Hong Kong has long been famous for shopping, food and its illuminated skyline, but one of its lesser-known attractions will soon hit the world headlines – the country parks.
The Vibram Hong Kong 100, an ultra marathon held over parts of the MacLehose trail, will be the first stop in the inaugural Ultra-Trail World Tour of ultra trail running, to be held during the course of 2014. The new series will provide a global platform for runners of all abilities to challenge themselves over varied off-road terrain.
Only in its fourth year, the HK100 joins the ranks of the world’s best-known ultra running races, placing Hong Kong firmly on the world map in this rapidly growing endurance sport.
“We’re very excited and, if I’m honest, rather flattered,” said race organiser Steve Brammar. “We hoped the Vibram Hong Kong 100 would help put Hong Kong on the map as a trail-running destination, but never dreamed it would happen so quickly.”
To be held from January 18 to 19 next year, the 100-kilometre race will share the stage with the likes of the famed European Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB), the American Western States 100-mile endurance and the Moroccan Marathon des Sables. HK100 will be one of only two races from Asia, the other being the Ultra Trail Mount Fuji, the sister race of the European UTMB.
Finishing in Chamonix in the French Alps yesterday, the 168-kilometre UTMB drew 3,000 runners.
Brammar and his wife, Janet Ng, both running fanatics, created Hong Kong’s first solo 100-kilometre race four years ago as a way to share their love of the trails. The success – and growing international nature of the event – has been overwhelming.
In the three years since the event was first held, participant numbers have skyrocketed. Just 226 runners joined the first year, 756 in 2012 and almost 1,300 took part in 2013. The 2014 event sold out all 1,600 race bibs in under four hours.
The Ultra-Trail World Tour will visit every continent, with nine venues spaced out throughout the year and more to come. At the end of each event, each “finisher” will be awarded points based on their result and a male and female Ultra-Trail World Tour champion will be crowned each year. There are now four 100km races in Hong Kong, as well as a number of other ultras.
“We’d like to think it is an acknowledgement that Hong Kong has world-class running trails, as well as the hard work of the volunteers and the local community who support the event and give it a unique, friendly, vibrant atmosphere,” said Brammar.
The HK100′s inclusion will benefit the running community by bringing more international talent and greater competition, said Claire Price, the 2013 female winner and course record holder.
“It will hopefully enable Hong Kong runners to make more connections with the trail-running community around the world, which is fantastic,” she said.