When the Oxfam Trailwalker announced it was cancelling this weekend’s race owing to safety issues caused by the ongoing protests, many were disappointed but some were undeterred. On Friday morning, when the race was supposed to start, hundreds of runners headed to Sai Kung to take on the 100km course anyway.

“It’s pretty special. I think it’s unique that everyone is still coming together and stands to run,” said Kodie Hultgren, of Gone Running-Joint Dyanmaics team.

The race starts in Sai Kung and heads 100km towards Tuen Mun. It started as a Gurkha training exercise, but has turned into the biggest trail running event of the year, open to all the enter.

“Shattered”, “devastated” and “unsurprised” were Hultgren’s team’s reaction to the cancellation. Ongoing anti-government protests have turned increasingly violent, and with mass travel disruptions throughout the week, it was deemed unsafe to have 5,000 runners and uncountable amounts of support runners head to the trails for the race.

“We all understood that, but we’ve spent six months training for this,” said Hultgren’s teammate, Charlotte Cutler, adding there was never any doubt they would run anyway.

Johnson Ko, team Reorient, is 70 years old and is running his third Traiwalker.

“Disappointed, but we decided we wanted to proceed,” Ko said. “As soon as they announced, we [decided to] continue to live the way we live.”

Runners stand on the start line counting down to an 8am start on an unofficial race. Photo: Mark Agnew

“Hong Kong people will continue to live their way, even if they are affected [by protests],” he said.

Jcy Ho and her team Instinct Fit expected the event to be cancelled, so started having the conversation about whether to go ahead anyway even before the announcement. They are using it as a training run.

“Amazing, when we found out so many people were still coming when it’s unofficial, it’s made the whole thing more fun now,” she said.

Lodewijk Vriens and his Swire Properties team were initially worried about getting water on the course. But the event organisers left the water they had already delivered to the checkpoints, just in case there were impromptu runners.

“It’s incredible, right? The amount of people who are here today just to show they have put all the effort in to get this far and they won’t stop at anything to get it done,” he added.