There are many good reasons to visit Hong Kong, the biggest draws arguably being scrumptious food and tax-free shopping just a three-hour flight away. For a growing group of Singaporeans, however, there is an even bigger attraction: amazing hiking and running trails.
Look beyond the bustling streets and soaring skyscrapers and you’ll discover that three-quarters of Hong Kong’s landmass is actually countryside. In recent years, the trail running scene in the territory has really exploded, with races taking place almost every weekend, particularly during the September to May racing season. There are events for runners of all abilities, from short 5km sprints to testing 100-milers.
There’s even a race with a special tie to Singapore. The MSIG Summits @ Mui Wo on November 3, organised by GreenRace, offers complimentary entry to loyal Singapore GreenRace followers. “Connecting people (who happen to run) across all boundaries can be a very special thing to be part of, and this is the path we are focused on,” says Martin Cai, founder and race director of GreenRace.
“Our third event in Singapore, the STGR UGlow Marathon @ Coney Island held on June 15, was very special because it connected Singapore to Hong Kong — and Hong Kong to Singapore. Participants of our Singapore race have the opportunity to access our MSIG Summits and get on the leaderboard for completing these two events.”
The MSIG Summits will be held for the second year on Lantau, a large island in southwestern Hong Kong that’s home to some of the most pristine and technical trails in the territory. Three distances will be offered — 17km, 27km and 50km — and participants can go solo, or in teams of two or four.
“Lantau scenery is breathtaking. You can see the city from afar, across the horizon,” says Joseph Seetoh, a Singaporean trail running enthusiast who recently had a Lantau training weekend with friends.
Tempted to do your first trail race in Hong Kong? We got five seasoned Singapore trail runners who regularly visit the territory’s trails to share their insider knowledge and tips with us. Here are eight essentials you should know.
1. You’re in for an amazing experience
With numerous peaks and mountains connected via a vast network of hundreds of kilometres of trails, you’ll easily lose yourself and find peace in Hong Kong’s nature. “Hong Kong never fails to take my breath away — literally — with her hills,” says Chew Hanyu, one of Singapore’s top female trail runners, “and almost always gives me the greatest satisfaction of being completely absorbed.”
But, fear not, you won’t actually get lost in a race. “The race organisers in Hong Kong all know what they’re doing,” says Alvin Png, a prolific Singaporean trail runner. “I haven’t had any bad experience so far. The atmosphere is usually pretty amazing — we get cheers and hi-fives along the way from fellow trail users.
“I would highly recommend the GreenRace series of races, especially the MSIG Ultra @ Tai Po, because of the personal touch of the race organisers. I have a huge soft spot for grassroots community-based races — to me, the community is the spirit of trail and ultra running.”
2. The trails are very accessible
The fantastic thing about Hong Kong’s trails is they are incredibly accessible with most trails easily reached via public buses, trains and sometimes, even ferries or boats. Even from the centre of Hong Kong nightlife in Lan Kwai Fong, a five to 10 minute cab ride will get you to the Hong Kong trail, a very runnable 50km route from the Peak to Big Wave Bay beach.
“Hong Kong offers something like no other country — its proximity to the trails is just so convenient and totally awesome,” says Alex Ang, who was second in the 119km solo category at the MSIG Ultra in March.
With Google Maps, you can usually navigate the trails quite successfully. Download the government’s Enjoy Hiking app as well for some popular hiking routes and accessibility tips.
3. Train specifically for the terrain
Compared to pancake flat Singapore, the terrain in Hong Kong can be challenging. Lynn Woo, a top Singaporean female trail runner, says: “The most glaring difference is the elevation. For example, Tai Mo Shan is 957m high and Lantau Peak is 934m — Hong Kong’s two highest peaks. Typically over a 50km race, you are looking at around 2,000m of total elevation gain. That requires an adequate amount of training for one to really enjoy the journey.”
Seetoh recommends studying the race’s map and elevation chart, and train based on the course, as well as plan your refuelling strategy accordingly. For the MSIG Summits, the 50km will have a total of 2,700m of elevation gain, the 27km — 1,730m, and the 17km — 500m. Course maps and elevation charts can be found here: https://msig.tgr.run/summits/maps/
4. Be well prepared for the conditions
Remember that Hong Kong has seasons and while winter is usually mild, it can get unpredictably cold in the mountains. Conversely in summer, you may find yourself stranded and dehydrated, with no water source in sight. “Respect the mountains and weather by being well prepared with sufficient hydration and warm clothing,” says Ang.
Woo adds: “Take the mandatory items (if any) of a race seriously. They are there for a reason. Check for the number of headlamps you should bring, how much water is compulsory, etc. If in doubt about the weather, bring a variety of clothing and when you reach Hong Kong, you can decide there.”
5. Take advantage of the supportive community
The local Hong Kong trail running community is a tight knit and supportive one, and you’ll never be short of advice or help, as long as you ask. Search “Hong Kong Trail Running” on Facebook — you’ll find two groups, confusing yes, but just join both. These groups are a wealth of support and information on Hong Kong trails.
In Singapore, Seetoh recommends joining a local trail group, such as Fitness Family or Red Dot Running Club. “They have varied experiences amongst the group of like-minded runners, which is valuable to any one picking up trail running for the first time,” he says.
6. Find a kaki or two to make the trip more fun and memorable
Two’s company, three’s a crowd, and four might be party. Finding at least one travelling/trail running partner can make for a more enjoyable trip. Woo says: “As a group of four to five people, staying in an Airbnb makes the whole race experience very enjoyable. We check on each other’s race items, make sure we all wake up on time for the race, share a cab to-and-fro, etc.”
7. Reward yourself with some yummy eats
After all that exercise you definitely deserve some good food. For Chew, dim sum always hits the spot, as does Shake Shack. “Go to the Shake Shack outlet at IFC Mall in Central and you can eat while enjoying the fantastic HK night lights,” she says.
Ang has a long list of recommendations: “For dim sum, try Dim Sum Square or Kings Dim Sum. Fancy roast meat and goose? Head to Kam’s Goose or Yung Kee. Yardbird is also great. Burgers? Beef & Liberty or Shake Shack! Craft Brew & Co, The Globe, The Roundhouse, 65 Peel and Second Draft are some great locations for fantastic craft beers.” (Google these names and you’ll find their locations and hours.)
8. Give these GreenRaces a go
GreenRace’s ultimate goal is to develop trail running events that participants and supporters of all ages and abilities love. With events ranging from entry level to extremely challenging ultras, GreenRace participants include toddlers and top-class runners and everyone in between.
GreenRace events coming up in Hong Kong:
- Nov 9: RUN Charity Race kids/14km/19km
- Dec: Hard as Nayls GreenRace 4km/8km/16km/50km
To learn more about GreenRace, visit http://tgr.run.
To discover other Hong Kong trail running events, please see: http://hkrun.com/en/calendar