It will be outside the major metropolis of Hong Kong this weekend that the 2016 trail season kicks off with the Vibram Hong Kong 100k. The race begins on Saturday, January 23 at 8 a.m. local time, which is Friday, January 22 at 5 p.m. Mountain Time in the U.S.
The Ultra-Trail World Tour’s Vibram Hong Kong 100k offers up the best of mountain running on the island, featuring dirt and paved trails, thousands of stairs, rapid elevation change, and a course that gets more mountainous as the race proceeds. As local trail runner and journalist Rachel Jacqueline once described for iRunFar, “Split the Vibram Hong Kong 100k course down the middle and you have two very, very different races: the first half is relatively flat with a mix of concrete and singletrack, while the second half is packed full of ceaseless hills and myriad stairs.”
iRunFar will be on site at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k to provide live coverage. Stay tuned!
Thank you to Vibram for sponsoring our live coverage!
2016 Vibram Hong Kong 100k Women’s Preview
It was at this race last year that China’s Dong Li kicked off a heckuva first half to 2015 by taking second (interview).
With defending champ Wyan Chow (Hong Kong) not returning because she’s out of the country, Dong is the fastest female returnee. After her second place here last year, she went on to take third at the 2015 Transgrancanaria (interview), win the 2015 Ultra-Trail Australia (interview), and take fourth at the 2015 Mont Blanc 80k. Then it seemed like Dong went mostly quiet on the racing front. We last saw her in October at the Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji and she looked out of sorts, complained of foot issues, and didn’t finish the race. New year, new racing season, and enormous potential, hopefully the young upstart is ready to bring it once again.
[Update January 21] Strike that, defending champ Wyan Chow (pre-race interview) has decided to race! She was supposed to be mountaineering in South America, but a travel snafu brought her back to Hong Kong early and so she is going to race!
Italian Lisa Borzani (pre-race interview) is one of the most prolific high-level female ultrarunners I know. A year ago, she took third here, finishing a bit more than 10 minutes behind second place Dong Li. She went on to finish loads of other races last year, and her top results among them were an 11th place at the 2015 IAU Trail World Championships and a second place at the 2015 Dolomiti Sky Run.
Marie McNaughton (U.K. but lives in Hong Kong) should run quite well this weekend. With this race, she begins her third year of racing ultras. We learned about her last year when she took fourth here, finishing moments behind third place Lisa Borzani. Since then, she’s won several races on her home Hong Kong turf, including the 2015 Lantau Trail Race 70k and the 2015 The North Face 100k – Hong Kong.
Spain’s Silvia Trigueros Ainhoa brings interest to the women’s race. Amongst a stacked women’s field, Silvia took fourth at the 2015 UTMB and was a scant six minutes out of podium position. This performance was definitely a big step up from the previous ultramarathon results of her six-ish-year history with the sport. Of note in 2015, Silvia took 10th at Transgrancanaria.
Nicole Lau (Hong Kong) rounded out the top five at this race last year. She additionally took second at the 2015 The North Face 50k – Australia.
Valerie Lagarde (France but lives in Hong Kong) — Valerie finished second at last year’s Lantau Trail Race, a few minutes behind winner Marie McNaughton. And the year before that in 2014, she finished second again and a few minutes behind winner Nicole Lau.
- Anne-Marie Flammersfeld (Germany) — Winner 2014 Zugspitz Ultratrail
- Nadia Koucha (France but lives in Hong Kong) — 9th 2015 Vibram Hong Kong 100k
- Elisabet Margeirsdotti (Iceland) — 15th 2015 UTMB
- Montse Perez (Spain but lives in Hong Kong) — 10th 2015 Vibram Hong Kong 100k
- Nora Senn (Switzerland but lives in Hong Kong) — 8th 2014 Vibram Hong Kong 100k
- Emily Woodland (U.K. but lives in Hong Kong) — 8th 2015 Vibram Hong Kong 100k
- Wyan Chow
- Núria Picas
2016 Vibram Hong Kong 100k Men’s Preview
Yan Long-Fei (China) is the defending champ and course-record holder, which he set through systematically running the rest of the field into the ground last year (interview). Yan raced often in 2015, mostly in mainland China and Hong Kong and rarely finishing off the podium. He also finished fourth at the competitive 2015 Ultra-Trail Australia. As a 2:15 marathoner, he’s additionally got leg speed combined with now two years of experience racing longer ultras.
