The Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge (HK4TUC) is taking on special significance for Tanya Bennett. Having lived in the city for over a decade, Bennett plans to move to Vietnam next month, and wants one final lap of honour. “So this is my last chance saloon,” she said. “It’s like I’m going on one final, really long, really hard love letter to Hong Kong. “I’ll be waltzing along Tai Mo Shan one moment, then thinking see you later on Needle Hill the next. It’s going to be as emotionally hard as physically hard, but that’s the point.” The HK4TUC links all four of Hong Kong’s major trails. Participants run the MacLehose, Wilson, Hong Kong and Lantau Trails in reverse. There are no checkpoints or support allowed on the trails, though runners are allowed help travelling between the trails. This year, they also have to run from the end of the Hong Kong Trail to the Lantau Ferry. If they reach the end – marked by a green postbox in Mui Wo – in under 60 hours they are a “finisher”. If they reach the end in under 72 hours, they are a “survivor”. It is not a race, and there are no entry fees or prizes – runners just have to submit an essay to the organiser detailing their motivations. What is the 298km Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge? “A large part of it is saying goodbye to Hong Kong,” Bennett added. “I’ve been here for years and most of my friends here are through trail running, so this is a way to close the chapter. “I don’t think I’ll be doing much running in Ho Chi Minh – I hate road running. Put me on a trail and I’ll go forever, but on a road and I can’t.” Bennett has supported runners on the HK4TUC five times. The first time, she helped a runner from Malaysia, turning up at the end of the MacLehose with some water, snacks and a phone number for a taxi. She then supported Will Hayward three times (he survived twice and did not finish once), and finely tuned her support system with cars, timing and nutrition. She also supported a runner from New Zealand who did not finish the MacLehose. So, there is no element of “ignorance is bliss” for what lies ahead. “I’ve been building up to this for a really long time,” she said. “I’ve thought about it quite a few times, I wrote my essay to the organiser quite a few times. But I didn’t feel physically or mentally ready, I didn’t feel worthy of an attempt.” Last year, Bennett reached a mile stone when she completed 100 miles (161km) with one of her close friends Kerensa. She ran the 9 Buffaloes, which links the Lantau Trail 70km and the 100km TransLantau routes in one go. Upon completing it, she finally felt ready for the HK4TUC. “The difference is that the pandemic had taken away all the races, and so the race aspects were gone. It became about just completing it. It was self support. The phrase for the whole thing was ‘you, me and a mountain’, Bennett said. “We didn’t care how long it took, how many times we stopped, if we wanted to look at the view. I’m not very competitive so I don’t like racing, I never run to compete. Doing it as a challenge and just getting it done was really appealing to me.” “The HK4TUC is not a race, it’s a race against yourself. It’s just one foot forward and getting on with it, it’s not about worrying about the people around you. It’s just about getting to the next place with water, not dying and repeating that for three days.” Bennett’s primary driver is time in nature and the simplicity of running. “I just love being out there and being in nature so I get to do that on a massive scale in the HK4TUC. I hope I can scrape through,” she said. “It helps with anxiety and mental health. When I’m out there I’m just so happy. Without thinking about it, life is boiled down to its simplest parts. I’ll be looking forward to a warm bowl of noodles in an hour, instead of the overwhelming nature of the last few years, for all of us. “We’ve been going through it. It’s just such a nice outlet, not to have to worry about how I’m going to make money in a pandemic. Instead, you can just tune out and worry about how to get to the top of a hill. You can’t cheat at it, you just have to get on and do it.” From ‘party Queen’ to running machine for the 298km HK4TUC Bennett is a professional artist. She is running the HK4TUC for Sovereign Art Foundation, a charity that helps children communicate and express trauma with expressive arts. The charity, for which Bennett has been an ambassador for 10 years, assists children with learning disabilities and those who have tough circumstances at home. For Bennett, art and running overlap. In each, she is able to zone out and boil life down to its immediate tasks. Both are like meditation. “You can blink and five hours has gone and you’ve thought about absolutely nothing. Or you can spend 20 minutes absolutely hating your life every single second and wondering what you are doing. Then you blink again and it’s three hours later,” she said. Ho cures fear of running downhill just in time for 298km trails race Having so much experience as a supporter, Bennett knows the Wilson Trail can make or break a runner. It is the first night, 100km into the race, with the most ascent per kilometre of the four trails. But for her, the first challenge is the MacLehose. There is an 18-hour cut-off, which is faster than she has ever completed the trail. “I think I’m going to be so stressed out about trying to reach the end in 18 hours, I won’t be thinking about the Wilson,” Bennett said. “If I do that, then the Wilson will be great, without that time pressure. “I get stressed out by time. I don’t like being up against time. Wilson will be less of an immediate time pressure.” ‘Sooner or later you pay’: looking back on suffering the HK4TUC Bennett does not have a watch. Other former HK4TUC runners seem aghast that she will attempt the challenge without even taking a cheap Casio. “I always run best when I let go of time and just run in the moment,” she said. “I think ultimately it’s going to come down to being prepared psychologically. I’m as fit as I’m going be. That doesn’t mean I’m a very fit or very fast runner, but it gets to the point when if you are mentally prepared you can compensate for that with a bit of enthusiasm and a bit of hard stubbornness and will.” Bennett is hoping to “survive”, even if she is just one minute before the 72 hour cut-off. “I’m just trying to run happy as I can, and hopefully that will pay off physically. I think the two are connected. The mind and body have to be in sync,” Bennett added. “That or it could go horribly wrong.” You can donate to Bennett’s Sovereign Art Foundation page here .