Taming The Dragon – The 9 Dragons Ultra 2019 Summary

Running a race in Hong Kong is a unique experience! Failure to do your research will no doubt results in a painful and potentially traumatic experience. Heat, humidity and steps – hundreds if not thousands of steps hurt the legs and mind to an overwhelming experience.

No other place in the world (that I know of) has soaring skyscrapers and city life so close to a myriad of trails that weave in and out of the landscape providing endless possibilities. It is why Hong Kong’s is such a popular destination, and let’s face it, trail, mountain and ultra-running is booming here. Each weekend there and multiple opportunities to race.

I was in HK for The 9 Dragons Ultra organized by Race Base Asia – a trio of Steve Carr, Michael Ormiston and Nic Tinworth. After just two editions, word was out that The 9 Dragons was a brutal race – statistics proved it, the DNF rate as high!

Comprised of two races, a 50-mile race and a 50-km race, 9 Dragons is an action packed weekend of trail running. However, the real challenge was the 50/50. Open to just 250 people, the opportunity to run 50-miles one day and then wake up the next and complete 50-km was of course the ultimate test.

Ultra-runners love a challenge!

The 50-mile race starts as the clock counts down on Friday evening and with the chime of midnight, runners depart for a night and day of running. Of course, the faster you finish, the more rest you get. Cut-off time is 1900 at the Tai Po Tau Playground.

The following morning, the 50-km race starts where the 50-mile race finished at 0730. The finish is at Shing Fung Studios and all runner’s must finish before the cut-off of 2000 hours. 

Both races weave in, out, up and down Hong Kong’s network of trails and in the process runner’s must slay the ‘8 Dragons’ climbing 8620m – 5070m for the 50-mile and 3550m for the 50-km. The respective male and female winners (combined time) become the 9th Dragon!

The 8 Dragons are Kowloon Peak, Tung Shan, Tate’s Cairn, Temple Hill, Unicorn Ridge, Lion Rock, Beacon Hill and Crow’s Nest. The 9th Dragon was a title given to the Emperor himself and herein the story of The 9 Dragon Ultra was created.

View images from the race HERE

The 50-Mile Race

Darkness provides its own challenge and as runner’s departed on the stroke of midnight, it was clear that the challenge ahead had not be missed by every runner – there was no shortage of anxious looks. Temperatures were a little chilly and a strong wind swirled. One unique element of the 9 Dragon’s is the race within a race. The 50-mile would have a 50-mile winner, but at the same time, it would have a 50/50 winner. Pre-race discussion and been all about Hong Kong trail running legend and 2018 9 Dragon, John Ellis. However, just a couple of weekend’s ago he had run at HK100 and then the following weekend he had competed in the ‘King of the Hill’ series. It is here that he picked up a calf injury – would a week of rehab get him fit for the start? Well, the answer was yes! He is a master of pacing and from the off he settled into his own rhythm and he allowed the rabbits to run off into the night. Julien Chorier from France and Kazufumi Ose from Japan dictated the 50/50 pace and Justin Robert Andrews took the reigns in the 50-mile race.

Eventually, Chorier opened a gap and started to pull away from Ose. Ose has experience of the 9 Dragon’s course and he commented after the race that Chorier managed to run when others have walked. Ose managed to yo-yo to Chorier but it was in the final 20-km that the Frenchman opened a 9-minute gap on the Japanese runner. John Ellis despite his injury relentlessly battled the terrain with his usual 100% commitment rounding out the podium. Their times, 10:47:51, 10:56:15 and 11:21:15. Remarkably, the top three 50/50 runners all ran faster than the standalone champion, Justin Robert Andrews who concluded his journey in 11:46:56 ahead of KurtErik Evans in 12:22:42.

For the women, Magdalena Boulet dictated the race from the front and although her lead was slender at times, by the time she reached the finish in 13:45:51 her margin of victory was convincing over race revelation JCY Ho who finished in 14:17:52. Boulet, who is a remarkable ultra-runner, was way out of her comfort zone on the HK trails. She notably said post-race that the trails were the hardest she has ever run and of course, the stairs would haunt her for weeks and months to come. “It has been stair 101 for me,” she said with a laugh. Christine Woon Chze Loh was the 3rd woman.

