30 years of blazing a trail

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 November, 2011, 12:00am


This year's Trailwalker in Hong Kong looked to be the toughest yet, as participants battled high humidity, slippery conditions and at times physical injury - all in the name of ending poverty worldwide.

More than 10,000 people - including 4,800 runners and hikers, along with 6,000 support staff and volunteers - joined the Oxfam charity event, now in its 30th year.

For many participants - including 64-year-old Antony Wood - it was not so much stamina as sheer willpower that got him and his team through the 100-kilometre trek from Pak Tam Chung in Sai Kung to Yuen Long in the New Territories.

'It's the toughest I've ever done, and plenty of others have said the same,' said Wood, who joined Trailwalker for the eighth time.

'The humidity was astounding. And when you combine that with the very slippery underfoot conditions because of the rain, it really was hard going. Those taking part have shown amazing resilience,' he said.

He and three teammates aged 66, 64 and 62 - the oldest team to complete the course - put other much younger participants to shame by finishing at a respectable time of 19 hours, 19 minutes.

The race, which ends today, can take as long as 48 hours to complete.

Much of the excitement was at the head of the trek, where defending champions from the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Hong Kong garrison almost saw their victory snatched away by North Face-Flight.

The rival team was closing in on the PLA in the closing stages, but one of its members experienced extreme cramping near the end and dropped down the field.

This allowed the garrison to make its third straight podium finish at the Trailwalker.

The PLA team clocked in 12 hours and 22 minutes, with second-placed North Face-Flight just three minutes behind. However, it was not the easy victory expected for the army garrison after two years of finishing in the top 2.

Ryan Blair, a well-known Hong Kong distance runner, competed with the second-place team and was delighted with the result.

'It was just a battle out there, but I take my hat off to the PLA. They have an amazing focus and determination to win this event, which they showed again this year,' said Blair, 39. 'We were closing on them near the finish, but they deserved their victory.'

Trailwalker, which began in the early 1980s in Hong Kong as a training exercise by British army regiments, is now held in 12 countries by Oxfam and its affiliates.

Over the years, the city's trailwalkers have trekked more than 7.38 million kilometres - equivalent to walking around the earth 184 times. Since Oxfam, a confederation of 15 advocacy groups, took over as organiser in 1986, more than 69,000 trailwalkers have raised HK$340 million for various anti-poverty projects.


The hours Super Trailwalker teams - or ones that finished at record times in previous editions - are given to finish the race


The height, in metres, of the highest hill among an estimated 20 that trekkers must negotiate on the rugged trail


The number of teams that took part in this year's Trailwalker, which started as a training routine for the Queen's Gurkha Signals


One of the fastest finishes in Trailwalker history, set by a military regiment in the race held in Britain in 2004