Mike Wardian #FKTIsrael 2019 – Day Seven

If you read my day-6 report, you will remember I said:

“Now the delicate balance of when to carry on and when not to carry on must be considered. To continue covers miles and leaves less distance for the overall target, but it also means less rest. Not enough rest and the pace the following day may well drop substantially.”

“Ask yourself, what would you do?”

“It’s a tough call.”

Well, at 10pm on day-6, Yarom (who had run with Mike all day) and Mike decided to push on for another 12km. It was a touch and go call, but the duo said they felt good and therefore we all agreed to allow a final push and get 120+km.

Turned out, that 12km was a really tough challenge. The trail was overgrown, route markers were hidden and the two of them got lost. They eventually finished 30-minutes past midnight, and they looked broken.

Had we snapped the elastic? 

Mike said he felt nauseous. We wrapped him in a jacket and immediately departed for Yoram’s house – he had kindly offered a bed for Mike and the floor for me, Zoli end Eres. 

Mike showered and ate. We were all asleep by 2am having agreed on a 7am wake-up and Mike starting the day at 0830! 

Running an FKT is a balancing act and in retrospect, the additional 12km on day-6 was a mistake. It would have been better to stop on a good note. Have a good sleep and start the next day with the sun. 

Lesson learnt!

I have to say, I was worried waking at 5am. Mike was the first to rise and when I asked him, ‘How are you?’

His reply, ‘I feel awesome man, so good!’ 

I keep saying this, but he really is a freak of nature.

At 0829 he was on the trail with a pacer and if day-7 will be remembered for anything, it will all be about the Israeli run community. They came out in force to join Mike on the trails and look after him.

He was accompanied throughout the day, at times it looking like a scene from Forest Gump. Mike loved the company and relished the opportunity to switch off and let others find the trail markers. It was a huge boost. It was also a notable day for passing through the Jerusalem mountains and gently touching the outer edges of the city. The sun shone, it was a hot day and it everyone was relishing the #fktisrael

Day 7 times:

  • 8:28 Atziona
  • Tzur Hadasa 10:30
  • Jerusalem 1247
  • Sataf 14:45
  • Mesilat Tzion 17:05
  • Latrun 18:22

A marathon was soon covered. Then 50km. At 61km Mike was still saying how good his legs were and at 73km darkness came and for the first time in the day he was alone on the trail.

 

Zoli and I were a little worried to leave him out there alone, so we tracked him closely and then 45-minutes later, at a trail head, he was met by two runners who agreed to pace Mike to the end of his day. At 9:15pm, he had covered 89km at ‘Mitzpe Modiin’ and then he departed for a final leg to close out the day at 100km.

In regard to planning and daily distances, after day-6, lessons have been learnt and as a team we are going to ensure Mike gets adequate rest. Therefore, we are more flexible on the distance covered per day, but equally, we will also be more flexible on the following day start time.

Mark my words, from Thursday morning, Mike will be in for one big push to achieve the FKT in 10-days and ‘x’ hours and minutes.

I have never seen anyone so mentally strong and committed to the challenge. 

One thing is for sure, Mike will need all the help he can get for that big final push – we know the Israeli run community will come out and help.           

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Mike Wardian #FKTIsrael 2019 – Day Six

The rain, mist and cold of yesterday did not disappear! To say we were disappointed is an underestimation. But Mike smiled regardless. “I slept so well, I feel fresh and I am ready to go!”

How does he do it?

Last night we were hosted by a family and we need to give a huge thanks to David and Mira for a wonderful meal, warm shower and a bed for the night, this gesture personifies our experience on our Israel National Trail adventure. We have received such warm support throughout our journey, it really is a great feeling.

Mike departed for a big day at 0629 with two pacers, Uri and Yarom, the latter would run the whole stage with Mike. A huge challenge and one that Mike really appreciated.

For the first 30km or so, conditions were a challenge. Intermittent rain, cold temperatures and grey mist made it feel very much like the UK. The red and warmth of the desert was soon a distant memory. Now trees, green and lots of mud would accompany the runners for day 6.

