there were. I did my usual thing of running steadily and consistently throughout. I was with the leaders for the first couple of sections, but then continued a little more conservatively thereafter, to save some juice for the latter climbs. My climbing speed wasn’t really up to scratch hence I wasn’t quite able to mix it up with the lead guys, but that’s not something I’ve really focused on in training since UTMB, but I will start to more as the season gets going. I decided to approach this race in a fairly relaxed manner; it was a relatively short trip over, and running a course blind is never too easy.

The journey around the course was however amazing. Photo 1_StartI shared some spells with various guys, but a lot of it I spent on my own, with plenty of time to absorb the amazing views of the beaches, forests and city skyline. Oh, and lots of monkeys ready to swipe your gels given half the chance. I’m not sure there’s anywhere else in the world where you can experience such contrasts, so close to major world city. Watching the sun set over the city from the top of Tai Mo Shan 95 km in to the race (high point of the course at 957m) was a real highlight.

Photo 2_Champion, 1st Runner Up and 2nd Runner UpThe Hong Kong trails are also pretty unique under foot. I had heard what the course was like beforehand, but I think until you’ve actually seen all the steps and hard surfaces, it’s hard to imagine. It’s not necessarily a negative, it’s just how it is locally, but quite hard attack without practice. The main difficulty with the course is the fact the climbing is mostly back loaded – in the 2nd half – which is always going to be tough after a fast, flat, first half. I’m not going to lie, I had to dig deep for my performance, like many did I’m sure. It’s a tough race, no doubt, which the results only confirm.

I felt it was a really positive opening to the UTWT calendar. It needs time to develop and find it’s feet as a series, but in terms of promoting and developing world class trail courses around the globe, it was very fitting to open the show in Hong Kong. It was a competitive race with a classy international field, and certainly bodes well for the year ahead.

WomensAs far as race experiences go, the HK100 offers a lot more than you may first think. In the space of four days I met an amazing array of runners from all over the world, experienced incredible views of Hong Kong from all different angles and ran some epic sections of trail through seemingly remote, rural areas. Definitely a trip to remember.

Are you going to add the Vibram HK 100 to your race calender next year?

Read more about the race:

Click here for full results

Rachel’s preview & post race report here

Scotty Hawkers’ blog.

Top 10 Men

1.     Tirtha Bahadur Tamang (Nepal) 10:02:04

2.     Bed Bahadur Sunuwar (Nepal) 10:06:37

3.     Vlad Ixel (Australia) 10:11:53

4.     Vajin Armstrong (New Zealand) 10:18:29

5.     Scott Hawker (New Zealand) 10:18:56

6.     Ram Bhandari (Nepal) 10:19:35

7.     Shunsuke Okunomiya (Japan) 10:28:45

8.     Dave Mackey (USA) 10:36:46

9.     Tsang Siu Keung (Hong Kong) 10:40:08

10.Jez Bragg (Great Britain) 10:58:39

Top 10 Women

1.     Francesca Canepa (Italy) 12:59:19

2.     Chow Pui Yan (Hong Kong) 13:32:48

3.     Lo Ching Ling (Hong Kong) 13:55:34

4.     Nerea Martinez (Spain) 14:30:16

5.     Mathilde Heaton (France) 14:43:21

6.     Rachel Jacqueline (Australia) 14:44:19

7.     Leung Wan Yee (Hong Kong) 14:53:58

8.     Nora Senn (Switzerland) 15:06:39

9.     Chan Man Ha (Hong Kong) 15:23:51

10.Charlotte Luck (Great Britain) 15:26:06

The calling: editoral

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Ultra legend Pat Farmer prowls the Big Red Run campfire telling tales to fire adventure runners’ hearts.

The man prowls around the desert fire, beating his chest.

“It’s in here,” he thumps fist to heart hard enough that you can hear the thud from the back row.

“You gotta have it in here (thump). You gotta want it like nothing else (thump). No excuses (thud). If it’s in here (thud), nothing can stop you (glare).”

The man, shorter in stature but larger in life than you could imagine, pauses for practiced dramatic effect, circling his stare around the gathering. He has each and every one of us captured in his story net and he knows it. The glint in his eye is magnified by the light of the soaring cratefire flame.  He has held us enthralled by tales of a running life that no one could make up. But rather than intimidate with boasts of superhuman feats, he has used his life spent putting one foot in front of the other a million times over – and then some – as the fuel to make us all feel invincible.

His injection of inspiration is timely because tomorrow is marathon number three in three days. And out there, beyond the halo of fire light, awaits the Simpson Desert and a running course that will beat, scratch, bake and curtail that invincibility to within an inch of its being, to within one more desert thorn sting of quitting the Big Red Run, an inaugural 250km adventure run odyssey through the Australian Outback.

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Tongan-Australian, Mark Moala on his way to his first multiday multiple marathon adventure and into the great Book of Inspiration for all first-timers to follow at the Big Red Run.

The choice of Pat Farmer, the campfire pacer, as event ambassador was smart. Sure, he’d bring some promotional attention, some credibility – he is one of the world’s most accomplished ultra adventure runners after all, his pinnacle feat after decades crammed with them, being to run from the North to the South Pole.

But his credentials for this event run closer to the fencewire than that. Pat holds the record for being the fastest man to run across the Simpson Desert, a record he captured twice. Beating his own record for number two. That’s Pat all over. A hard man. Who better to come and chaperone nearly sixty runners to run through the territory of which he is running king?

But it is less so the feats of endurance that impress so deeply. Not once you’ve met the man. It’s his presence as a person brimming with raw passion and hard earned experience, both of which he’s willing to share.

But this is no hagiography. Rather it’s paying respect to one of our trail elders and the importance of listening. Yet Pat’s story begins with one older than himself.

A young mechanic standing in a workshop in western Sydney, he watched as an old man ran past the tin shed door. Pat couldn’t believe a grandfather (although technically at that point this guy was no grandfather) was out there running. He looked at the spanner in his hand and then listened to the clomp of a potato farmer’s boots fading into the distance down the road.

TRM Australian editor, Chris Ord, chats to Mark Moala on the morning of the final day of the Big Red Run.

TRM Australian editor, Chris Ord, chats to Mark Moala on the morning of the final day of the Big Red Run.

It was Cliff Young.

For Pat, it was a calling and he heeded it.

Eventually he would run much further than Cliffy could or would have dreamed about.

The point: Pat looked to his elders, listened to the message of moment, and ran with it. Literally.

The day following Pat’s fireside speech in the Simpson desert, every runner trotting the sand took Pat’s message (and so Cliffy’s by osmosis), and ran with it.

One competitor, a 100kg-plus Tongan-Australian called Mark Moala, heeded the message to knock over more personal firsts than anyone would think possible in one week: first half marathon, first marathon, first back to back marathon, first triple marathon in three days, first double marathon in one day, first multiday, first desert run. Not bad for a bloke whose only running of any note prior had been a dash on a rugby field chasing a patch of leather. He had all the excuses in the world to call on if he wanted to stop: not a runner, not enough training, overweight, bad knees… yet he leaned on none.

On the final day, as Mark reached the finish line that many thought he’d never step across, Pat approached, hugged him and paid tribute: “You’re my hero mate.”

A man who ran from Sydney to Melbourne runs past a mechanic’s workshop. A man in that workshop runs from the North Pole to the South. A man listens to that story and runs six marathons across a desert.

One day, Mark Moala will run past another someone … and I wonder: where will the inspiration take them?

Your inspired editor, Chris Ord

This is the editorial from the latest edition of Trail Run Mag, your fave magazine dedicated to trail running in Australia, New Zealand and Asia, now available online via:

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