When a 163-metre-tall hill is the highest point where you live and you’re a mountain-loving trail runner, what do you do? For Lynn Woo, the defending champion of the MSIG Singapore Action Asia 50 and one of Singapore’s top trail runners, it just means making the best of what the island nation offers and seeking more thrills overseas.
Last year in December, Woo flew to Hong Kong to take part in the Asian Skyrunning Championships - MSIG Lantau 50, a tough and technical 54-kilometre trail race round Lantau, an island in southwest Hong Kong. It was a reward for being the top Singaporean woman at the 2016 MSIG Singapore Action Asia 50.
Though she’s received many trophies from trail running, Woo is actually relatively new to the sport. She picked up running only in 2010 and gradually progressed from 10km to marathon distance.
In 2014, she ran her first 100km trail race. When not working her nine-to-five job as a stockbroker, she runs three to four times a week.
Woo will be back to defend her local champion title at the MSIG Singapore Action Asia 50 on July 15, 2017, held in the Dairy Farm region of Singapore. She will again race the 50km, though there will also be 10km and 21km options offered.
We caught up with Woo and asked her 10 quick questions.
Q. How was the experience in Hong Kong last year?
Woo: It was a real eye-opener for me! I was humbled and at the same time in awe of the whole experience. I got to rub shoulders with all of the elite trail runners, spoke with many of them and forged wonderful friendships.
I found the race very tough. The endless climbs tested my ill-conditioned muscles to the max and I was reduced to a slow tortoise pace during many parts of the race. At one point, I even thought I would miss the cut-off time.
Q. How different are Hong Kong’s trails vs Singapore’s trails?
Woo: Hong Kong trails are packed with stairs; long flights of stairs that go from sea level to 1000m or more. The view from Lantau Peak is amazing, but getting up there is breathtaking, literally.
Singapore trails are good for beginners. They are less technical, and easy for a road runner to get some off-road mileage. Although Singapore lacks elevation, the varied terrain helps to cross-train different muscle groups. One can get a pretty good workout on the trails at MacRitchie, Dairy Farm and Chestnut Avenue added together.
Q. How did you prepare for Hong Kong?
Woo: I only decided to join the MSIG Lantau 50 about one month before race day. Once the decision was made, I knew I had to add stair-climbing into my routine. Saturday and Sunday mornings were spent on Bukit Timah chasing verticals.
Q. How differently do you prepare for a trail race held in Singapore?
Woo: Our trails are flat, so speed becomes a defining factor, as well as the hot and humid weather, which I am pretty accustomed to, having lived here all my life. So this would pretty much mean clocking enough time on your feet to sustain the distance in whatever weather, and getting used to the Singapore terrain.
Q. After racing in Hong Kong, what are Singapore trails to you?
Woo: I think being in a geographically different location, each race has its own set of unique challenges. Perhaps it’s less challenging on the climbs in Singapore, but the unpredictable weather and the faster expectations still make it very challenging.
Q. Are Singapore trails in any way tougher than Hong Kong trails?
Woo: Not really - especially in terms of elevation, technicality and accessibility.
Q. How do you get elevation in Singapore?
Woo: We do repeats! Such as the 163 metres up Bukit Timah Hill, and climbing the stairs of the Duxton 50-storey apartments.
Q. How do you train descending skills in Singapore?
Woo: Pretty much the same as climbing - whatever goes up must come down. I believe training descending skills is as important as elevation stamina.
Q. Where do you see trail running growing in Singapore over the next five years? Any expectations?
Woo: The trail running community is growing - not just in Singapore but in the region as well. I have friends who will head to Malaysia for short trips simply to climb some hills. With so many trail races in neighboring countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, we are spoilt for choice. Such options make trail running races and training sessions very fun and enjoyable, and we get to meet lots of like-minded individuals to motivate and encourage each other to keep up with the sport.
Q. Is there any influential mentor or ambassador that you admire or look up to for motivation or inspiration?
Woo: There isn’t any single one person. I am inspired by the running community as a whole. My motivation comes from friends that have a lot more ultra-trail running experience than me, and their confidence and positive vibes propel me to take up bigger challenges along the way. My love for challenges and the thrill of overcoming them keep me coming back for more.