From 30km, Mike and Yarom pushed on alone and the duo were setting a solid pace. Zoli and myself wondered if it were not a little too fast? But the duo confirmed all was good.

The grey slowly disappeared, and patches of blue penetrated the grey mass above us. Slowly but surely the balance of the sky started to change and white was replaced with blue, the warmth of the sun a welcome return.

As in all previous days, food is an important element of a successful FKT run and Mike is pushing noodles, sandwiches and soup to a whole new level! Ice cream even made an appearance.

Today felt very different to the first 5-days. Not only because of the terrain but mostly due to the amount of support Mike received. Throughout the day runners joined him. At no point was he left alone. The boost this makes is remarkable, it allows Mike to ‘just’ run with the pressure of navigation taken on by a pacer.

From 50km. Mike picked up 3 additional runners, one of them ‘Yair’ aged 74yrs! He clicked off the miles with Mike and Yarom and made it look effortless. Yair finally left the duo to it and was replaced by 4 runners who had travelled from Jerusalem to run with Mike over the latter stages of the day in support #fktisrael – this FKT is becoming a ‘thing!’

For the support team. The previous days rain had caused endless problems making getting around the course extremely difficult. Standing water made certain sections of the trail difficult to pass and finally, Zoli and myself had to make a detour to miss a river crossing. It was a tricky time causing us to miss a checkpoint to provide support for Mike. We did the best we could to minimize the damage but of course, all the time, we were stressed that we were leaving Mike without the valuable support he needed.

Darkness soon came and Mike pushed on through the mud with the support of 5 runners, including Yarom. At ‘Beit Govrim’ he had completed 98km by 8pm. He took a longer break, changed socks, ate soup, noodles and multitude of other items and then left for another 12km.

Before 10pm, 110km had been completed in 15.5 hours. 

Now the delicate balance of when to carry on and when not to carry on must be considered. To continue covers miles and leaves less distance for the overall target, but it also means less rest. Not enough rest and the pace the following day may well drop substantially. 

Ask yourself, what would you do?

It’s a tough call.

Weighing up the pros and cons, it was decided that Mike would push on at 10pm from ‘Mitzpe Mesua’ for another 12km making for a daily total of 122km. Yes folks, 122km!

Think about it.

I have been saying all along that Mike is a machine, to be honest, I cannot find the words to express what Mike is achieving here in Israel.

Go Mike!

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Mike Wardian #FKTIsrael 2019 – Day Five

We camped about 2-minutes from Mike’s day 4 finish. Several 4×4’s, small tents, a roaring fire, a BBQ, a few beers and the stars shining in the sky. What a way to end a tough and long day! It was 2130 when Mike finally came off the trail and nobody was asleep until 2330. That allows for approximately 5-hours sleep.

Running a ‘FKT’ is no easy task. The days are 24/7 and nobody switches off. Mike says he falls asleep with visions pf the ‘INT’ marker before his eyes.

Day 5 morning was cloudy, cold and windy. We were aware of some bad weather that would hit us during the day, and we were also aware of flash flood warnings, so, it was important for all of us to be alert.

 

Despite a tough day 4, Mike was on the trail just after 6am and was clicking off the miles. It was his last day in the desert and although there were some difficult sections to slow him down, it was nothing like what the first 4-days had thrown at him.

Word on the trail is getting out and now Mike is being met by more-and-more runners who are specifically coming out to cheer him on or run with him for a short while. We expect this to increase and increase over the latter five days as we move north and into more populated areas.

 Today, the weather was the challenge. Constant gusting wind and very heavy rain showers. One shower in particular drenched Mike to the bone and he was pretty cold for a while. He eventually warmed up.

Despite the challenge, the conditions and the sleep deprivation, Mike is always positive. His determination and commitment blows my mind. His inner belief and strength are truly astonishing and confirms that only a select handful of people are capable of running such an epic challenge.

Having multiple pacers has helped Mike relax and switch off from worrying about finding the trail markers. It’s a huge relief for him.

