Saturday’s The North Face Hong Kong promises two action packed races, with the 100K field particularly strong given a souped-up first prize of $15,000 cash and $10,000 in North Face vouchers. Outside of the Ultra Trail World Tour’s HK100, this weekend’s field looks about as strong as any in Hong Kong and even stronger than previous years, which have included international elites Yan Yunqiao, Sebastien Chaigneau and Kazufumi Oose.
(Apologies in advance to any runners we've missed in this preview!)
In the women’s blue ribbon 100K event, two-time winner Marie McNaughton remains the one to beat, but will face some serious competition for the three-peat. She’s had a great 2017 including third at HK100 and fifth at Eiger Ultra Trail, as well as winning Trans-Jeju 100K and the MSIG HK50 in a “training run”.
Alissa St Laurent - lurking as a massive threat is this incredibly talented Canadian ultra-runner. Alissa had a tough 2017 including DNFs at Tarawera, Lake Sonoma 50M and Western States, but showed her quality with a smashing sixth place at UTMB in an incredible 28:13 for top North American. An outright win at the Canadian Death Race in 2015 also shows a top 5 position amongst the men is not out of the question.
Baby Marites Bitbit – better known for her mountain biking heroics (including two-time gold medallist in the South East Asia Games), Baby is also an accomplished trail runner, winning the TNF50 HK in 6:57 in 2014, the second fastest time in race history. More recently, Baby was part of the winning Nutters Return women’s team Trailwalker.
Nicole Lau – always competitive with top 10 finishes at the past two HK100s, as well as wins at Raleigh Challenger and Round the Island.
Xing Ruling – this runner is a legend in the Chinese ultra community with a number of big wins over the years including TNF100 Beijing and top 10 finishes at HK100.
Sayaka Matsumoto – it’s been a big breakout year for Sayaka, with wins at 9 Dragons 50M and The Green Race Immortals as well as runner up in at Lantau 70 and Moontrekker.
Wyan Chow – one of Hong Kong’s best trail runners though has been a bit quieter since her stunning win at HK100 in 2015 in 12:25. She won last year’s TNF100 Singapore and also came third behind Claire Price at TNF100 HK in 2014 in a strong time of 15:51.
In the 50K race, 2016 winner in 7:23, Nicole Leung, looks the favourite with some good form this year (3rd Green Race Immortals, 10th HK100), but expect some decent competition from Ching Ling Lo (third HK100 in 2014), WAA’s Janine Canham (3rd 9 Dragons 50/50), Nia Cooper (3rd KOTH HK in her first race back from pregnancy) and Silke Bender (2nd Yading VK, 1st Bonaqua Sprint Repulse Bay).
For the 100K, Spanish North Face runner, Pau Capell, looks the odds on favourite after a huge 12 months including wins at Ultra Trail Australia and Transgrancanaria and second at Madeira. He finished fourth HK100 earlier this year so knows how to run Hong Kong, and it will really be his race to lose. Behind him, there is a delicious buffet of talent.
Bed Bahadur Sunuwar – based in Nepal but, like Justin, is a regular to Hong Kong. Most recently, he anchored AWOO Team Nepal to back-to-back wins at Trailwalker, and won TNF50 HK back in 2016 in what is still a course record time of 5:30. He’s in great shape and loves the long stuff, with a personal best of 10:06 for second at HK100 in 2014.
Jantaraboon Kiangchaipaiphana – it’s incredible to think that JK’s first 100K was his 10:23 for seventh at HK100 earlier this year. Another North Face runner, JK is super strong at adventure racing and clearly the distance and hills won’t be a problem for him on Saturday either.
Justin Andrews – it will be only his fifth 100K race for this WAA rocket but, despite living in Chengdu, he’s a regular in Hong Kong. Already this year, Justin clocked 10:54 at HK100 and smashed Yan Longfei’s MSIG HK50 course record in 4:41, as well as a top 5 at Ultra Trail Australia. With cooler temps of 19C predicted, Justin is a real shot at the podium and mused, “After faltering in the heat recently in a couple HK races, I’m looking forward to racing strongly amongst a top field on a course and event I’ve heard nothing but good about!”
David Byrne – this Sydney based runner is in Hong Kong for the first time but finished a very creditable fourth at Tarawera earlier this year in 8:19 (within an hour of the record breaking Jim Walmsley) as well as fourth at Ultra Trail Australia in 9:32. Certainly some amazing pedigree, but will he be able to handle Hong Kong’s stairs?
