The Mads slowly trotted over the finish line after a gruelling 47 hours, 51 minutes and 49 seconds on the MacLehose Trail. The final team to complete the Oxfam Trailwalker could do nothing but hug each other and cry.
“There were so many times we thought of giving up, starting from the middle of the race,” said team captain, David Ip Ki-yam. “Somehow we were able to persevere and make it over the finish line, so it was very emotional.”
Ip added they had only slept for 30 minutes since departing from Sai Kung on Friday.
In high-profile races like the 100km Oxfam Trailwalker, glory is rightfully given to the winners. Team Gone Running-Joint Dynamics finished in 11 hours, 53 minutes. But there is also something admirable about those willing to suffer and fight through adversity to cross the finish line after two nights in the mountains for a charitable cause.
Against all odds, The Mads – an acronym for the team members’ first names of May, Amy, David and Sharon – completed the race just eight minutes under the 48-hour limit. The four friends are former classmates at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
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The 27-year-old Ip was the only member of The Mads who had done the 100km ultramarathon before. For his teammates May Cheung Mei-yi, Sharon Ho Yuet-yee and Amy Pang Cheuk-ting, it was not only their first time doing the race, they had also done “very little training” beforehand.
“Because we didn’t train very much and a couple of us got injuries, we were walking much slower than the other teams and this meant we had much less time to rest and sleep,” explained the 23-year-old Pang, who started experiencing foot and knee pain halfway through the race. “We had so much support from our friends. They kept calling us to support us and they encouraged us to keep going.”
She added that the injuries and different fitness levels of the team made it “very difficult” to coordinate the varied pacing of the four team members.
For the 21-year-old Ho, the race could not have come at a worse time of the month.
“I was on my period, so I had a really bad headache and there were times I wanted to vomit,” she said. “And the top of the mountain was so windy and wet, and I was not adapted to that type of environment. I can’t believe I was able to overcome this situation.”
But no one was happier to finish the race than Cheung, who said she was suffering from “severe foot pain” for much of the race. Afterwards, she was completely overrun with emotion.
“I was so happy to finally finish the competition, because it was very challenging and I didn’t think we could manage it from the middle of the race,” the 23-year-old said with tears still streaming down her face. “But thanks to the support of my teammates, who helped carry me at times, and all the supporters, we made it.”
Cheung is still concerned about the severity of her injuries. “It was very painful at the end. I hope my feet are not seriously hurt and there is no permanent damage.”
However, despite all the pain and suffering, she and the rest of the team laughed and smiled when asked if they would do it again next year.
“Yes, definitely, if we get the chance,” Cheung said. “Maybe next year we can train more.”