As the hours passed throughout the day, so did the miles. Mike is like a machine. The only rest comes at our planned aid stops and here he rarely sits. Standing is preferable and today, his diet needs have changed. Hot soup, noodles and sandwiches have been a preference. I think the cold has impacted but also the previous 4-days. His body is now craving calories and he must keep putting them inside him.

Darkness soon came and Mike pushed into the night from ‘Arad’ with Chanan and David to ‘Del Arad’ (an ancient city within a national park). The rain poured down at times, the wind gusted and buffeted, and I thought aloud, “I do not know how he does this!

Del Arad marked 91km’s for the day.

Day 6 will mark a new chapter of the #FKTIsrael – we have now left the desert and move to new experiences and new scenery.

Running an FKT is all about management and efficiency. You need to tick off the miles, but you also need to rest, recover and look after yourself. The whole team is constantly making ‘on the go’ decisions to help Mike achieve his goal and also to protect Mike… When you have been running for 12, 14 or 16 hours, the runner is not always the best person to make a decision. Mike is very self-aware and understands the requirements he must place on himself to achieve his desired FKT. Day 5 or 6 are not the days to push over the edge, as a team, decisions will be made on day 7 on what is needed over the final couple of days. Mike is prepared for that and quite simply it may well come down to one or two very long days and then a big rest. As Mike says, ‘I can push because when it is done, it’s done!’

Mike has an incredibly positive mindset. The saying that ultra-running is 90% in the mind and 10% in the head is very true, especially on an FKT like this. But Mike’s physical ability and powers of recovery is blowing the minds of the whole crew supporting him.

Go Mike!

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Mike Wardian #FKTIsrael 2019 – Day Two

Mike slept like a baby last night! I have known Mike for years and we have often laughed at his typical 4-hours a night sleep… He was in his sleeping bag not long after 8pm after day-1 and then had the ‘best sleep ever!’

The first day of the #FKTIsrael had been a tough one – far tougher than Mike and the crew had anticipated. However, doing any challenge, nothing is guaranteed and to be honest, one has to expect curve balls. The secret is all about how you bounce back.

Day 2 was a planned 103 (ish) km and that was pretty daunting after a long day 1 covering just over 80km. The plus, there is always a plus! Was that the terrain today was considerably more runnable and in principal, would suit Mike.

We immediately had a curve ball to the day! The ‘INT’ route early on passes through a military base and we were told late the night before that the route would be closed between 0730-0900. Bad news for any early start to make up time. However, it did allow the whole team more sleep. A plus for all.

Mike started his day at 0720 from the place he had finished the night before. It was clear, not only had Mike recovered well, he was motivated for the day. He started setting a good pace and maintained consistency, like a finely tuned metronome.

In contrast to day 1, the first marathon was relentlessly boring and featureless, a test for the mind as much as the legs and lungs. But Mike has an ability to switch off and get the job done. Today, we really witnessed why he is such a great ultra-runner.

Mile-after-mile clicked off and at each checkpoint he relaxed for 5-10 minutes, drank coconut water, ate avocado, hard-boiled egg whites, some Pringles, a little bread, hummus, vegetables and then he would fill his bottles and go.

 At one point, he received a call from home, greeted his wife and wished his kids a ‘g’day’ before they left for school.

The highlight of the day came at Vardit and Barak Canyons. These natural wonders are truly spectacular, no, mind-blowing. Here Mike was accompanied by Uri, a good-friend of Zoli’s and an ultra-runner. The main reason being for safety as there are many water pools that require you to swim, ladders, via Ferrata and other technical terrain.

Once out of the final canyon, it was flat miles all the way to the end. But Mike at no point lost pace or commitment. He was a man on a mission, and he completed the day in darkness before 20hrs (1945 tbc)  having completed the target distance for the day. The final section under strong winds and sand storms.

Mike impressed the whole team today, not only for his powers of recovery, his skill as a runner but by his generosity for all those who helped him, all those who said hello, and anyone who showed an interest. He is a true gent!

It’s Groundhog Day now, eat, wash, prepare kit and recover. It’s all to do again tomorrow.

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Mike Wardian #FKTIsrael 2019 – Day One

One year of planning finally came to fruition today, when US based ultra-runner, Michael Wardian departed Eilat at 0546 to head north covering a total of 631-mile on the Israel National Trail in a target goal of 10-days. 

