Two of the world’s best trail runners will make their way to Hong Kong in February 2019 and go head-to-head in a new race, the Fast 100 Ultra.
Jim Walmsley, record-setter at this year’s 100-mile Western States, will run against Rob Krar, two-time winner of the Leadville 100-miler and winner at the 2014 Western States.
“I’ll go over there and look at taking care of business first,” Walmsley said. “The exploring and travelling will come after the race. A competitor like that [Krar] keeps your training honest. It’s about being a professional and doing a job.”
Krar and Walmsley have faced off a few times, including at one of Walmsley first ultra marathons, the Moab Red Hot 55km, which was won by Canadian Krar. Since then they have both beaten each other.
The Fast 100 ultra, organised by The Trail Hub, begins on February 16 and takes runners around the New Territories, starting in Tai Mo Shan country park. Runners then do a 100-kilometre loop down to Kowloon Reservoir, Eagle’s Nest, back up to Shing Mun Reservoir and the start line. There are also 28km and 50km races.
Hong Kong trails are notorious for steep climbs and brutal staircases, but this route is generally flat and runnable, with only 2,800 metres of elevation.
“There are hardly any stairs in this race and it’s difficult to keep the legs moving fast,” says the event’s website.
It will suit Walmsley, who is very fast and has performed well at comparable courses, in particular his record-setting run at Western States.
“Valerie [Lagarde, race organiser] reached out to me around the time of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB),” Walmsley said, “and the way she was enthusiastic and the description of the course made me pick the race.”
“Definitely a draw is to get to Asia and to Hong Kong,” said Walmsley, adding he will get excited for the trip once he has completed The North Face 50 in California on November 17.
It is not the first time the American has run in Asia, but his visit to race in China in the Gobi was a blur due to the massive amount of travel and the minimal time spent at the event, he said.
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The speedy nature of the Fast 100 course suits Walmsley’s long-term plans. He is trying to develop speed as he targets a change to marathon running with the eventual aim of running in the Olympics.
“After Hong Kong, I’m doing a half-marathon as an experiment,” he said. “We will see how some of the speed workouts go.”
In the United States, runners who can meet the time standard are eligible to take part in Olympic trials.
Men have to run under two hours and 19 minutes, or a one-hour, four-minute half-marathon, to meet the criteria.
“The USA is pretty wide open in terms of marathon runners and it makes you think you can throw your hat in the ring,” he said.
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Walmsley will combine trail and ultra running with marathon training by focusing on flat and fast 50km or 100km races. He will not take part in races like the UTMB next year, which have massive climbs and descents.
“Hong Kong is notorious for steps,” he said, “but the Fast 100 is trying to be different. I’ve also heard that you are in a huge city, then suddenly you are back in the jungle. That’s going to be pretty awesome.”