The Hong Kong trail scene has it all – tough courses, iconic races, crazy distances that capture the imagination, community spirit and even award-winning films. But there is one thing it lacks: a ‘Fastest Known Time’ (FKT) route.
An FKT is exactly what it says on the time, the fastest time anyone has taken to run a particular trail or course. There are some nuances to the definition. The course tends to be notable, obvious and one that others would want to repeat. What’s more, although running a route during a race can technically constitute an FKT, it tends to be usurped by the term ‘race/course record’. Basically, a race record does not really seem to be in the spirit of FKT running.
That might be part of the reason Hong Kong lacks a recognised FKT trail. The region has plenty of notable, iconic and obvious routes, but there are now so many races that most of the fastest times are set during races. Who is going to declare an FKT attempt on the MacLehose when they could run it during a host of other events?
Another factor that helps create FKTs is local celebrities. Many of the most famous FKTs around the world are named after the first person to run them. The stature of the person in their local community draws others to repeat it.
Think of the Bob Graham Round in the Lake District in the UK. Graham ran 42 peaks in under 24 hours and there was already such a vibrant fell running community that it took hold as the local benchmark.
Graham’s route grew to the point that it is one of the most iconic FKTs in the world. The great Kilian Jornet now holds the Bob Graham Round FKT and 2,384 people have completed the Round in under 24 hours, up to the end of 2019, according to The Bob Graham 24 Hour Club.
With these two factors in mind, what Hong Kong needs is an obvious route that is not raced and a local trail celebrity to make it famous.
I propose the Hong Kong 360 as our first recognised FKT, to be submitted to the gatekeepers of records at fastestknowntime.com. The route follows the circumference of Hong Kong (360 degrees), which is exactly 360km. It follows the coast and border of Kowloon and the New Territories, the coast of Lantau Island and finally the coast of Hong Kong Island.
It is notable, obvious and could become iconic. The route was first created by Mark Western, a headmaster intent on exploring Hong Kong from a different angle. Western is now creating a race, but as it is a multi-day stage race it does not interfere with the FKT.
The 360 was then made famous by Wong Ho-chung, who ran it in over four days with 36 hours of moving time. The route was slightly different to Western’s original but the gauntlet has been thrown down. As Wong travelled, the community became more and more excited with runners joining him and crowds meeting him at the finish. He was motoring so fast that many fresh-legged runners could not keep up.
This has everything Hong Kong needs to become its first iconic, repeatable FKT. The route is obvious and notable, and Wong, sixth at the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc in 2019, is the celebrity we need to propel it into the community’s collective imagination.
We could even change the name – Western’s Way, or Wong’s Way, as a homage to the creator or the runner who raised the bar. Or the Western Wong Way (WWW)? Though the symmetry of the 360 degrees/360km will probably stick.
With no races on the horizon due to the coronavirus, the Hong Kong 360 could be the benchmark and challenge that runners need.
Who among the community will set the new FKT and beat Wong’s incredible 36 hours moving time?
Perhaps they could raise the bar further still and sleep on the course instead of coming home between the days, or do it unsupported, thus creating parallel FKTs – moving time, non-stop, supported, unsupported.
The possibilities are endless, but with the race calendar decimated, possibilities are what runners need.