It’s a huge undertaking and the man who came up with this idea, Zoli Bihari of Canaan Running Adventures knows only too well. He did a similar route over 3-years ago, it took him 23-days.

Michael is a legend in the ultra-running world and his reputation precedes his prolific achievements and his desire to run. Just recently he won the World Marathon Majors, running 7-marathons on 7-Continents. He then added 3 additional marathons so that he could set a world-record for the fastest average time for 10-marathons in 10-days.

Never one to refuse an adventure, Michael and Zoli met at the 2018 The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica. The duo chatted and the idea for #fktisrael was created.

It is normal for trekkers to travel from the north and finish in the south. However, there are restrictions on the trails (in terms of movement in darkness) in the south, therefore, Zoli and Mike decided to start in the south and then if required, they could run in to the night later in the challenge and gain extra miles and time.

For a couple of days, Mike and the team explored the trails in advance of the FKT. It allowed some adjustment, planning, photo opportunities and also gain some relaxation time before a huge challenge.

Placing his hand on the metal post with the ‘INT’ markers, he looked eager and motivated for the challenge ahead. For several days he had been saying he felt good. He was off…!

The landscape and scenery on day-1 is truly spectacular. I would go as far to say, that it is some of the most impressive I personally have witnessed. Beauty comes at a price though – the trails are technical, have plenty of climbing and descending and then add some intense heat.

 Mike was always going to play a, ‘Let’s see?’ Scenario on day-1 and he was keen not to get too carried away, starting at a crazy pace. With 50-miles to cover, it seemed a sensible target.

Throughout the day Mike moved steadily, always looking relaxed and in control. However, it was clear from the outset that Mike’s ‘hopeful’ target time for day-1 would be extended. Not a problem! After all, this attempt is going to last 10-days – one needs to think of the long game!

 At each check-point he arrived, smiled, said he felt good and then stocked up on ‘Tailwind,’ drank some Coconut water, snacked on food, re-filled his bottles and off he went. Rarely did he spend longer than 10-minutes at any one stop.

 A highlight of the day came at Timna Park. The trails, the landscape and the views here are truly spectacular – for sure, it is a bucket list location. I joined Mike for a second time in the day to climb over the key mountain, run the technical trails and the descend to our feed point at 51km covered.

 Mike was moving well, using poles when required and maintaining a good pace. At the feed, he went through a similar scenario as with all the other stations and then moved on.

At the final feed point, Beer Matak at 61.5km he was notably looking tired and fatigued from the day’s efforts. He was also feeling the heat from the last big climb of the day. It was time to dig deep and push on for a final 18km.

 It was here, as darkness came that disaster struck. Mike followed the marker of the ‘INT’ but unfortunately missed the turn to our bivouac which was off the INT route. He pushed on, following the markers and it was our support runner who notified us that he was ‘missing’ after hearing from another trekker that he passed some 30-minutes early. Our camp no cellular connection, so, we departed following the approximate route that Mike would take, It was here that technology took over. We managed to liaise with Mike via WhatsApp, we shared ‘live locations’ and we were able to navigate to him a long way down the ‘INT’ route. The route that he should have done on day-2!

 Mike was surprisingly in good spirits, but he had been out on the trail for almost 13-hours and 20-minutes, it was a tough first day! The only plus side coming that he had eaten in to tomorrow’s mileage.

 Back in camp, it was all about recovery. He hydrated, ate some snacks, wiped down and put on fresh clothes. He soon needed a nap. It had been a very long day, both physically and mentally. The priority was good rest, some quality food and then focus the mind for the challenges that day-2 would present.

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Pau Capell and Magda Laczak win the 2019 Transgrancanaria 128 km.

Pau Capell and Magda Laczak once again, win the Transgrancanaria 128 km providing the same result as 2018. For Pau it was his third time topping the podium in Gran Canaria.

Only American Hayden Hawks provided Pau with any competition, the duo ran the first stretch of the course matching each other, stride-for- stride all the way to Teror and beyond.