View images from the race HERE

The 50-KM Race

Morning came all too quickly and as light rain dampened the 0730 start, heat and humidity soon became the order of the day. Unsurprisingly, the 50/50 runners eased into the day allowing the 50-km runners to speed off at a breakneck pace. In particular, Guomin Deng looked set to blaze a trail all the way to the line. He had company early on but from cp1 he opened up a gap and never looked back. At each checkpoint he was ahead of the old course record and at the finish, he smashed it by an amazing 40-minutes ahead of Yuta Sudafed and Blake Turner. Deng’s time a remarkable 6:09:21. 

In the 50/50 race, Julien Chorier looked to be running a smart and sensible race early on and coming from a cycling background, he no doubt used the tactic of marking the 2nd placed runner Kazufumi Ose knowing that his 9-minute margin, if held, would provide him overall 50/50 victory. However, unlike day-one, the heat and humidity was relentless. It soon became apparent that Ose was handling the conditions better and with just over 20-km to go to the finish he had managed to break away and take 3-minutes from Chorier’s lead – could Ose break the Frenchman? Chorier pushed, but the more he pushed, the hotter he became… The intense humidity and countless steps conspired against him and at the finish, Ose managed to claw back the lost 9-minutes from day-one and win by 3-minutes. It was an epic battle and one that will go down in the history of the race. John Ellis despite incredible pain, somehow, managed to hold on for 3rd place in the 50/50 in 19:27:15 combined time. As he ran the final meters, he was doubled in pain and at the finish he collapsed, racked with pain. His result only confirmed his legendary status to the HK trail community. Ose’s combined time was 17:34:28 to Chorier’s 17:38:19.

The women’s race had a similar feel to the men’s with the solo 50-km runners setting of at a relentless pace; a pace they would hold to the finish. Whereas the 50/50 runners would ease into the day and take on the challenge, one stride at a time. Charlotte Taquet was a convincing winner in 7:07:11 ahead of Sandi Menchi and Kim Mathews.

Magdalena Boulet had recovered remarkably from her day-one efforts, no doubt all her multi-day experience coming to the fore. She looked fresh and strong all day and although the local HK trail community hoped that JCY Ho would use her local knowledge to reel Boulet in, the Hoka One One runner was just two strong. Boulet crossed the line first once again in the 50/50 runners and became the 9 Dragon for 2019. Ho finished 2nd in a flood of tears and emotion. It was a huge day and weekend of running for this women who only started running a few year’s back. Christine Woon Chze Loh once agin placed third and secured the final 50/50 podium slot. Combined times for the women were 22:18:04 for Boulet and 24:24:41 and 25:32:23 respectively for 2nd and 3rd.

View images from the race HERE

Race Notes

I see many races and I have to say, The 9 Dragon Ultra race and team excelled from beginning to end. The HK trail running scene is like a huge family. It is more than running, it’s like a huge social experiment that brings people from all walks of life together, for one common goal. The Race Base Asia team headed by Steve, Michael and Nic really know how to put on a race and make it go like clockwork. There are so many things to praise, from the detailed documents that explain how a checkpoint should look, to the incredible burger (veggie option available) and beer that is offered at the finish-line. I only wish that all races could be like this.

Personal Thanks

Many thanks to Steve, Michael and Nic for making my stay slick, enjoyable and fun. We had some great times in our week long adventure. Hannes was my man with a motorbike for the 50-mile and he did a stunning job of getting me around in the dark. Janine and Mo hosted me for the week and well, it was just a pleasure – I cannot wait to return, And finally, thank you to everyone who came and said hello. You made my HK adventure a pleasant one and I am keen to return.

Images are available at www.iancorless.photoshelter.com

The 9 Dragons Ultra 2019 in Images

An epic weekend of racing took place in Hong Kong over two days for the third edition of the 9 Dragons Ultra.

The main event, the 50/50 offers the brave two races, a 50-mile and 50-km event where the combined times provide a female and male 9 Dragon champion.

Many congratulations to Kazufumi Ose and Magdalena Boulet who produced two incredible runs to be crowned the 50/50 9 Dragon champions.

