Most students in Hong Kong take the MTR or a bus to school; so if you ask 16-year-old William Dawes about his commute, his answer will make your jaw drop.
The teenager sets out at 7am every morning to run from his home in Kwai Chung to St Margaret’s Co-educational English Secondary and Primary School in Cheung Sha Wan, arriving around 7.30am. Sometimes he even adds an extra two kilometres to the 5km journey.
This unusual routine is all part of William’s training schedule, which is helping him to become one of the best junior long-distance runners in the city. The star athlete tells Young Post that his morning jog serves as a training session before school, and helps him recover from his intensive training of the previous evening.
“My coach wanted me to train in the morning, and I thought the easiest way would be running to school. Of course, I’m tired after the jog. Exhaustion usually hits me at around lunchtime, so I often take a nap to recharge,” says William.
It’s paying off: the Form Four student displayed impressive stamina needed to come second in the boys’ Grade A at the Interschool Cross Country Competition (Division One), on October 28.
He was one of the few athletes who stopped Diocesan Boys’ School, which has dominated the event for the past eight years, from making another clean sweep. He also helped his school team to move up from Division Three to the highest division, in just three years.
William fondly remembers his interschool debut in 2016, where he came fourth in boys’ Grade C. It was “the most memorable” race so far, because it proved he had the potential to master this taxing sport.
“I surprised a lot of people back then, as I didn’t train much. Finishing fourth really boosted my confidence that I could do well in long-distance events,” he recalls.
He has also represented Hong Kong in regional and international events over the past two years, such as the 3rd Asian Youth Athletics Championships in March. “I always feel a great sense of accomplishment when I put on the Hong Kong team jersey, it feels very different from representing my school,” he says.
Running has given William a new sense of purpose, and helped rid him of bad habits, such as falling asleep and playing video games in class. The once rebellious teen has learned that self-discipline is the key to success in the sport, as athletes must follow strict training programmes.
After training intensively for 45 days last summer in Mongolia, where he ran 124km per week, William is confident that he can set some new personal bests. His biggest hope is to complete the 3,000m track event in under nine minutes.
“I’m still 21 seconds away from the nine-minute barrier, but I’ve made up my mind,” he said.
The rising star’s advice for anyone taking up long-distance running is to take it seriously; and to always remember – no pain, no gain.
“If you really want to become a good runner, you can’t treat it as a hobby,” he says. “You must push aside other things and dedicate all of your time to running.”