Hayley Teale – 9 Dragons 50/50 – Hong Kong – February 2024

A team of 6 running friends decided to take a runcation to Hong Kong where some of us took on the 50/50 challenge which consisted of running 50 Miles on Day 1 with over 4500m of elevation and Day 2 was 50km with over 3300m of elevation.

Day 1: 50 Miles

I was a little anxious about the midnight start, from worries about getting my nutrition right throughout the day, trying to get some rest prior to the evening start, wondering if my headlight would make it to sunrise (and carrying two spares just in case), the weather, navigation, etc.

I needn’t have worried though, the midnight start was really quite pleasant, cool temperatures (especially after training through a Queensland Summer!), a well marked course, I managed a power nap, my stomach and energy levels felt good and my headlight got me through to sunrise without having to use any of my spares! Thank you Fenix !

The first climb was a long climb up Tai Mo Shan. We had driven up here in the days prior to experience the magnificent views as we knew with the midnight start, this would be something we would miss.

As we neared the top, the temps dropped, the wind picked up and the thick fog came in. Though the course was very well marked, at this point I was thankful that I had loaded the course onto my watch as a backup.

The descent off Tai Mo Shan became quite technical and slow going in places, the fog didn’t help and this the one and only time I went off course in the two days and it wasn’t long before I hit a cobweb and then my watch alerted me to the deviation thankfully.

I caught up with some other runners who were running around the same pace in this section and we hit the villages down below together and found ourselves winding through the quiet streets whilst people slept. We disturbed a few dogs but otherwise the quietness of the early morning hours was lovely and the hours flew by… until we hit the steps!

There are so many steps on this course, so many steps!! Did I mention steps!! Up and down, they seem to go on forever. The hours on the stairmaster at the gym came in handy for the up but the down proved very hard on the body, knees and feet! I chose the wear the Jackal II Boa on Day 1 and I was very grateful for the comfort, stability, grip and versatility on the ever changing terrain on this course.

Before long, well about 6 hours, I hit the first major checkpoint and to my delight, two of our amazing crew, Jodie and Shona, were there waiting with my drop bag contents spread out like a picnic. Here I picked up my ever faithful Masters poles, fluids and nutrition, dropped my spare headlights and set off into the last 30 minutes of darkness.

The sun rose on my next climb, bringing with it new energy but unfortunately I had also started to feel some tightness through my left ITB. I had a niggle that I had been working on in the lead up to this race and I always knew it could be a risk but one I was willing to take. 48km into an 86km course, it was not what I had hoped for but if I have learnt anything in my years running ultras it’s that you need to adapt to the moment. I could climb, no issues hiking, the flat was okay though my stride felt restricted but the descents were terrible, painful and slow.

The next section of the course had a brutal climb followed by an even more brutal descent. I wasn’t giving in. Shona and Jodie were waiting for me at the next aid station, they knew something wasn’t quite right by my stride and also because I had slowed considerably. Time for the Panadol! This helped, it got me through. The final descent was very tough going, lots of stairs but I made it !

The race director greeted us at the finish line with a hug.. this was my ‘I have a bone to pick with the race director’ face:

I finished day 1 with serious doubts about whether I would be able to start day 2. First it was back to the hotel, shower, food, rest, food, get organized for day 2, more food and more rest.

Day 2 50km

I managed to sleep better than I expected and also had a good breakfast – both positives, however, I had serious doubts about my ITB/ knee. I was there to finish this challenge, so I would at least start and see what happened, worst case, I thought I could power hike within the cutoff.

The course started with a climb back up the stairs we finished on yesterday – lots and lots of stairs! It was humid and warm and my knee was painful. There was a long line of runners trying to find their pace as we climbed, head down, one foot in front of the other. It was going to be a long day.

8km in and me knee pain somehow subsided. It didn’t disappear but it was much less aggravating and I was able to move so much better. Things were looking up, I suddenly started to feel more confident that I would see the finish line and accomplish what I set out to achieve.

It started to heat up, conditions were much hotter than the day before and I was going through my fluids much faster than I had planned, leaving me without fluid before checkpoints on several occasions but thankfully the aid stations were not too far apart and were well stocked.

There were lots of runners out on day 2, the 50km individual event is very popular and so I was very rarely on my own. Not everyone spoke English but everyone spoke ‘runner language’ and it was lovely to share the trails, the incredible views and the smiles.

Then there were monkeys!! We had been warned about potential monkeys but secretly I had hoped we would see them but I didn’t expect there to be so many and for them to be so casual with the humans running by. I was a little anxious but I had poles and I was told that so long as I didn’t show any food, they shouldn’t bother me and they didn’t. It was such a delight to see monkeys in the wild!

Finally, I made it to the final aid station which meant the final climb was near and the final descent and finally the finish line!! The descents on day 2 were even worse than day one, very technical, rocky, loose, rutted out steps. I had opted for my Mutant Contours for day two, they are solid and gave me exactly the support I needed on these rocks with incredible grip on the stairs.

I was elated. After my doubts about ever finishing this event, then my knee/ITB issues, I had to pinch myself that I made it. It felt amazing. The whole experience was fantastic and before long the rest of the crew were across the finish line and we were sharing our glory.



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