But Hayden could not match the relentless force of the Catalan. Pau extended his lead and just pulled away, not only from Hayden but the rest of the men. Twenty minutes became thirty and thirty minutes became forty. It was a masterclass of long-distance running and at the line, the 12:42:40 did not show on his face – an incredible victory.

Pablo Villa, Spanish champion of the RFEA 2018 and former champion of the Advanced in 2018, was the next to cross the finish line at Expomeloneras in 13:31:37. Canarian runner, Cristofer Clemente, 13:42:54, came in third position making a truly Spanish podium.

Magda Laczak won, once again after topping the podium as in 2018. In the early stages you ran comfortably as Chinese runner, Miao Yao dictated the pace. Miao dropped and Katlyn Gerbin took over the head of the race.

By Roque Nublo though, Magda took over the head of the race. It was no easy run… she was pursued by Kaytlyn Gerbin and Fernanda Maciel and it remained that way all the way to the line.

Magda did it though, she was the first to arrive in 16:22:56 and she stated, “It was such a hard race, at no point could I relax, I was pursued all the time, I had to push and keep pushing!”

Katlyn, 2nd at Western States in 2018, placed 2nd here in Gran Canaria holding off experienced ultra-runner and UTWT ever-present, Fernanda Maciel, their times 16:35:08 and 17:03:33.

As usual, the race ran on into the night as runners tried to achieve their own personal glory before the 0400 cut-off on Sunday 24th February.

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The Coastal Challenge #TCC2019 – PHOTOGRAPHS

PHOTOGRAPHS #TCC2019 The Coastal Challenge

A portfolio of TCC2019 race images are now online, they ‘web’ resolution only.
High resolution images will be uploaded in due course when suitable wifi is available.
.

GO : HERE

The Coastal Challenge 2019 – #TCC2019 – Day 6

The 2019 The Coastal Challenge today came to an end on the stunning beaches of Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula.

Pere Aurell and Ida Nilsson are the champions after a masterclass of multi-day running. The duo ran amazing races and Ida obliterated the 2018 record of Ragna Debats and in the process set 4 female stage records and placed 2nd overall. Holly Page set two stage records also.

The 22km final day is a stunning day, starting and finishing on Bahia Drake, the loop is like a mini Coastal Challenge all compressed into one stage. Waterfalls, rainforest, plantations, dusty fire trail, water crossings, beaches, coves and the stunning Pacific as a backdrop as the runners make the way to the finish.

The dynamic of the day was the staggered start for the top-6 after the mass start at 0700.

They were released as follows:

6. Ragna Debats 07:01:00

5. Holly Page 07:03:00

4. Jorge Paniagua 07:06:00

3. Marcus Scotney 07:10:00

2. Ida Nillson 07:15:00

1. Pere Aurell 07:21:00

 

The race was on between Jorge and Marcus and in the early stages, Jorge opened a gap on the technical trail. However, as soon as the trail became more runnable, Marcus unleashed his natural fast pace and secured his 3rd overall on GC.

After a tough stage 5, Pere was keen to make sure he won the 2019 TCC and by the waterfall, he had caught Ida for the 6-minute time gap. He then ran to the line and secured his victory ahead of the incredible Ida, who placed 2nd overall and dominated the women’s race.

Ida won 4-stage CR bonus’ worth $250 each and $2500 for a new CR – That is $3500 for her week in Costa Rica.

Holly Page was the first to cross the line holding off the top-5 runners and catching all those before her – in the process she set a new stage CR and in addition to her female CR on stage 4, she netted $500. On timing, Pere was the stage winner just missing Tom Evans 2018 stage-6 record. Marcus was 2nd and Holly 3rd.

The finish-line was full of emotion as an epic journey has come to an end. The 2019 TCC will go down in history for the incredible performances of all the runners, but the truly inspiring story his how the top-3 women placed in the top-6 overall, with Ida 2nd on the podium – truly epic!

For now though, it’s all about Pere and Ida celebrating victory. This evening, the awards will take place on the beach with a roaring camp fire. 2020 will see the 16th edition of the race and I am sure we can expect another spectacular race.