The 50-mile event was won by Julien Chorier and Magdalena Boulet. The 50-km event was won by Guomin Deng in 6:09:21 obliterating the old CR by 40-minutes, Ch Chaa was the female winner.

In the words of Mo Devlin, who placed 6th in the 50-km event:

9 Dragons…this race really is something special.

In our world of ultra running words like epic, legendary and awesome get thrown around like confetti at a wedding but 9D is the real deal. It’s a unique race that deserves every accolade it gets.

This year only added to its reputation and growing status in the Ultra calendar with international Elites like Julian Chorier, Magda Boulet, and Ben Duffus rubbing shoulders at the start line with our own Elites such as John Ellis, Guomin Deng and Kazufumi Ose…what a line up!! We even had the renowned Ultra photographer and host of Talk Ultra Ian J Corless in town for the race.

Congratulations and Thank You to Steven Carr, Michael Ormiston, Josianne Robb and Nic Tinworth. You have created a monster of a race that is unlike anything else in Hong Kong, provides an unforgettable experience for everyone who is involved and should be on everyone’s Bucket List….

Race summary and report to follow

All images available at www.iancorless.photoshelter.com

IMAGES 50-MILE EVENT

IMAGES 50-KM EVENT

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The 9 Dragons Ultra 2019

The 9 Dragons Ultra presented by HOKA ONE ONE is a challenging, multi-day trail and ultra-running event taking place on the 1st to the 3rd of February 2019, in Hong Kong.

The first race, starting at midnight on Saturday, consists of an 89km (50 mile) trail run with a an elevation gain of 5,070m. Sunday features an entirely different 50km course with a further 3,550m of elevation gain.

 250 places will be available to runners who hope to aim to complete both events over the weekend –The 9 Dragons 50/50– and a further 250 will compete in either the 50 Miler(82km) or 50km race.

 Elite runners, Julien Chorier from France, Magdalena Boulet flying in from the USA and Frncesca Canepa from Italy will trade blows with local talent that includes, Ben Duffus, John Ellis, Kazufumi Ose, Chor Kin Law, Jeremy Ritcey, Hisashi Kitamura and Jacky Leung. For the women, Corinne Williams, JCY Ho and Ruth Theresia will provide the competition at the from of the race.

History

A transliteration of the Chinese 九龍, gau lung, or “Nine Dragons”, Kowloon is named for the eight mountains which rear up behind the plateau—and one final dragon besides. 

Legend goes that Kowloon was named in the year 1278 by the boy Emperor Bing, of the Southern Song Dynasty. Noticing the eight hills of Kowloon (Kowloon Peak, Tung Shan, Tate’s Cairn, Temple Hill, Unicorn Ridge, Lion Rock, Beacon Hill, Crow’s Nest), the emperor was pleased to name them the “Eight Dragons”—but a quick-witted courtier pointed out that the emperor was a dragon himself, making it nine dragons.

What was Emperor Bing doing counting mountains at the southern tip of his empire? Well, he had nowhere else to go. For the whole of the 13th century the Mongols had swept down from the steppes, moving south through China and crushing the ruling Song Dynasty. First Genghis and then his grandson Kublai Khan stormed south, pushing the Song back, and back, and back.

By 1278, Emperor Bing’s older brother, 10-year-old Emperor Duanzong of Song, had been pushed out of Fujian province and fled south to Guangdong. After Duanzong died from an illness contracted while running from the Mongols, the throne passed to 7-year-old Emperor Bing. The child was crowned at Silvermine Bay, on Lantau Island.

But Bing’s reign was not to last. The Mongols pressed onwards and just one year after the emperor’s coronation, the Song Dynasty made its final stand against the invaders. At the naval Battle of Yamen on March 19, 1279, a Mongol navy of some 50 warships smashed the Song flotilla of more than 1,000 ships to pieces. There was nowhere left to run. Lu Xiufu, the emperor’s most loyal general and statesman, picked up the 8-year-old king and leaped into the sea, in search of an honorable death. Kublai Khan had unified China under his fist, and the sun dawned on the Yuan Dynasty. 

