Get­ting the right sort of con­nec­tion

Action Asia - - SOAPBOX -

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.

AA

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