Any time François d’Haene (France) turns up to a long mountain race, the trail running world pays attention. He’s proven himself able to man handle the courses and competition of the world’s tough and competitive mountain ultras. In 2014, he was nearly unstoppable, winning UTMF (interview), UTMB (interview), and Diagonale des Fous, among other races. Last year we saw a different François, however, one unable to compete at the same level. He finished fifth at 2015 Ultra-Trail Australia, a few minutes back of fourth place Yan Long-Fei, and 14th at the Western States 100. He didn’t race much in the second half of the year, citing the need for rest. Over the winter, he’s been mountainteering in South America. I’m as curious as you are about what kind of François will turn up at the start line.
Last year was good to Lithuania’s Gediminas Grinius (pre-race interview). In 2015, he won Transgrancanaria (interview), took fourth at Western States, and won UTMF. He also had a couple bobbles, dropping from UTMB and Diagonale des Fous with various physical maladies. Really Gediminas’s reign of dominance began in the summer and fall of 2014 when he took fifth at UTMB and fourth at Diagonale des Fous. Gediminas has shown himself capable of very big things in longer ultras, so I wonder what 2016 will hold for him?
Arnaud Lejeune, of France, ran onto my radar at UTMF last fall, where he took second but well over an hour back of winner Gediminas Grinius. Who was this guy? Turns out, a fairly fast fellow who’d been down for the count with a bad injury for something like a year. Prior to that injury, he’d done some high-level ultrarunning, including third at the 2012 Diagonale des Fous and eighth at the 2014 UTMB.
Spain’s Jordi Gamito Baus tied for fourth here last year, roughly an hour behind winner Yan Long-Fei. Jordi raced a lot in 2015, but his best results were a 13th at UTMB and sixth at Diagonale des Fous. Fun fact: Jordi is a former muay thai practitioner.
I don’t know any high-level runner of any distance who is as prolific of a racer as the USA’s Michael Wardian (pre-race interview). The guy did so much in 2015 that it’s hard to know where to start. In ultras, among Mike’s best 2015 results were fifth at the Tarawera Ultramarathon, eighth at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile, and fifth at the JFK 50 Mile.
Pau Bartoló (Spain) should feature in the front of the men’s pack on Saturday. He’s the 2014 winner of the CCC and the 2015 TDS champ, both UTMB sister races. In 2015, he was also sixth at the Tarawera Ultramarathon behind fifth place Michael Wardian and ninth at the Ultra-Trail Australia behind fourth and fifth places Yan Long-Fei and François d’Haene.
Potential Top-10 Finishers
Vlad Ixel (Australia but lives in Hong Kong) — winner 2015 TransLantau 100k Ultra Trail, winner 2015 The North Face 100k – Hong Kong
Wataru Iino (Japan) — 7th 2015 Vibram Hong Kong 100k
Santosh Tamang (Nepal but lives in Hong Kong) — 8th 2015 Vibram Hong Kong 100k, 2nd 2015 TransLantau 100k Ultra Trail
John Ellis (Australia but lives in Hong Kong) — 4th 2015 TransLantau 100k Ultra Trail, 2nd 2015 The North Face 100k – Hong Kong
Jeremy Ritcey (Canada but lives in Hong Kong) — 5th 2015 The North Face 100k – Hong Kong
Bed Sunuwar (Nepal) — 3rd and 2nd respectively at the 2013 and 2014 editions of this race, winner 2015 The North Face 50k – Hong Kong
Siu-Keung (Stone) Tsang (Hong Kong) — 9th 2015 Vibram Hong Kong 100k, 18th 2015 UTMB, 2nd 2015 The North Face 50k – Hong Kong
Kazufumi Oose (Japan) — 11th 2015 Vibram Hong Kong 100k, 6th 2015 UTMF
Sangé Sherpa (Nepal but lives in France) — Races frequently, among his best 2015 results are 4th 2015 Eiger Ultra Trail and 7th 2015 UTMF
Yeray Durán (Spain) — 3rd 2015 Lavaredo Ultra Trail
Shunsuke Okunomiya (Japan) — Winner 2015 Hasetsune Cup
More Men to Watch
- Gu Bing (China)
- Pau Capell Gil (Spain)
- David Jeker (Canada)
- Arjun Kulung (Nepal)
- Kiran Kulung (Nepal)
- Shing-Yip (Thomas) Lam (Hong Kong)
- Casey Morgan (U.K.)
- Matt Moroz (U.K. but lives in Hong Kong)
- Sebastien Nain (France)
- Daved Simpat (Malaysia)
- Purna Tamang (Nepal)
- Chun-Kit Tsang (Hong Kong)
- Zi-Chen Wang (China)
- Ho-Chung Wong (Hong Kong)
- Tim Wortmann (Germany)
Call for Comments
- Who will be the top men and women at the end of the day?
- Who will surprise us with a breakout performance?
- Who have we missed on these lists? Let us know who you think could finish in the women’s and men’s top 10.