KK Chan gutsing it out on the second day. Photo credit: Kimmy Yu.
Hong Kong's first IAU-sanctioned 24-hour race kicked off at 11am on Friday 30 January at Pak Shek Kok Promenade. Congrats to China's Zhao Ziyu for a winning distance of 243.1km but also my friends Alger Cheng Sai Kit (203.5km), Wong Ho Chung (202.4km), Wong Kam Cheong (201.3km) and Gigi Tsang Suk Fan (189.2km), all from Hong Kong, for their incredible results.
Of course, the normal rules of regular eating and drinking, and nothing new on race day, still apply. However, for those special runners thinking of competing next year, what lessons did we learn?
1. You need to be committed. These lap races will test your resolve like nothing else. There is no goal or finish line, and you will have friendly faces, a warm blanket and somewhere to rest all too often. If you are physically or mentally tired, or not prepared for a world of seemingly pointless pain, don't enter.
2. This is not trail running, with its smorgasbord of climbing, stairs, contours, rock hopping and general change-ups. This is pure straight even-paced running - it doesn't change and it is the same muscles used the same way for the entire 24 hours. You need to specifically train for this.
3. Like any ultra, looking after your feet is critical, especially when the whole race is run on brick pavers. Multiply 2.5-2.8 maximum G-force by 200,000 foot strikes and it's not surprising to see repetitive stress injuries like the suspected leg stress fracture for early race leader, Johan van der Merwe. Consider upgrading to HOKAs or the like. Make sure they are large enough to accommodate the inevitable foot swelling, and well worn in by race day.
4. Also on feet, double sock or lubricate your feet, or both, to avoid blisters - these can singlehandedly destroy your race. The same goes for chafing, on your groin, armpits and nipples. I use Pjur Back Door and Gurney Goo and don't worry about blisters anymore.
5. Pacing is critical. This weekend's winner was fourth at halfway. "Walk before you need to walk" was the advice from Australian 24 hour legend, Deb Nicholl. One idea is 55 minutes running, then 5 minutes walking, but right from the start. Matt Moroz had great success with this strategy when he qualified for the British team with 234.9km.
6. Deal with issues straight away. Don't worry about lost time - you will lose much more if you don't fix the problem now. This applies especially to foot hotspots but also tight muscles. A few minutes to stretch out quads, calves, ITBs etc will help prevent cramping later.
7. Bring anything and everything that you could possibly need. ITB rollers, thick fleeces, you name it. The weekend's unexpected overnight showers left a few runners shivering unnecessarily, even wearing space blankets. You'll have a designated area for your gear, access to it every loop, and you don't need to carry it. Be prepared.
8. Recognise that the race will ebb and flow, and low points will be followed by better ones. Don't be afraid to walk until you feel stronger. Take a rest if absolutely necessary, but Beware the Chair, and put a limit on your break times. After pushing up to 10th with six hours to go (5:15am), a little "break" turned into a sleep and my race was over, when another lap of walking and a secret stash of favourite tunes could have done the trick.
Good luck to those doing next year's edition and come check out our store at www.gonerunning.hk for all your 24-hour running needs!
Photo credits (top to bottom): Isaac Yeung, 二次, Raimondo Wong and Fuse Choy. All photos used with permission and copyright belongs to the respective photographers.
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