The outdoor and extreme sports community has had an unprecedented year of cancellations and social distancing. And yet, there have been many stories of triumph and tragedy. Here are the top extreme fitness stories of 2020. 10. Ross Barkley’s incredible 5km time sparks hilarious online challenge as runners pretend to break world records The first on the list comes under extreme fitness, or should we say, extreme carelessness with the truth. The 5km challenge took the world by storm, as people were only allowed out of their homes for short periods in countries like the UK. The idea was to run 5km, donate £5 to charity and nominate five friends. English Premier League footballer Ross Barkley posted a truly unbelievable 5km time. We were right not to believe it, as it turned out to be “moving time” and the breaks he took were not recorded. It sparked a mock 5km challenge for those hoping to manipulate moving time to set “world records”. 9. Pau Capell misses UTMB course record on ‘Breaking 20’ attempt Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc 2019 champion Pau Capell set off to beat the course record, even though the event was cancelled. Fans were gripped as he ticked off the kilometres around the famous 170km route that passes via three countries. Unfortunately, the Spanish runner missed the record but his effort was amazing. 8. Hong Kong runner Wong Ho-chung loses Chinese award nomination for ‘online speech harmful to the motherland’s unification’ Hong Kong has been gripped by political unrest for over a year and 2019 saw huge protests that continued into the first part of 2020. Wong Ho-chung, one of the best and most popular trail runners in Hong Kong, was rightly nominated for an outdoor sports award in China. But online posts expressing sympathy for protesters were deemed “harmful to the motherland” and he was stripped of his nomination, without much explanation. 7. Wearing masks when trail running or hiking is necessary so adjust expectations or training plans, say Hong Kong’s top trail runners There is no doubt 2020 will be remembered for the Covid-19 pandemic. Governments around the world scrambled to find appropriate responses. In Hong Kong, for the briefest of time, wearing a mask during exercise was mandatory. Though no one wanted to do it, trail runners encouraged other outdoor lovers to comply. 6. Bear Grylls’ Eco-Challenge: World’s Toughest Race winner Nathan Fa’avae talks teamwork and the pros and cons of TV fame in adventure racing Adventure racing has been around for a long time but it was given a boost by the re-emergence of the Eco-Challenge, which was broadcast throughout on Amazon. The star of the show, Nathan Fa’avae, spoke eloquently about his time in Fiji and why he loves pushing himself in the wild. 5. When ‘Game of Thrones’ Hafthor Bjornsson broke the dead lift world record, what did he smell and why were his crew shouting? Man mountain Hafthor Bjornsson set the world record for deadlifting by shifting 501kg. Spectators were intrigued to find out more about his pre-lift ritual that involved smelling salts and a lot of shouting. It was more than just random screams though, but part of a sport science routine to provoke a maximum response from his mind and body. 4. HK100: Ragna Debats, trail-running world champion, kicks off epic family trip in Hong Kong The Ultra-Trail World Tour always kicks of with the Vibram Hong Kong 100. The event attracts some of the most famous runners in the sport of trail running. It is no surprise that so many trail lovers wanted to find out more about Ragna Debats and her round-the-world travel plans. In hindsight, it must have been a tough year. 3. HK100: Jared Hazen, Western States second-fastest runner, eyes Hong Kong victory with all-or-nothing racing Another big name in Hong Kong for the season opener was American speedster Jared Hazen. Not long off setting the second fastest time at the Western States, his star was rising and trail fans wanted to know more about what made the runner tick. 2. Nic Tinworth, Hong Kong trail running community legend, dies aged 44 after long battle with brain tumour Tragedy struck the Hong Kong running community when it lost one of its most friendly faces. Nic Tinworth had been the centre of the community for years, organising races and meet-ups. He lost a long battle with cancer and scores of runners from Hong Kong and abroad read about the incredible life he lived. From touring Europe with his band, to starting a race company in Hong Kong, it was more than most would expect to achieve in half the time. 1. Andrea Huser, champion ultra runner, falls to death while crossing a stream during training Another tragedy rounds off the year, as former Ultra-Trail World Tour champion Andrea Huser slipped when training and fell to her death. The search ended with her body found at the bottom of an icy stream. A sad end to a tough year and a reminder to be careful on the trails.