From beer drinker to ultrarunner leading tribute to Hong Kong's Andy Naylor

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 April, 2015, 6:11am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 April, 2015, 10:12am

Some give, others give everything for a greater cause. This month we follow three benevolent souls who use their love of sport in grand ways.

Partially deaf since the age of three, Steve Carr has learned important life lessons: never let labels define you, anything is possible and someone is always in greater need than you.

It's no surprise, then, that Carr has transformed in eight months from a slightly overweight beer drinker to an ultrarunner and race director for one of Hong Kong's dearest causes.

The inaugural "Hard As Nayls" running race in memory of Andy "Nayls" Naylor will be held later this month. Naylor was an icon in the local athletics scene before his untimely death aged 43 at the Ironman in New York City in August 2012. Naylor left behind a wife and three young children.

Carr, 35, never met Naylor, but he didn't pause when asked to take up the mantle as race director late last year.

"The race is about one of Hong Kong's own. Andy competed in so many Hong Kong races, from the Standard Chartered Marathon to the Kayak n Run. He was the race director of the Sedan Chair Race; he was about community," Carr says.

"The more involved I got, the more passionate I've become towards the race and what Andy stood for … it seemed more should be done for his memory."

The Briton's experience organising events for charity deemed him the perfect man for the job; his lack of running credentials a mere technicality.

"I may be a race director, but I'm not sure if I can call myself a runner," chuckles Carr, a teacher. His late foray into running last year was spurred by feeling left out: dinner with friends one evening was dominated by a sole topic.

"All they talked about was running," he laments. "I got really frustrated, so I decided that I would do a run to trump them all."

He later signed up for a 100km ultramarathon and quickly immersed himself in the city's welcoming running community. He never foresaw that would include organising such an emblematic race.

Offering an 8km family run to a gruelling 45km event followed by a post-race party, the race is true to Naylor's competitive yet community-minded spirit.

"It doesn't feel like a race; it feels like loads of good people rocking up to run a route, have a bit of fun, have some beer and food and celebrate what Andy was all about," Carr says.

Funds raised will be used for the local community, including tragedy-affected families and underprivileged young runners.

I'm the kind of person that if you tell me I can't do something, I will bleed until I am able to do it. Before my first trail race, a scramble up Hong Kong's biggest mountain, I had only trained for 25 minutes on a treadmill. That hurt.

Ultra running is simple: you put on a pair of shoes, fill up a pack with whatever you want and run. But we make it so complicated with sports drinks and nutrition supplements. At the end of the day you just run and hope you get to the end. I've never been so physically sick doing something I was enjoying as when I ran my first 100km in January, and yet I kept going.

If I wasn't running, I'd probably still be drinking beers and eating pies. I think ultrarunners have addictive personalities. If they weren't running really long distances they'd need something to replace it. Running has made me more relaxed. Life seems simpler. After a long run, your problems don't seem to matter so much.

I've always believed there are people out there who need help more than me. When I was seven I was told I would never get through school because of my hearing. Thanks to many factors, I've been through school and university. And I'm doing my master's, I've got a really decent job - and yet there will be someone, somewhere who won't have these opportunities. How is that fair? I've always tried to give back however I can.

Bumping into people doing training runs while on the course has been the most rewarding aspect of being a race director so far. That's when the race transformed from something on paper to something that is really happening. I'm Steve, the guy that couldn't run, and now I'm organising a race. I sometimes find it hard to believe.

It's been a great experience getting to know someone through this process. Early on, I didn't have as strong an emotional attachment, not knowing Andy, but as time's gone, it's got stronger. At the start I just got stuff done; now I'm worried making sure every detail is spot on.

I'm most looking forward to the finish, and all those sweaty hugs. You get a certain satisfaction knowing someone's had a good day out because of you. I'm looking forward to being the one that says "well done" and gives everyone a pat on the back. I'm looking forward to contributing to a race that people come back to, year after year, and making sure Andy's memory lives on.