PURA VIDA

Stage Results:

  1. Pere Aurell 2:00:00
  2. Marcus Scotney 2:06:32
  3. Holly Page 2:07:04
  4. Ida Nilsson 2:08:12
  5. Sebastian Jones 2:13:55

Overall standings, male/ female after 6-stages:

  1. Pere Aurell 23:10:23
  2. Marcus Scotney 24:01:03
  3. Jorge Paniagua 24:17:21
  1. Ida Nilsson 23:36:03
  2. Holly Page 24:50:38
  3. Ragna Debats 26:16:06

General Classification:

  1. Pere Aurell 23:10:23
  2. Ida Nilsen 23:36:03
  3. Marcus Scotney 24:01:03

Full results at www.webscorer.com

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The Coastal Challenge 2019 – #TCC2019 – Day 5

It was the longest day of the 2018 The Coastal Challenge and what a day! At 49km, it was only 2km more than day 3 but coming at this stage in the race, it is always a tough one.

 Runners departed camp via bus for a short bus ride to the Sierpe river and then a ferry across to the other side with the arrival of daylight. At 6:15am, they were released.

Much of todays race is very runnable on wide gravel roads and much of that chat pre-stage was that it was ideal for Ida and Marcus. It’s great if you can run, but for many it’s a tough day. Technical forest sections break up the distance and then at 2/3rd of the race covered, the runners turn right on a loop around the peninsula, running through forest trails before finally dropping to the beach and taking a small boat from one side to the other. Once across the estuary, it is 9km’s to the line with the final sections on the beach to the stunning Drake Bay, a Unesco Heritage Site

It was a day of drama, with the main podium contenders all running close together to checkpoint. Notably, Jorge was running side-by-side with Pere at the head of the race. Ida chased and then Marcus. Just before the right turn for the loop around the peninsula, Pere made his move and pulled away from Jorge.

Behind, Ida chased and Marcus was looking strong and gaining time.

Holly Page was some way back but looking relaxed and comfortable in the intense heat.

At the peninsula. Pere was first in the boat and crossed with no sign of any other runners. Jorge and Ida arrived together and shared a boat. Minutes later, Marcus arrived. It was all going to come down to the final 9-km’s!

What happened next, could not have been predicted. Pere struggled with exhaustion, the heat and sickness from a restless night before. He was reduced to a walk. Ida on the other hand went from strength-to-strength.

Ida left Jorge, pursued Pere, passed him and once again won the stage outright obliterating the previous female stage CR set by Ester Alves by almost 45-minutes – it was an incredible performance.

Marcus bided his time. Closed on Jorge and the duo fought an epic battle to the line. Marcus was 2nd just over 30-seconds ahead of the Costa Rican runner.

Pere finally arrived 20-minutes after Ida – he looked broken!

With the final stage tomorrow, an epic battle will unfold between Jorge and Marcus for the final podium spot on GC. Also, Pere and Ida have a potential fight. Pere has a lead of 17-minutes, one would normally say that is more than enough. However, after today, anything can happen…!

Holly Page finished 2nd woman and Ragna Debats lost time in the closing miles due to a navigation error, however, she did finish 3rd on the stage.

Tomorrow’s stage is a loop of Drake Bay – it’s a stunning day that manages to encompass all the previous 5 days in one loop. The top 6-runners will depart after the main group.

The starting times will be:

Mass start 07:30:00

6. Ragna Debats 07:31:00

5. Holly Page 07:33:00

4. Jorge Paniagua 07:36:00

3. Marcus Scotney 07:40:00

2. Ida Nilsson 07:45:00

1. Pere Aurell 07:51:00

Overall standings, male/ female after 5-stages:

  1. Pere Aurell 21:10:22
  2. Marcus Scotney 21:54:30
  3. Jorge Paniagua 22:00:49
  1. Ida Nilsson 21:27:51
  2. Holly Page 22:43:34
  3. Ragna Debats 23:54:00

General Classification:

  1. Pere Aurell 21:10:23
  2. Ida Nilsson 21:27:51
  3. Marcus Scotney 21:54:30

Full results at www.webscorer.com

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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