Fit & Fab: Wong Ho Fai
Despite having a solid career as an engineer, Wong Ho-fai did what most 24-year-olds only dream of: he quit his job to realise his passion - sports photography.
Four years later, the gutsy decision has led to an exciting role spearheading French trail-running brand Salomon's marketing campaigns in Hong Kong.
"My parents always urged me to get a 'real' job," says Wong. "But I told myself I had to find a job where I could combine work and travel."
A self-taught photographer, he did his rookie gig in Nepal in 2009, for the 10-day Yak Attack mountain bike stage race that cuts across the Himalayas.
Over the next couple of years, he travelled on adventure photography jobs, sharing his stories in a column in a local sports magazine. His work caught the eye of the Salomon boss, who offered Wong a job.
Although Wong still snaps photos on the side, the job has given him the chance to develop his other passion: sports, in particular, trail running.
Work has taken him to some of the most amazing trails in the world. His most recent adventure, in March, was running three ultra-marathons in as many weekends - the Tarawera 100 kilometre and the Northburn Station 100 miler (160 kilometres) in New Zealand, and the Twilight Ultra Challenge in Singapore (100 kilometres in 16 hours).
"I was in the basketball team [in high school], then I transitioned to rock climbing. After that, I was a mountain bike rider and then I got into trail running," he says. He recently bought a road bike to participate in triathlons - though he doesn't know how to swim. Yet.
But endurance sports seem to come naturally to Wong, so it won't be long before he excels in this new pursuit.
Do you think the body has limits?
No. My first big adventure race was a seven-day, non-stop expedition in October 2011 in Tasmania, Australia, where it was very cold and remote. Our team of four had to kayak, mountain bike and hike. We slept about four hours per night. I learned the body can do anything if your mind is strong.
What were you thinking the morning after Tarawera, knowing you had 100 miles to race the following weekend?
I was surprised. My legs didn't feel so bad and I was excited for the 100-miler. I rested for a few days, then did a training run on the Thursday before Northburn, which started on the Saturday. Northburn is hilly. The total elevation gain is 12,000 metres and it took me 31 hours 41 minutes. After I finished, I felt I could run another 50 kilometres.
What's your recipe for recovery?
Make sure you listen to your body and give it what it needs; eat what you need to eat, rest when you need to rest. If you enjoy your life and your running, rather than pushing yourself into it, the recovery part is easy.
What's your favourite inspirational quote?
"Pain is temporary, but quitting lasts forever." But you have to be honest with yourself; sometimes you can't carry on. Last year at the [161 kilometre] Ultra Trail Mount Fuji, I did not finish because I hurt my knee and I had more races coming up. There will always be another race.
Do you consider yourself unique for most Hongkongers your age?
I'm not unique, but I would say I'm brave enough to step up and do what I'm passionate about. But above all, I've been very lucky; I've met so many people who have helped me out and given me opportunities in the process.