With only a few days to go until the inaugural Hard As Nayls race on 19 April, we thought we would preview the main contenders for both the Full and Half races.
Women's Full Course favourite, Marie McNaughton, changing shoes at the halfway point on her way to an impressive fourth at this year's HK100 and proving that she is "hard as Nayls". Photo credit: HK100 Ultra Marathon.
From the point of view of the 2014/15 Hong Kong Trail Racing League, the race is somewhat of a “dead rubber” with Silly Playgroup decisively claiming the title at TransLantau. However, that hasn’t stopped a sell-out field of 213 in the 45km / 2,000m D+ Full Course and 243 in the 17km / 900m D+ Half Course turning out to show their support for local legend, Andy Naylor.
The Hard As Nayls course is fairly unique on the trail circuit, with significant road sections that will help the road runners and triathletes, though trail runners will expect to gain time on the thigh-burning climbs up Razor Hill and High Junk Peak, and then also the technical downhills, especially with rain forecast for Sunday. Given this variety, and a star-studded line up, the podium positions for both races will be hotly contested and very difficult to predict – but we are happy to try!
Full Edition - Men
There’s no shortage of talent in the men’s field, but the favourite has to be Nepalese young gun Santosh Tamang. Santosh is hot off the back of two wins and three runner ups in his past five outings, which have included a 12km rock bed scramble, a 100km mega-climbing ultra and everything in between.
Australian triathlete Darren Benson is also one to watch, having come out of his “trail retirement” recently. Don’t let his recent 12th place at the Action Asia MSIG Sai Kung 26km fool you, as it was affected by a few wrong turns. Darren has speed to burn, winning last year’s hilly Gammon China Coast marathon in 2:48, and is no stranger to the trail podiums with a 50km Green Power PB of 3:40!
Despite an up-and-down season, British trail specialist Matt Moroz is always a threat and has already nabbed some silverwear this season, including the Convoy Totem Run 14km win, while Joint Dynamics team mate John Ellis is not quite back at his Moontrekker-winning form but should keep the leaders honest.
Among the local runners, look for King of the Hills Male Open series winner Allen Ng to continue his excellent season, while Mr Consistent Pig Chan never seems to have a bad race and regularly places in the top 10. With the benefit of home ground advantage, Clearwater Bay personal trainer Warren Warner and Sai Kung resident Rob Parks (on the back of a monster 504km ANTS March streak) should also be in the mix.
Full Edition – Women
In the women’s Full Course, Marie McNaughton will renew her battle of the trail titans with Zein Williams. The pair have both had monster seasons, regularly finishing 1-2, though Marie seems to have had the edge, taking out the Queen of the Hills title, Lantau 2 Peaks (21km), plus a hard fought second to Claire Price at the North Face 100. However, Zein goes into Hard As Nayls red hot, after wins at the 21km HYSAN Healthy Hike & Run and the two Bonaqua Action Sprints, and will be looking to make it four in a row.
Russian star Olya Korzh will also fancy her chances, with victories at the GlobalLimits Cambodia multi-day race and the 17km Sai Kung 2 Ridges this season. Representing the Sai Kung locals will be French-born Nadia Koucha, who finished top 10 at this year’s HK100 despite a very strong international field, plus Australian Sherrin Loh, who recently won the Action Asia Nepal 3-day 100km, beating all the men, and also rounded off the McNaughton-Williams podium at Lantau 2 Peaks.
Special mention goes to ANTS regular Janine Canham who looks good for a category win in the W50+.
Half Edition – Men
ANTS speedster Maurice “Mo” Devlin, who boasts a 10km PB of 31 minutes and 1:11 in the half marathon but only recently transitioned to trail running, will be the one to beat in the Men’s Half Course. Despite losing valuable time on the technical descents, Mo nabbed third behind Stone Tsang and Santosh at the 21km HYSAN Healthy Run & Hike, plus fourth on home turf at the MSIG Sai Kung 24km recently, and the distance will suit him.
Pushing him all the way is likely to be World Marathon Challenge winner, David Gething. 17km should be a walk in the park for David, who ran seven marathons on seven continents in seven days in January. He also broke the tape in 2:54 at the Boston Marathon last year, and ran a very respectable 3:02 in North Korea recently.
ANTS will also be ably represented by up-and-comer Calvin Chan and trail veteran Michael Ormiston. Calvin is relatively new to the trails but is running well, with a recent 1:20 at the Daegu International Half Marathon in Seoul, while Michael’s trail CV includes a win at the Action Asia Mongolia 3-day 100km and a podium at the 4Deserts Nepal race, however, the shorter distance might not play to his strengths.
Adventure racing specialist Pierre-Arnaud Le Magnan is the Hong Kong distributor for Raidlight (major sponsor of Hard As Nayls) and, despite being more comfortable on his Chiru mountain bikes, looms as a dark horse in the Half Course.
Half Edition – Women
The Women’s Half Edition looks fairly open, with a clear favourite hard to pick. Among the road runners, physical education teacher Abigail Stead looks in good form after finishing 18th in 1:49 in the recent Gammon China Coast half marathon, while Kellie Irwin boasts back to back category wins in the Standard Chartered Marathon 10km Challenge. Look for Translantau 50 third-place getter Rachel Andrews to finish strongly and also pick up time on the technical sections given her trail experience.
Good luck to everyone running on Sunday - it’s going to be a fabulous day. Win, lose or draw, the important thing is to have fun, do your best and let’s all make Andy proud.
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