You can visit the “Terrace of the Song Kings,” in the Sung Wong Toi Garden park in Kowloon City. It’s home to a rock carving which commemorates the two-year reign of the Song kings in Hong Kong.

But the legacy of the last emperor of the Song doesn’t lie in a rock, but in those eight dragons: The boy emperor who named a city.

RACES

The 50-mile event will begin at 11:59pm on Friday 1st of February 2019 at the Po Leung Kuk Jockey Club Holiday Camp near Yuen Long and finish at Tai Po Tau Playground. The cutoff is at 19:00pm on Saturday 2nd February.

The 50 Mile course starts at the Po Leung Kuk Jockey Club Tai Tong Holiday Camp near Yuen Long, and finishes at Tai Po Tau Playground, an 8 minute walk to/from Tai Wo MTR (East Rail line). It crosses Kowloon and the New Territories in Hong Kong from West to East. The route uses a variety of trails including the MacLehose and Wilson trails, and has an accumulative vertical gain of 5,070m.

The 50km event will begin at 07:30am on Sunday 3rd February at Tai Po Tau Playground and finish at Shing Fung Studios. The cutoff will be at 20:00pm on the same day.

The 50km course starts at Tai Po Tau Playground, an 8 minute walk from Tai Wo MTR (East Rail line) in the New Territories and finishes at Shing Fung Studios in Kowloon, running from North to South. The route uses a variety of trail including the Wilson and MacLehose among others, and has an accumulative vertical of 3,550m.

50/50 

250 places will be available to runners who hope to aim to complete both the 50 Miler and 50km events over the weekend – The 9 Dragons 50/50.

50/50 – Men

  • Julien Chorier
  • Ben Duffus
  • John Ellis
  • Kazufumi Ose
  • Chor Kin Law
  • Jeremy Ritcey
  • Hisashi Kitamura
  • Jacky Leung

50/50 – Women

  • Magdalena Boulet
  • Corinne Williams
  • Francesca Canepa
  • JCY Ho
  • Ruth Theresia

Marathon des Sables Peru #MDSPeru on Sidetracked

On my recent trip to the inaugural Marathon des Sables Peru, I decided to shoot a portfolio specifically in B&W. For me, the desert transfers well to tones of light and dark.

I was very happy when Sidetracked agreed to publish a portfolio with some words to introduce this new race to the Marathon des Sables family.

“Way back in time, running was never about fun, it was about survival. Deprived of luxury, deprived of technology, deprived of phones and deprived of connecting to the outside world, participants have one objective at MDS: to journey from one place to the next. Racing like this forces everyone to connect, to sit in groups, help each other, talk about the day, share the journey in words and mutually bond.”

You can view the full article HERE

Marathon des Sables PERU 2017 #MDSPeru – RACE DAY 3

Today’s stage at 32.7km to Ocucaje felt almost like an ‘easy ‘day after two hard days. Maybe because it is the long day tomorrow?

The course actually is one that climbs for most of the day but it is very gradual, so gradual that one hardly notices it. Several short sharp shocks break up the day. After yesterday’s stunning course, today’s route was less dramatic, however, it started with a canyon and a climb and culminated with small dunes. In between it was a mixture of sandy trail and rock. The most noticeable thing was the heat -today was hot!

From a racing point of view, it was almost a repeat of yesterday with Gediminas Grinius leading from the front costly followed by Remigio Huaman. Race leader, Rachid El Morabity, happily sat back and eased himself into the race working through the runners to once again take the front of the race for the win.

It was a closer day today though! El Morabity crossed in 2:56:09, Huaman in 2:58:37 and Grinius continued his revival after a tough day-1 to lace 3rd again in 3:02:38. Talking of revivals, Iain Don Wauchope after struggling for 2-days with illness had a revival today and finished 5th. Notably, Erik Clavery and Julien Chorier finished out of the top-5. With the long day tomorrow, it will be an interesting battle to see who are the top-3 on GC after the 68.4km stage.

For the ladies, Nathalie Mauclair is like a train, she starts at speed and just pushes to the line. She is so incredibly strong. She sounds like she is suffering as she passes, but she smiles, says hello and then pushes on. Once again, she won the day 3:31:18, a time that ranks highly overall!

