Can you can walk or run for 100km up and down hills within 48 hours? While also enduring scorching sun, chilling nights and sleep deprivation...
THE Oxfam Trailwalker event in Hong Kong is billed as one of the world’s toughest charity team challenges as it covers a course of 100km over hilly terrain within a time limit of 48 hours.
But the event, held in November, goes beyond the physical challenge as participants are also raising money for Oxfam to help overcome poverty and injustice around the world.
My running buddy, Lee Yeu Sheuan, had been trying to get into this event for the past two years without success. Four-man teams from around the world are chosen based on lottery selection and the chance of being one of the 1,200 participating teams is only about 25%. So when my application was picked, I was delighted!
I (a medical doctor) immediately formed a team comprising my running buddies: Lee (an engineer), Uu Ban Leong (a photographer with The Star) and Khor Siew Kiah (an IT specialist). We decided to name our team Ooooi Faster Lah to reflect our Malaysian identity.
All of us had some trail running experience. As we lived in different parts of Malaysia, we decided to train on our own on weekdays. However, we did meet on a few weekends for training in Gunung Nuang, in Hulu Langat, Selangor. This mountain was chosen as its trail was quite similar to the terrain we would encounter in Hong Kong.
After a few months of training, we felt that we were well-prepared to conquer Hong Kong’s rigorous MacLehose trail, the venue for the Oxfam Trailwalker. It was a big event and this year there were 4,800 walkers from 1,200 teams participating along with 3,000 volunteers, 4,000 support team members and more than 45,000 donors.
We began at Pak Tam Chung on a hot afternoon but soon discovered that we had to skip Checkpoint 1 due to a protest by about 100 residents of Sai Wan village (in east Sai Kung). They were claiming a picturesque part of the path was on private land, and they were against the government’s plan to include it in Hong Kong’s park system.
This forced Oxfam to hurriedly change the route for the event. However, the unexpected diversion did not dampen our spirits and we were still happily chitchatting and snapping pictures of the panoramic views along the way.
It took us five hours to reach Checkpoint 2 (which was 24km from the starting point) and it was getting dark when we finally arrived. The weather was also getting cooler and it made running more comfortable.
We had to come in together at each checkpoint – each member had an electronic tag on his wrist