Getting the right sort of connection
David Tanner, the founder of website HK Running, speaks to about his passion for the outdoors and how he thinks technology can help us explore nature but is not without its dangers
Tell us a bit about the website and why you felt there was a need for it. I grew up in Hong Kong and had done lots of running for general training and also participated in many races, but always found it hard locating new areas to go to without having to do extensive research, finding topographic maps, asking others for accurate route descriptions, or finding transport information. It was too much work for one new run, so I was constantly running or hiking the same routes I always did, and running turned into boring routine instead of the adventures they once were. I wanted to create something that could help me, and I was sure others were having the same problem as well. How do you craft the trails? I used to work in the outdoors so I can read and understand topographic maps well. I bought topographical maps for every part of Hong Kong and whenever I have free time, I make a coffee, sit down with the maps and try to link up different sections of the trails that I think could be interesting for a great run. Then go and run them to see how they work out. I also try to make sure the start or finish is somewhere with water, toilets or cafes nearby so people can change, get drinks and relax. There isn’t much fun in finishing a big run and having to travel ages to get to a bus or the MTR [Mass Transit Railway] in all your sweaty gear.
What kind of response are you seeing right now? When we launched the site, we had s ome amazing feedback. Since then, we have been getting a steady flow of traffic each month. Our website users are mostly from Hong Kong and Singapore. We did a website launch run meet-up and had lots of enquiries about starting a running group.
How can technology get people interested in running in nature? I think it can and does help people in many ways. Having access to all the information about a specific area makes it much easier to get out and explore somewhere new with ease, even if you are alone. Information about safety, local wildlife, the environment and how to take care of yourself means you don’t necessarily need to take a course or go out with someone that has that information. There are so many new apps that people can use to identify everything from local wildlife and plants, to bird songs. These apps have created a new breed of explorers. Even things like real-time weather chart updates are a huge step in helping people enjoy and stay safe in the outdoors more. All that information right now is at our fingertips and that can add to a much more comprehensive and richer experience. With photo sharing apps like Instagram, people have easier access to inspiring images or places that they may not have known existed. A couple of examples are on our site. We have different map backgrounds for each route that show different things in that area. We have also just included a new feature called ‘Route Flythrough’. Using the application Google Earth, where you can now virtually fly over each route you plan to do, gives a much greater impression of what it’s like. There are many ways that technology can help, but another important part of running is to sometimes leave all that technology behind and connect with ourselves, our effort, breathing and the world around us, which is just as important, if not more, now that technology is becoming integrated with all aspects of our lives.
What challenges do you see ahead? Do you plan to develop the site into an app? In the future, we do plan to develop an app with live tracking on each route so you can follow it and see where you are in real time. Also, we would like to make the site multilingual, which would be of great benefit to many people in Hong Kong. We have just started a blog, and hope with the information uploaded, we become one of the best resources not just for athletes but anyone who is interested in staying fit and healthy in Hong Kong.