When a training run becomes ultra-marathon victory – McNaughton pushes her limits to win HK50

Hong Kong resident’s plan to take it easy goes out of the window as she battles leg cramps to finish almost 40 minutes ahead of her nearest rival

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 October, 2017, 5:51pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 October, 2017, 10:28pm

Hong Kong resident Marie McNaughton planned to do the MSIG HK50 as a training run. Instead, despite having to sit and rest to ease cramps along the way, she built an untouchable lead and romped to victory in the women’s race.

McNaughton, originally from New Zealand, won the TransJeju 100-kilometre ultra-marathon only a week ago, so had planned to take it easy on Saturday in the MSIG HK50.

However, she found herself in the lead by 5km and finished almost 40 minutes ahead of the next best woman, Taiwan’s Kuo Wan-ting.

“I did go out a little too fast for a training run,” McNaughton said.

The 50km race around Hong Kong Island started at The Peak and finished on Wong Nai Chung Road. Around 800 competitors raced in conditions that were much cooler than recent weeks. Runners had to contend with long uphills and a lot of stairs.

McNaughton finished in five hours and 56 minutes, with Wan crossing in 6:33. Emilie Saint-pe, a stalwart of the Hong Kong running scene, was third in 6:42.

By the time McNaughton hit Mount Butler, she was suffering from cramps in her legs.

“I should have been mindful of last week’s race [TransJeju],” she said. “I had to sit down, which I’d never done before. I sat down between Mount Butler and Mount Parker, so not only could I not move, I was in the sun.”

Kuo said the hills were very challenging: “My muscles have no more power in them, they are very painful.”

The HK50 was the longest race Saint-pe has done in a few years. She usually specialises in sub-30km races.

“It’s more simple than short distances,” the Frenchwoman said. “Short distances require you to be 100 per cent the whole time, but over long distances you can take bits of it easy. I have the fitness, but not the legs [for long distances].”

McNaughton now switches her focus to the North Face 100 – which takes place in the New Territories in December – but next weekend will run the Ten Times Needle Hill race as training.

As the name suggests, the race includes multiple ascents of the steep Needle Hill.

In the men’s race, Justin Andrews set a race record of 4:41:36, 20 seconds ahead of Ching Chou from Taiwan.

“He [Chou] was very strong on one of the first climbs,” Andrews said. “I didn’t see him again until a hiker said he’s only one minute ahead when there were three kilometres to go, so I knew I could do it.”

Kevin Scallan from Ireland finished third in 4:52.