Melanie Rousset was as consistent as ever. She looked happy in the dunes today and smiled her way to the line crossing in 4:00:23.

Rocio Carrion continues to fly the flag for Peru finishing 3rd once again in 4:30:00 and securing her 3rd lady overall position.

Renee Romero Sayritupac and Aydee Soto Quispe are also representing Peru in style lacing 4th and 5th.

 

  1. Rachid El Morabity 2:56:09
  2. Remigio Huaman 2:58:37
  3. Gediminas Grinius 3:02:58

 

  1. Nathalie Mauclair 3:31:18
  2. Melanie Rousset 4:00:23
  3. Rocio Carrion 4:30:50

 

GC

 

  1. Rachid El Morabity 9:59:28
  2. Remigio Huaman 10:37:30
  3. Julien Chorier 11:24:03

 

  1. Nathalie Mauclair 12:14:50
  2. Melanie Rousset 413:56:34
  3. Rocio Carrion 15:45:35

 

Stage 4 of MDS Peru is the long-day and is set to be quite the spectacle, the runners will get a first glimpse of the Pacific as they approach CP5 at 51.1km covered.

 

 

 

 

Marathon des Sables PERU 2017 #MDSPeru – RACE DAY 2

Gediminas Grinius did not have a good day yesterday, his stomach was angry with him and he had a tough first experience of the Marathon des Sables Peru. Today, however, he was refreshed and with new energy. He dictated the early pace for the 42.2km from Coyungo to Samac. In reality, he pretty much led the race until Remigio Huaman and of course, Rachid El Morabity closed in on him and passed him.

Rachid ran very relaxed in the early stages, he is known for this! He likes to take his time, settle in to the day and then push hard, close the gaps and then lead from the front for victory. It was a text book day for the Moroccan. He seemed to revel in the arena in which he had to play! It was a stunning day and very different to Morocco. Big landscapes, high dunes, canyons, rivers, moon like landscape, there colours of sand and some intense heat and strong winds.

From the gun, Grinius, Huaman and Erik Clavery seemed on a mission after day 1 not going to plan. Huaman and Clavery had lost 2nd and 3rd places due to the heat and dehydration and it obviously had motivated them to come back and try again. Grinius ran ahead and Huaman closely followed. Clavery ran in 3rd and Julien Chorier, who placed 2nd on day 1, ran with El Morabity. Grinius was looking strong out front but Huaman was also looking comfortable trailing the Lithuanian.

There was a distinct point when El Morabity switched gear and he then chased down and past everyone to take another victory by approximately 7-minutes. Huaman hunted Grinius down and then finally passed with Grinius placing 2nd – it was a great day for these two and certainly makes for an interesting competition.

Nathalie Mauclair once again dictated the ladies race from the front. In the early stages, Melanie Rousset was keeping close and following her fellow French lady and it looked as though we may have a battle on our hands. However, Mauclair snapped the elastic and moved away from the competition and in reality, most of the men.

Rousset, as in the previous day, ran strong in 2nd and this is where she stayed for the whole day. Rocio Carrion once consistent and paced herself for another 3rd place. Josephine Adams is the leading British lady and she was in 4th position after day 1, today she finished 5th.

The day will be remembered for the course and the landscape, it was stunning! The early miles took place on a sandy road that slowly climbed up to Cp1. From here, the first dunes of MDS Peru welcomed the runners and they were stunning. A sandy plateau gently introduced the runners to the canyon of Rio ICA and here the course became something quite special with mixed sandy and rocky terrain and stunning views off into the distance. It was a day not to forget.

Tomorrow’s stage is 32.7km and finishes in Ocucaje. However, most runners will be thinking of the day after, day 4, the in-famous ‘long-day!’ Of the MDS.

  1. Rachid El Morabity 4:18:23
  2. Remigio Huaman 4:25:36 (Remigio has now moved into 2nd overall)
  3. Gediminas Grinius 4:26:04

 

  1. Nathalie Mauclair 5:00:41
  2. Melanie Rousset 5:36:18
  3. Rocio Carrion 6:12:04

Live Tracking HERE

Stage Results HERE