"Yan Longfei has proved himself. He won the Hong Kong 50, he won the Lantao 50 and he came down for the Hong Kong 100 and beat Ryan Sandes' record, who is amongst one of the top runners in the world. Now the big question mark: is he recovered in time for tomorrow?”
Back on the track a hazy sky lights up the throng of runners waiting by the inflatable yellow start post. Michael screams into his megaphone, “Ten, nine, eight...” And they're off! The faster runners disappearing first followed by the amateurs, some older, some out of shape, and one man even running with his dog. The race starts on a road but quickly leads into the mountains. Which, of course is part of the attraction of the event.
"We came here because we know Hong Kong has beautiful trails,” says Bernard from Indonesia who works in an insurance office and came to run the 28km race. “We love the outdoors and we try to stay healthy. This is a good opportunity for us to get together, do something we love and get a good exercise.”
At the top of the mountain a brisk breeze rustles long grass, wild flowers and aromatic rosemary bushes. Hundreds of metres below the blue ocean crashes onto the rocks and sand the runners were soon to cross. Eventually, some dots across the valley. Was that a red shirt or white? About fifteen minutes later we had the answer: Dai Matsumoto from Japan, closely followed by compatriot Kondo Yoshihito wheezed up the hill past us, several minutes ahead of the following racers. Then more runners, sweating, grimacing, often bleeding from trips and scrapes along the way.
But these were all runners from the shorter distances, which shared part of the route of the 50km. Still no one from the longer race. Until... red-shirted Samir Tamang from the Nepalese army came powering up the narrow mountain pass. Carrying a water flask in his left hand he looked in complete control. And he was - it was about ten minutes before the next group of 50km runners passed, which included Yan Longfei with his characteristic grin. Surely he couldn't be enjoying this? Most other runners looked in agony by this point.
At the bottom of the mountain racers of the shorter distances had started arriving. Award ceremonies were taking place, food served, and photos taken. But everyone was waiting for the first 50km runner to arrive. Then, from down the road, the unmistakable red shirt of Samir Tamang. Crossing the line with a time of 4 hours, 58 minutes and 40 seconds, he hardly looked out of breath and was immediately surrounded by microphones. It was far and away the fastest 50km of the day. He was elated with the win, yet still disappointed with his time.
"Such an honor to become the champion, but I didn't finish the course within my estimated time. I have been to Hong Kong once before for a 100K race and this is my first 50k in HK. It marked a good start of the year in 2015!” he said.
A few minutes later, Lan Yongfei came through with a time of 5 hours, 11 minutes and 50 seconds. He told waiting journalists his problem was one of strategy.
"I chose to follow some of the strong runners as usual and I guess I followed the wrong person this time. I realized there were two people ahead of me at the very last bit of the race and that was too late for me to overpass them both. I enjoyed the race overall especially the view at the hilltop,” he said.
This was the first time an official Skyrunning Championship Race was held in Asia. It's just one part of a global series that spreads across five continents. Over the year runners achieve points from their best performances. So, even if some may be disappointed with their time in Hong Kong, there will be possibility for revenge...
More information about the International Sky Running Federation here: