Extreme fitness

Hong Kong firefighter Wong Ho-chung in red-hot form as he wins Mizuno race at Tai Mei Tuk

  • Local firefighter blazes past his opposition to snatch victory in the 50km trail running event
  • Leung Ying-suet victorious in the women’s race just two weeks after taking out the North Face 50
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 December, 2018, 7:18pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 December, 2018, 10:48pm

With a red-hot time of five hours, 40 minutes and six seconds, local firefighter Wong Ho-chung blazed through the competition at the 26th Mizuno Hong Kong trail running championships on Sunday, showing the world that Hong Kong doesn’t just have great races, it has great runners, too.

“Yeah, I think so,” said Wong when asked if he felt whether he is the face of local trail runners. “I couldn’t believe my performance today, I really pushed myself to the limit. I even started to feel cramps during the last two kilometres because I maybe pushed myself a little too hard, but I was able to maintain and push through to win.”

The 50km race in Tai Mei Tuk was the first trail running event put on by the Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association, meaning the stakes were higher than normal and that Wong was racing for a possible spot at the 2019 World trail running championships, which take place in Portugal next June. After such an impressive performance, the 31-year-old should like his chances.

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“I will wait to hear back from the HKAAA and if I do get to represent Hong Kong, I will do my best. It is very difficult to compete with the best runners globally.”

Wong is coming off an unbelievable performance, winning the 250km ultramarathon known as The Last Desert, which took place in Antarctica in the US. The North Face sponsored athlete’s body was battered and bruised after that, and he was forced to skip his sponsor’s race, the North Face 50, two weeks ago.

“I was really sad to not get to run my sponsor’s title race, but I’m glad I took the time off to let my body get the recovery I needed,” Wong said. “I wanted to make sure I gave this race my all, the first trail running race hosted by HKAAA is a great step for the sport, and I’m very happy with the result.”

Wong said that trail running “definitely” helps him with his work as a firefighter.

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“Being a firefighter requires you to have good fitness – and to have knowledge of the mountains and trails for forest fires,” said Wong, who works for the fire department’s mountain rescue team. “Actually, my department really supports me in my trail running and wants me to get as fit as possible.”

He hopes to inspire more Hongkongers – especially young athletes – to start what he says is the best sport in the world early, so that Hong Kong can start making more noise on the world stage.

“I want to set a good example to inspire the youth. And now, there are more training programmes for people to start training young,” Wong said. “I am a good example. When I was teenager, I would always run around in the mountains for fun. Even though I wasn’t training properly, this really made it easier for me to become a great trail runner.”

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One of Hong Kong’s trail running household names – John Ellis – finished second with a time of 6:12.05, while Leung Chun-kung finished third with a time of 6:14.34.

Meanwhile, Wong’s good friend and training partner Leung Ying-suet won the women’s championships with a time of 6:32.05, two weeks after winning the North Face 50, which she treated as practice for this race.

“The weather was a lot better than it was two weeks ago so I felt comfortable,” said the trail running veteran Leung, who is sponsored by Mizuno. “I have had many races in the past few months, but this was the most important one to me. I’m very happy. This was my main race.”

Leung is hoping her performance will earn her a ticket to the world championships as she went to represent Hong Kong in the 2018 edition.

“It was crazy competitive,” she said of representing Hong Kong at the worlds. “But I want to get in and do better next year.”

The talented doctor, Cheung Man-yee, finished second with a time of 6:49.33, and Tsang Yin-hung finished third with a time of 7:28.16.