Four of Hong Kong’s most rewarding long-distance runs


This article is part of a guide to Hong Kong from FT Globetrotter

Two factors make running in Hong Kong a demanding challenge: it’s very hot and very hilly. I hadn’t fully appreciated this before moving here two years ago, dazzled instead by the photographs of the harbour and colourful skyscrapers. Coming from London, I was used to going out for long runs on the weekend. I loved exploring the UK capital by foot, especially as it was just waking up: brides being photographed in front of Tower Bridge; partygoers stumbling out of the after-hour clubs in Bermondsey; the tang of onions frying as food was prepared in Borough Market.

When I arrived in Hong Kong, I hoped to discover my new home the same way: on my runs. But with crowded city streets and short waterfront promenades, I soon learnt that running long distances here meant going up and down steep hills.

The transition from London morning jogs to distance runs on Hong Kong’s trails has not been entirely smooth. I’ve found myself taking shelter from the sweltering summer sun under a lone tree on a red dirt trail. I waded through a torrent after the rains flooded a path where a bright green snake swam by, its red forked tongue darting. And I once ended up in the doctor’s office having an MRI scan on my overworked knee.

Barlow’s well-worn trail shoes
Barlow’s well-worn trail shoes

The author looking out over Waterfall Bay
The author looking out over Waterfall Bay © Tory Ho (2)

But the astounding beauty of Hong Kong, the buzz of learning to run on trails in 35C+ heat and 90 per cent humidity and the pleasure of biting into a frozen pineapple slice at the end of it all have won me over. I love running in Hong Kong. (Over the past year, I’ve slowly dipped my toe into trail running too — my heart is now set on completing a 50km trail race.)

I found my bearings by first working to get used to the heat and later tackling elevation. With the notable exceptions of Bowen Road and a loop around Victoria Peak, the waterfront promenades are the place to go to find flat routes in Hong Kong. Tolo Harbour in the New Territories is the longest I’ve found. There are also many running tracks in Hong Kong. Happy Valley’s 1.4km racetrack, for instance, is an oasis among Hong Kong’s high rises. When comfortable with flat ground, it’s time to tackle the heights.

Four major trails cross Hong Kong, each carved into a variety of runnable sections. The 50km Hong Kong Trail winds across the island. Starting at the south of Hong Kong Island and running to the northern New Territories is the 78km Wilson Trail. The MacLehose Trail starts in Sai Kung Country Park and snakes westwards 100km through the New Territories. Finally, the 70km Lantau Trail loops around Lantau Island and takes in some serious hills. There are also many well-maintained trails throughout Hong Kong’s 24 country parks.

Routes

Not all 20km runs in Hong Kong are made equal: the difference of course are the hills. Below are a few of my favourite long runs with increasing elevation, for the aspiring distance trail-runner.

I’ve included times for reference, as a relative measure of difficulty. They’re based on my moving times…



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