Jared Hazen is focused on winning the Vibram Hong Kong 100km ultramarathon, starting at 8am on Saturday, by leading the race as early as possible. The American speedster believes that although it is possible to podium by running conservatively, runners need to push from the start to come first.
“I’ve moved up, late in races, to a podium a spot. But trying to win is playing a whole other game, you have to be at the front of race the whole time,” Hazen, 25, said. “You're not going to luckily sneak your way into first place.”
The HK100 is the first race of the Ultra-Trail World Tour (UTWT). It is one of five UTWT races in Asia, including the Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji. It starts in Sai Kung and snakes across the New Territories to Tai Mo Shan.
Hazen said in any race, the reports you get in checkpoints about how far other runners are ahead of you can be inaccurate, making it hard to overtake them: “It's better to manage yourself while in the lead.”
However, pushing from the start is a risk as it is all or nothing, and you can blow up.
“I think it's OK for it to be nothing on some days,” he said. “But you have to hold yourself accountable to a certain extent. Sometimes it was stupid and you blew a chance. But you've got to give yourself a chance. Can you walk away with your head held high?”
Hazen added that although American runners have the reputation for going out hard, with an all or nothing attitude, it was only recently that the Europeans earned the same reputation: “I feel like it’s flip-flopped. But it’s because some faster American athletes have got into the sport recently.”
Owing to the HK100’s UTWT status, the start line is packed with talent. Foreigners, like Hazen, travel to Hong Kong and many unknown but equally talented mainland Chinese runners also attend. The past two editions have been won by mainland Chinese men and women.
Hazen said he knew the Chinese runners by name only. Usually, he is familiar with the field because he races the same events in the US so often. He knows his competitors’ styles, strengths and weaknesses.
“So this will be new. But that is what this year is about a little bit, stretching myself and racing new runners,” he said.
“I've been doing the same races for too long. There are some really cool races on the UTWT and I just want to participate in that more. I want to be more of an international runner and not a US runner,” he said. He is also targeting the Transvulcania in La Palma, Spain, in May and the CCC in Chamonix, France, in August.
Hazen is also returning to the Western States 100 mile (161) this summer, where last year he ran the second-fastest time ever. It would have been the course record had his training mate Jim Walmsley not beaten him that day and set the record.
“I take some confidence when I need it,” Hazen said. “But you have to stay hungry. It's good to know and to look at the list of runners who have run that race and to know you are second fastest, but getting the motivation to train hard I don't draw of that.
“But this race [HK100], the unknown has definitely got me hungry,” Hazen added.