Back when 29-year-old Byran Hoo was first starting out in exploring the world of trail running in 2011, he had no real idea on how to train properly.
“I came from a dragon boating background, and got interesting in trail running after a group of friends took me through the MacRitchie Reservoir trails on a casual run,” says Bryan. “It was part of my plan to diversify into other sports.”
He also started training for and racing in local marathons, but the urban nature of city racing did not excite him as much as running along trails and in the wild. After entering his first trail race, Bryan knew that he was hooked.
However, he readily admits that he did not really know how to train and pace himself properly despite running with friends on weekends.
“I did a lot of junk miles,” he recalls. “There was a lot of simply going out there and running as long as I could without a plan or an idea of what I was out to achieve. Ultimately, it wasted a lot of time and slowed down my rate of improvement.”
Enter Chris Yeo. The 47-year-old veteran of the ultra-trail running scene, who is most well-known as the only Singaporean to ever complete the 990km-long Monarch’s Way Ultra in Britain in 2018, had gotten to know the young Bryan back in 2011 and became his unofficial mentor of sorts.
Bryan took in a lot of training advice from Chris over time, and also learnt how to put together a properly dependable equipment pack for ultra-trail racing. After nearly 10 years of firm friendship, the two are still running with a group of other friends in the trails up to twice a week.
“I don’t really see myself a real mentor,” explains Chris. “I simply share my experiences and what I learnt from my mistakes over my years of racing with Bryan and other friends, so that they don’t suffer unnecessarily or waste effort on an expensive overseas race. When I first started in ultra-distance racing, there was a lot of personal ego involved, and it was often about ‘if that guy can do it, I can do it faster.’ It’s changed over the years, and now I have to balance my precious family time with two young children with my love for trail running.”
“I really got into trail running because I realised that there was so much to see,” adds Bryan. “The long moments of solitude and epic scenery really teaches you humility along the way, and that we are small, tiny creatures on this big planet. Along the way I learnt that planning and training are really important for me to finish well.”
Bryan and Chris reveal that despite being seen primarily as trail runners, they do the bulk of their training on tarmac because of the limited local trails. Bryan says, “I work regular office hours so I plan my distance training to take place on running tracks during the week, along with a good amount of body weight exercises for all-round conditioning.”
Chris adds, “It depends on the target race that I am training for too. If the terrain is smoothly undulating, I train with a lot of mileage on regular paths, but if there is a lot of climbing and descending on the race route, stair climbing becomes an integral part of the preparation. Besides the obvious residential block stairs, I would like to point out that Bukit Timah Hill itself has plenty of stairs along the walkways that you can do laps on.”
Bryan recently completed the Tor des Géants in Italy, and he was the only Singaporean to complete the 2019 of the race.
“It was months of planning, and I wore two pairs of HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat 4 shoes over the course of six days running and hiking through various terrain,” he elaborates. “The Tor is a really tough race and I knew it would be hard work as all runners have 150 hours to complete the 330km distance. However, the route winds around the Aosta Valley in Italy, and the scenery every night and day is breath-taking beyond words.”