Sandro Gianella runs down a long and steep flight of steps on the infamous Twins trail in Tai Tam, his legs flowing smoothly like a waterfall. Fifty metres later, the Swiss banker has doubled the gap on me. In a few moments, he's out of sight. 'Lean forward,' Gianella advises, on how to tackle these steps faster. Unfortunately, this fearless instinct, which he honed through chasing his dad and older brother down the Alps on skis, eludes me. Gianella, 36, has been a common face - and typically among the leaders - in trail running races in Hong Kong since he moved here 11 years ago. 'I love the simplicity and the freedom of running,' says the Geneva native, who has completed the 100-kilometre Oxfam Trailwalker for 10 straight years, with a best time of 16 hours, 21 minutes. 'Trail running puts you in contact with nature and lets you escape for a moment the noise and trappings of a hectic city.' Among his most memorable achievements, he says, was finishing the 2008 Gobi March, a 250-kilometre race through the Gobi Desert, and the 2010 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, a 166-kilometre race with a climb of about 9,500 metres. His goal for this year is to run a total of 1,000 kilometres in official races. With 577 kilometres run so far, Gianella is right on schedule. What goes through your mind on those long runs? A lot - from making sure that I put my feet in the right places to avoid injuries, to the latest world news. Recently I have been thinking about how to achieve my goal of running 1,000 kilometres of official races in one calendar year. As I run, I think of the next most exotic or exciting destination to complete the remaining 423 kilometres. What is your favourite trail in Hong Kong? The MacLehose Trail, specifically sections three, four, seven and eight. These sections of this beautiful route represent the perfect contrasts of Hong Kong: the skyscrapers and busy city life, with the white, sandy beaches and beautiful green hills of the New Territories. I love exploring new trails. The best feeling for me is to run from home to a destination where I'll be rewarded by a beautiful landscape, or a beach where I can take a swim - especially during the summer, when the temperature and humidity are dangerously high. Hongkongers often complain that the air is bad, or that they don't have the time, and that's why they don't exercise. What do you reckon? Sure, pollution is a problem in Hong Kong, and we should all take steps toward a cleaner and less polluted city. But I believe that first and foremost, it's about making a personal choice to prioritise exercise over more immediately gratifying, but less rewarding, options. Hongkongers should look at the bright side of things. We're in such a unique and convenient city where you don't have to travel far to find a good place to exercise, whether indoors or outdoors. I would encourage everyone to schedule exercise and stick to it. I usually run in the morning before work. It suits my schedule better than in the evening, when I might have to stay late in the office or have other obligations. How do you reward yourself after a tough workout? The destination and the opportunity to be in communion with nature is a reward in itself. However, if I manage to get in a good training session or break my personal record, a great dinner or lunch at one of the best French or Italian restaurants in the city is my favourite treat. What's your advice for people who want to get started in ultra-running? Know that your body is capable of a lot more than you think. Know that at one point you will want to give up, and this is when your mind takes over. If you are new to ultra-running, it's good to chat with experienced runners, as you will learn a lot about nutrition, equipment and training, and you will avoid making mistakes that might discourage you. Don't be intimidated by the number of kilometres in a race, but break it down in sections and checkpoints, and make sure that you know the type of fuel - food and drink - that your body needs. Make sure you hydrate well prior to the event and take electrolyte supplements to avoid cramps. And don't forget to pace yourself - which I often don't. So, what's your secret to looking fabulous? Ha ha! Are you serious? Get a good photographer - that's a good start!