I follow a mountain runner on Twitter who lives in Hong Kong. So when I found out I was spending the weekend there, who else to Tweet but “trailrunner852” who duly told me where to run.
He sent me to a website that threw up all the long distance trails in the country. There was the MacLehose Trail at 100km, the 78km Wilson Trail, Lantau Island’s trail at 70km, and Hong Kong Island’s own trail measuring 50km.
I knew I’d only have two mornings free for some mountain running. And I didn’t want to be wasting precious time travelling to and from the trailhead. So I opted to explore Hong Kong trail, right beside city centre. I could get the MTR to Causeway Bay (for 11 Hong Kong Dollars or 1 Euro), then take a taxi for 40 HK Dollars (4 Euros) to Parkview to run stages 5 to 8 on one day, and stages 4 to 1 the following.
I’m always paranoid about getting lost on trails. So I had downloaded a GPS track of the entire Hong Kong trail from EveryTrail just in case. Only problem was that my GPS spent the morning still thinking I was in Cambodia. Fortunately I had also printed out a map (downloadable here) that told me place names on the trail, though totally lacked all contour and other trail information. Inevitably I did get lost. The Hong Kong trail isn’t actually marked with signposts saying “Hong Kong Trail”. Instead signs have a little picture of 2 people walking to show the right trail to follow. It took me a few hours to figure that one out.
Rather than bore you with the details of this 50km run, here are the highlights.
BEST STAGE TO RUN: Definitely Stage 3 through Aberdeen Country Park. Cool woodland trail, quite flat and fast, with a few rocks scattered here and there to keep you on your toes. Trail weaves in and out of steep gullies that must be fun to cross in monsoon season.
BEST STAGE TO CLIMB/DESCEND: How could you not get great ascents and descents on the “Dragon’s Back”, part of Hong Kong Trail’s Stage 8? Steep parts have steps (or speed bumps) built into the terrain. Cool views too over to the observatories and Big Wave Bay. Just avoid this part on the weekends. I ran into hundreds of hikers on long sections of single track causing me to avoid going anywhere near top speeds.
STAGE TO AVOID: Stage 7. Though it looks fun on the map, skirting around Tai Tam Harbour and all the associated views, this stage is a 7.5 kilometre flat run along a concrete storm gully and metal fence. It even ends in a long stair climb that does not amuse.
MOST SURREAL MOMENT: Coming to the end of my 25 kilometre run near the top of Victoria Mountain and arriving at a full scale mall with Starbucks and Madam Tussauds. The Peak website calls it “a shopping paradise”. I’d call it destruction of a mountain side.
BEST VIEW OF CITY: Stage 1, from The Peak and its surrounding park. Seeing that I ran backwards from Stage 4 to Stage 1, I ended up finishing my run at The Peak and getting the quintessential tram back to town (for 28 Hong Kong Dollars). Crazy how they’ve managed to integrate mountain trails so close to a big metropolis.
And once the runs were over, I headed on back to town and rocked up to the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens. There I enjoyed much drinking of jugs of Carlsberg and carousing in fancy dress gear. Great weekend of rugby and running in one of Asia’s most happening cities.
Want to hear more running tales from weird and wonderful places? Check out my book, “Mud, Sweat and Tears” with running stories from Haiti, Congo, Laos, and Rwanda.