Hong Kong is actually a surprisingly good place for running, although it can be difficult to find a route which is not too hilly! During our 5 days, we trained on three iconic running routes and it was good fun mixing up fitness and sightseeing.
Bowen Road Fitness Trail
This is a popular track which contours around the hillside, so is relatively flat. However, we did need to walk up many flights of stairs to get to the start! My calves were already burning before I’d even started my slow trotting.
The route begins on a quiet road but then forms into a dedicated walking path around the hills. There were parks and fitness equipment along the way and we passed older women doing tai chi, some badminton practise and a European man in calf compression gear and running sandals. Most people were out walking (lots of whom I presume were maids walking the family dogs) and there were a few walkers in ‘Darth Vader’ style visors which double as sun glasses with the darkened plastic visor pulled down over the face.
There were nice views out across Wan Chai and Happy Valley, and I took it easy going out and back along the path for 8km. I never quite worked out which side of the path to use though – do you keep right or left in Hong Kong? – so would be worried about going much faster as the walkers were ambling along anywhere they felt like! All in all this was a really pleasant place to run, shady with nice views and not too crowded.
For our next running adventure, we took the Peak Tram up the jungle clad hills of Hong Kong. We managed to navigate out of the tacky souvenir shops at the Peak Tower tram terminal and out to Lugard Road which circles The Peak.
The Lugard Road/Harlech Road loop is about 3km of glorious running with jungle on one side, and views out across Hong Kong on the other. It was relatively flat and populated by dog walkers and expat runners. At one point I ran past a cute pair of dachshunds, when one decided it would run along with me. Even at an easy pace, its little legs were no match for my long ones, so the chase didn’t last long!
After my loop around the peak, I still had about 40 minutes of running left – the options were to do a couple more laps or try one of the other trails.
I set off towards the Pok Fu Lam country park, down a very steep road. All I could think of was that what goes down, must go up! I’d lost about 200 metres or so in elevation and the thought of running straight back up the road was not very inviting. At the first option, I took a side route that I hoped would take me back up to the Peak, all of a sudden I was running along the off-road paths that make up the Hong Kong Trail.
Unfortunately, there was still more downhill to go, although there were some great views to the south, a waterfall, lots of butterflies and a few groups of hikers who gave me strange looks! Then, as I had dreaded, there was the very strenuous incline including multiple flights of stairs. At one point I had to succumb to walking.
Once I made if off the trail, there was still a steep grind up Harlech Road before I rejoined the original loop and jogged back to the meeting spot at the Peak Tower. I was a bit later than the agreed time, but once you commit to a trail, it’s a bit hard to know how long it will take! Although tough, this was a great run and really highlighted the ‘urban jungle’ nature of Hong Kong. I loved that you could be out in nature so quickly, after escaping from one of the most touristy spots on the island. Plus I had gained nearly 500 m of elevation in just over 9 km!
Happy Valley Racecourse
In a city where land is scarce, and flat land even more so, the inside of the Happy Valley Racecourse (when it’s not being used for horse races) is a multi-sport area with soccer pitches, rugby ovals and even a hockey astroturf.
There are two options for running here – a jogging trail which is (just!) over 1km and the ‘ambulance track’ on the inside of the racetrack which is about 1.4 km.
The best part of this location is that you are surrounded by sky scrapers, which makes it feel like you are running in a giant stadium. There are good facilities with change rooms, showers and lockers available. Under lights, this is also a good spot for training in the evening to beat the heat (but probably not the humidity) during summer.
We were probably a bit late in the day for any serious runners, there was a Japanese couple doing lots of steady paced laps but most of the fellow joggers were slow older men.
I warmed up on the outside track (a few undulations but pretty good for running), and then had a go on the inner jogging track. This wound its way around the various sport fields and so had 90 degree bends and a few obstacles (young kids) where it passed next to a playground. It was fun for a slow run – maybe that is why is was called the jogging track?
Mark’s set for the morning was 8 x 1km repeats, but that was never going to be achievable for me, coming back from a plantar injury. I’d actually not done anything faster than steady pace for a month, and so just went with a beginner set of 2min on/1 min off x 6 repeats.
From the steep declines on yesterday’s trail, plus the huge amount of stair climbing just to get around Central Hong Kong, my legs were pretty sore so the pace was slow. If I’d been a horse, it would have been off to the glue factory…
Even if I was slow, I really enjoyed running at Happy Valley and it was kind of touristy but not touristy. It’s good to see how this crazy, hilly city functions and I think all the sports grounds inside the race track is a great idea.