1,000 to take on Moon Trekker challenge
Imagine running through the night with only a headlamp, a rucksack containing a few snacks and water, and the determination to overcome one of the most gruelling courses Hong Kong has to offer.
That is what almost 1,000 runners will be going through as they set out on the third annual Moon Trekker, one of the city's most unique endurance races, from Mui Wo on Lantau Island tonight.
The event, which consists of a tough 40km race and a shorter 25km race, will take the runners through the island's stunning country trails.
The stronger competitors will also be trying hard to 'beat the sun' and capture Lantau Peak in all its splendour at sunrise.
'It's certainly one of Hong Kong's unique races,' event director William Sargent said.
'It's a night race and it has grown in popularity.
'We had to turn away 300 entries because we felt there would be too many runners to cope with and because of safety concerns. It's still a record entry.'
Last year, there were about 700 runners.
The strong field will include seasoned runners from Britain, the United States, New Zealand, Australia, China, Taiwan and Singapore. Several past winners of the Oxfam Trailwalker will be taking part, too.
Among the expatriate runners are Darren Benson and Troy de Haas, a former Australian national orienteering contender, mountain runner and tower competitor who moved to Hong Kong eight months ago.
Lucy Marriot is favoured to win the women's race in the absence of top American runner Kami Semick, who backed out because of a lack of preparation.
Fans might remember De Haas, a two-time runner-up in the 10km race at the Standard Chartered Hong Kong International Marathon (2004 and 2005).
'I am no longer a full-time athlete,' said De Haas, 32, who now works as a sports travel specialist and has limited time to train.
'Hong Kong is a trail-running paradise with some amazing trails from the edge of the city, amazing peaks and ridge lines.
'Orienteering is very similar to the Moon Trekker as you have to run through the night in remote locations through rugged terrain with just your headlamp and a map. Hopefully, these experiences will assist me.
'This will be my debut running event in Hong Kong since I moved here in February. So I do not have high expectations.
'I have a lot of respect for the local Hong Kong runners as I know they are very competitive and they have the edge over me, knowing these trails intimately. This local knowledge is priceless in these types of races.'
Last year, Hong Kong-based Ryan Blair smashed the 40km course record, finishing in four hours and nine minutes. He beat the old record by 22 minutes.
Blair will be competing in the 25km race this year. He hopes to beat Michael Maddess' record of three hours and 23 minutes.
Many runners are participating in the event to raise money for the Moon Trekker's nominated charity, which this year is Room To Read.
The global charity group, which started in 2000 in Nepal, seeks to transform the lives of millions of children in developing countries by focusing on literacy and gender equality in education.
More than HK$1.2 million was raised in the first two Moon Trekkers. The money went to fund a new primary school and library in Sri Lanka, and other projects in Cambodia, Vietnam and Nepal.
The amount, in HK dollars, raised for charity in the past two Moon Trekker events