‘Breaking 60’ follows four runners in their epic attempt to complete the Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge

Adventure sports director Robin Lee captures the gruelling 298-kilometre HK4TUC race in his new documentary, despite suffering from frostbite

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 July, 2017, 7:59am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 August, 2017, 12:08pm

“It’s 298 kilometres. Are you mad!?” the competitors are asked at the start of the Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge (HK4TUC). The question rings out at the end of the trailer for a new trail running documentary ‘Breaking 60’ that will give you goose bumps.

The HK4TUC is a self-supported, solo, non-stop race that includes 14,500 metres in elevation. Runners attempt the MacLehose Trail, Wilson Trail, Hong Kong Trail and Lantau Trail back to back with the aim of finishing in under 60 hours.

Those who miss the cut-off time but complete the distance are called ‘survivors’. The finish line is a post box in Mui Wo.

Robin Lee has captured the soul-torturing race in his documentary, set to come out in the autumn. He spoke to the Post about what it takes to be an adventure sports film director.

First things first, you have to love it and enjoy working through the pain to weather the highs and lows of film making.

“I can’t tell you the number of times I have hiked for hours in perfect conditions, only for the weather to turn bad the moment we start filming,” he said. “If you don’t [love it] then it will be one of the toughest jobs out there.”

Four finishers and five survivors complete gruelling 298 kilometre Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge

Lee had just returned from filming in Canada when the HK4TUC took place. He suffered from frost bite in Canada, and had to have the top part of his big toes cut off. He was bandaged and in pain. They had to reshuffle film teams as a result.

“It worked out quite well because I ended up at more checkpoint locations where I could capture the interactions with the runners’ support teams and document those intimate moments,” Lee said.

But he admitted at being disappointed that he could not be out hiking with the rest of the film crew. He re-emphasised the importance of loving his work to make the pain worth it.

‘Breaking 60’ follows four runners, Stone Tsang Siu-keung, Brendan Lee, Scottie Callaghan and Jag Lanante, who have very different lifestyles.

The documentary “is really about showing that anybody can have a crack at something that will challenge themselves and I think that even if you don’t run yourself, you will enjoy the narrative and draw inspiration”, Lee said.

Lee draws on the runners dedication to fuel the passion for his own work, but he would not dream of entering the race himself.

One of the most challenging aspects of making ‘Breaking 60’ was keeping up with the athletes.

“By the second day they were all miles apart and scattered all over Hong Kong,” he said. “This made it quite challenging as we couldn’t just stay in one place, film them all coming by and then move on to the next, which we could easily do on the first day.

“After day one we were driving back and forth all over Hong Kong, sometimes missing them, sometimes just arriving in time.”

Lee started filming outdoor sports for fun, making cliff jumping videos and some skiing clips, but it eventually turned into a full-time job. He calls ‘Breaking 60’ a natural progression in his work.

“I have been involved in the production of other films as a filmer and editor and made short 25-minute documentaries, but this is my first shot at directing a longer piece,” he said.

Lee’s advice to other people wanting to start documenting sport, professional or for fun, is to “literally go the extra mile to get into zones which are remote and often unseen so you can capture content that nobody else has done and that many people wouldn’t know existed”.

“To to do this you not only have to carry tonnes of heavy and expensive gear up mountain paths or back county ski tracks,” he said.

“But you also have mother nature to contend with. She is unpredictable and will throw all she has at you.”

2016-17 Hong Kong running and multisport race calendar