Round the (Hong Kong) Island 2022
Early on at the harbour. My phone stayed in a plastic bag all day, so photos aren't great.
Background: With a rather 'challenging' birthday on the horizon, I had in mind to do something special and started planning this walk/run well in advance. Without stating my actual age, I had a goal of doing exactly 50km - I'm sure you can work that one out. Not only did I want to do 50km, but I wanted to do it on a route I hadn't done before so started looking at a 'Round the Island' route which was pretty much exactly 50km - give or take depending on the odd extra path or two. I'd done some sections of it before, but some areas I'd never even visited and had never done that distance in one go.
My plan was to be up and out the door as soon as I woke up and as I was waking around 4am in the weeks before, I was planning a fairly early start. My gear, bloated camel pack and assorted energy bars were all packed and ready to go as I headed off to bed just after 10pm. I woke around 2:15am, considered getting up then but fell back to sleep and next woke at 4:45am - let the games begin! The biggest issue I could see straightaway was the weather - I could see drizzling rain outside and knowing Hong Kong as I do, this was rain that was likely to hang around. Believe it or not, as I found out afterwards, this was also the coldest May day in HK since 1917. While 16 degrees is not cold compared to the UK, 16 degrees with constant rain might be a challenge. Anyhow this was once in a lifetime, so I wasn't going to back out. I was out the door pretty quickly and once I'd got my GPS signal just outside our apartment block, I started out at 5:09am.
The walk/run: I had actually planned to walk the whole route in about 8 hours, but once I got out there I couldn't resist getting the pace up early on. So I ran the first km or so as I worked my way to the harbour front. Once there, my run/walk strategy saw more running than walking - I felt good so why not. I hit the harbour front at the Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai and gradually worked my way through Central and Sheung Wan towards Kennedy Town. There is meant to be a coastal path round the whole island and my aim was to find and stick to this path and as much as possible.
After Kennedy Town I was in familiar territory and once on Victoria Road I worked my way past our first apartment in Cyberport followed soon after by Tin Wan where I lived for my first six months in HK. I was then in Aberdeen which of course I knew well as I'd run this section many times around my work. I kept going past Deepwater Bay and Repulse Bay towards South Bay where I knew my first challenge awaited. I'd run this section many times, usually turning round at South Bay and heading back to my workplace. This time though, I hoped I'd be able to continue on a trail towards Chung Hom Kok and Stanley. However, despite scrambling through the bushes for 10-15 minutes there was no way through and I turned back along South Bay road. Fortunately around 1km back, I spotted some steps up and saw a small sign indicating they led to Repulse Bay road. I must have run past these steps 50 or so times, but never noticed them before. Anyhow, I was back on track which was a long gentle uphill paved trail running parallel to the main road.
So I was back on track although it didn't take me long to go off track again as I took the long detour towards Stanley before eventually getting back on the Tai Tam Road. As I've said before though, when you're making it up as you go along, every km counts! Although back on track, things got a bit hairy here as it's a narrow road with no pavement and I wasn't feeling too safe as the speeding cars didn't give me too much room. As I reached Tai Tam Reservoir, I stopped the watch for a toilet beak and contemplated my next move. The road ahead to Chai Wan was equally as narrow and I still had a long way to go. So I made a decision to take the safe option and jump on the 16x minibus to Chai Wan. My goal for the day was 50km and as the route was mine alone, with the watch still stopped, I would just continue my business from Chai Wan.
I didn't know Chai Wan before this day, but I know it pretty well now! I got off the minibus and could see the harbour in the distance so headed in that direction. I was feeling cold after the bus ride so changed t-shirts and although the rain didn't completely stop, I was marginally warmer for the rest of the day. I soon got myself on what I thought was the coastal path and felt happy to be back on track. Unfortunately I spoke too soon as the path ended abruptly and I couldn't figure out the right way. I turned to google maps which only made things worse as I walked around 5km before I took another decision to jump on the MTR at Heng Fa Chuen to take me to somewhere I knew. I had 40km on the watch by this time, so decided to get off at Tai Hang and take a scenic route home.
After getting off at Tai Hang (which brought back painful memories of hobbled walks home from various HK Marathons), I walked through Victoria Park which was busy with helpers on the May Day Public Holiday. I worked my way towards Happy Valley and challenged myself to walk up the steep Broadwood road before running along Tai Hang road and Bowen road. I was calculating distances by now and worked my way down to Kennedy road and up Stubbs road where the watch ticked over the 50km mark in 6 hours 33 minutes exactly. I still had a little way to go, so added an extra 1/2 km onto the watch before stopping at exactly 50.50km. I felt good too as I paced myself nicely and was ready for the rest of the day's celebrations - chats with the family, an old-man snooze in the afternoon and dinner in the evening.
Post Run thoughts: I didn't execute the Round the Island part of the day too well, but I have to be happy with my walk/run effort as a whole. I knocked off my longest ever distance and on my 50th birthday to boot (there, I said it). It was a challenging day with the weather, but I managed an overall pace of 7'52" per km, which is by no means fast, but certainly faster than my original planned walk. As usual, I leave another route unfinished (see Hong Kong Trail x 2), so will have to give this another go sometime.
As it happens, once I uploaded to Strava, I noticed another runner had the same idea as me and although we didn't cross paths, it seems that he knew where he was going. The good news is that I can see how it's meant to be done and have no excuse not to give it another crack sooner rather than later!