When the markers at the Sai Kung 50 were taken down and rearranged to mislead the runners, my first thought was ‘who has the time or energy to do this?’
The race started at 6:30am so presumably someone woke up around 4am, and hiked into the country park on their Saturday to do their dirty work.
Race organisers frequently find their markers removed. There are a host of parties with rights to the country parks and tensions can build between hikers, runners and villagers. In some ways, I can understand a disgruntled hiker ripping down a ribbon as they pass.
But a concerted and pre-planned effort to remove and replace ribbons just seems sad. Who makes this their weekend priority, to go far out of their way to sabotage a niche sport?
It was first highlighted almost a year ago at the TransLantau 100km, with the race director calling it an “organised attack”.
Last weekend, Vlad Ixel was in the lead at the Sai Kung 50 before he went the wrong way. He said he had never seen such a clear example of planned removal and it must have been done by someone who “really hates this race”.
You have to look in the mirror and ask yourself about your priorities when you can hold such venom against a trail race of a few hundred people.
Not only do organisers depend on races as a source of income, but the runners too have put in a lot of effort. A full-time office worker gives up their spare time to train for the modest aim of completing a 50-kilometre race, and then some loser runs amok.
There are legitimate tensions. Hongkongers are lucky to have unbridled access to country parks, and runners are luckier still that the Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) grants over 200 race permits a year.
It can be frustrating for hikers to have paths jam-packed with runners, and villagers are often unhappy to have runners invading their spaces.
But if you have a real problem with how the parks are managed, this is not the appropriate way to express your outrage. Above all, it won’t change anything.
When the Sai Wan villages blocked the 2013 Oxfam Trailwalker in protest, they had the courage to do publicly and clearly stated what they were angry about so the AFCD could come up with a solution.
Race directors are not hell bent on dominating the parks at all costs. Two weeks ago, the Trail Hub launched their inaugural Fast 100km. The residents near the finish line complained there would be a lot of noise late into the night.
It was a perfectly reasonable concern. The organisers reduced the distance to the Fast 80km, and thus the final cut-off was bought forward so the finish line would be shut and cleared up before the noise disturbed residents’ sleep.
Problem solved and proof there are channels to voice concerns. The finish line party would have gone on well into the night irrespective of the residents’ issues if they had said nothing, gone out early in the morning and rearranged the markers.
But if you just hate trail running and your only motive is to ruin races, then get a life and find a hobby.