Ho Chung Wong – stepping up to the 100K after a narrow win at the 50K distance last year, but distance will not be a problem as a very experienced ultra distance runner who finished second at TNF100 HK in 2014 in 12:58, which would hasdfve been a winning time the following two years. This North Face runner looks in great shape and ran an amazing top 10 finish at MDS earlier in the year.
Safrey Sumping – very experienced at this race and should pace very well. He finished fourth in 2014, going one better in 2015 to just sneak onto the podium. This mountain guide eats mountains for breakfast and is coming off a first place at the Mt Kinabalu International Climbathon last month. Another top 5 finish looks on the cards.
Patrick Bohard - this French HOKA runner has some big race wins to his name including Tor de Geants and Madeira Island Ultra Trail, so will be one to watch.
Harry Jones – this Chiang Mai-based Runivore runner another relative newbie to 100K but with no shortage of speed, having represented his country at track distances. His first 100K race was 2017, finishing in 10:26 for eighth place at HK100, followed by wins at TransLantau 100, TNF100 Thailand and a second place at the Mozart 100 in Austria. “After a busy year of ultra racing, I’ve been training smarter and feeling strong, healthy and excited for an adventure on the trails amongst a field of great trail runners!”
Siu Keung Tsang (Stone) – Hong Kong’s most successful trail runner and reigning TNF100 HK champion, Stone really needs no introduction. He has twice finished top 20 at UTMB and top 10 at the Ultra Trail World Tour. The past year has seen less time for training, but he has still managed to win The Green Race Ultra 70K as well as 53 hours at Hong Kong 4 Trails Ultra Challenge.
Michael Skobierski – not a prolific racer but tends to win everything he runs. Michael’s wins over the past year have included the King of the Hills series, a very credible 11:19 in his first solo 100K at HK100, Hard As Nayls 42K and a hard fought Lantau 70 in October. He’s in great shape and a real top 5 shout.
Other runners that should push for top 10 finishes in the 100K include Baptiste Puyou (winner Trans-Jeju 100K), Dan Parr, Henri Lekhonen, Clement Dumont, David Jeker from Canada and Taiwan's Tommy Chen.
Another top shelf field awaits here, with a number of North Face and Gone Running-Joint Dynamics runners going head to head in the strongest field since the race started in 2013.
Jeff Campbell - Male Runner of the Year at the Hong Kong Trail Running Awards, Jeff looks in great form, with a recent sub-3 hour win at King of the Hills Hong Kong. The 50K distance is possibly on the long side but his 2017 record of 16 races for 13 wins (and 6 course records) and 3 runners-up is pretty special. “This is a very exciting race for me. I ran TNF50 back in 2015. It was my first attempt at a 50K, and I DNF’d at CP4. I have some unfinished business and it is a rare treat to face the likes of Pierre-Andre Ferriere, Brian McFlynn and Vlad Ixel in the same race.”
Daved Simpat – the Sabah adventure racer looks sharp on the trails, with recent finishes including third place at the Mt Kinabalu International Climbathon as well as inaugural winner of the Malaysia Action Asia 50 ahead of Safrey Sumping. He won the Borneo 100 TMBT in 2015, and finished TNF50 HK runner up in 6:07 in 2014.
Pierre Andre Ferriere – will be hoping to go one better and narrowly pipping Vlad Ixel for second at last year’s TNF50 HK in 5:59. The Gone Running-Joint Dynamics runner has also had a fine 2017, including podiums at the Green Race Ultra and HK NE50.
Vlad Ixel – winner of TNF100 HK in 2015 and third place at TNF50 HK in 2016, Vlad knows the course well and is always dangerous, despite devoting more time to duathlons recently. He’s had a strong 2017 including wins at MSIG Sai Kung 50 and 9 Dragons 50K, as well as runner up at TransLantau 50 and will be excited to take on a strong field.
Brian McFlynn – this Hong Kong based Irishman has had a stellar break out year, surprising everyone to take first place at Moontrekker 43K and under two minutes off the course record. He’s followed that with fifth at MSIG HK50 and a win at the Formosa Trail 65K and looks to be peaking just at the right time.
Piers Touzel – better known for his mountain biking and adventure racing for North Face, Piers has a massive engine, finishing a narrow second at Moontrekker in 2016, as well as third recently at the Hysan Healthy Hike 19K.
Ryan Blair, Isaac Yuen and Will Davies should also be in the mix.
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