[Editor’s Note: This article was written by guest contributor Koichi Iwasa of DogsorCaravan.com.]
The MSIG Sai Kung 28k and 50k kick off the 2015 season of Skyrunning from Hong Kong on Saturday, February 7 at 7 a.m. local time. As the first edition of the Skyrunning Continental Championships in Asia, the MSIG Sai Kung races are incorporated as part of the Skyrunner World Series and its results will be counted toward world annual rankings. The race hosts a 28k event, which is part of the Sky discipline, and a 50k, which is part of the Ultra discipline. Labeled with the Skyrunning Continental Championships makes MSIG Sai Kung a competitive mountain-running event with elites from around the world. Runners in both events will be vying for championship titles as well as points for the Skyrunner World Series.
We’ll be providing some live updates from the race, beginning at 4 p.m. MST on Friday in the United States.
MSIG Sai Kung Race Courses
The MSIG Sai Kung races spread out in Sai Kung East Country Park, the countryside next to Hong Kong’s sprawling metropolitan area.
Hong Kong is a metropolis developed as an international hub in east Asia, and so is it in trail running. Communities of trail runners are growing and receiving increasing visits from mainland China ‘locals’ and foreign residents from Europe, North America, Oceania, other places in Asia, and more.
Both the 28k and 50k courses start at Pak Tam Chung Picnic Garden (sounds ideal for friends and families waiting for runners to finish), and follow hiking trails in Sai Kung East Country Park. Runners will move around countless uphills and downhills between small, old fishing villages and beaches. The highest altitude of both 28k and 50k is just 408 meters or 1,339 feet, but the area has steep uphills and a long, exposed, ridge trail, where runners are sure to feel warm even in February. These features make MSIG Sai Kung, according to race director Michael Maddess, “One of the toughest 50k courses in Hong Kong yet one of the most spectacularly beautiful courses in Asia.”
- 28k: 1,954 meters climb/1,941 meters descent
- 50k: 2,810 meters climb/2,781 meters descent
Since a small part of race course is changed from the previous two editions, the new course for this weekend does not have official course records.
Sai Kung 28k Preview
Elisa Desco from Italy will run, and she holds significant results in Skyrunning events in Europe, including winning the Sky event at the 2014 Skyrunning World Championships, taking second at the 2014 Zegama Marathon, second at the 2014 Matterhorn Ultraks, and third at the 2014 Limone Extreme.
Stephanie Jiminez of Italy has broad experience in the Sky and Vertical Skyrunning distances and has podium-ed many times in Europe.
Japan’s favorite, Kanako Hasegawa, who was the second woman in the inaugural Skyrunner Japan Series last year, will also compete in the 28k.
For the men’s side, Tom Owens (U.K.) is expected to show his talent in his first race in Asia. After less racing due to injury in 2013, Owens ran competitively in major events in Europe last year. Considering his third place in the Sky event at the 2014 Skyrunning World Champs, third at the 2014 Kilian’s Classik and 2014 Ice Trail Tarentaise, and fourth at the 2014 Trofeo Kima, the Sai Kung 28k will be good chance to kick off his 2015 season.
Marco De Gasperi (Italy), a long-time Skyrunning participant, will make Sai Kung a true part of Skyrunning this weekend by running the 28k. He’s a multi-time Zegama Marathon and Sierre-Zinal winner, and was second after Kilian Jornet in the Zegama Marathon last year.
Dai Matsumoto, of Japan, is another contender for the 28k podium. A two-time champion of the Fuji Mountain Race (2013 and 2014), Matsumoto won the Kinabalu International Climbathon last year and is champion of the 2014 Skyrunner Japan Series.
Martin Gaffuri (France) was sixth at the 2014 Tarawera Ultramarathon and 16th in the Ultra event of the Skyrunning World Champs last year.
Darren Benson, and Australian residing in Hong Kong and a favorite of locals, will also run.
Sai Kung 50k Preview
Kasie Enman (U.S.A.) will contend for the front of the women’s field. Coming back to racing last year, Enman ran strongly at major Skyrunning events, like fifth at the Zegama Marathon, second at the Speedgoat 50k (post-race interview), winner of Trofeo Kima, and second in The Rut 50k (post-race interview). She was ranked second in the 2014 Skyrunner World Series Ultra event. The warm climate in Hong Kong is way different from her home in Vermont, but she might start her season happy here.
From Asia, both two Chinese ladies who competed in the Vibram Hong Kong 100k just three weeks ago will come up to Sai Kung again. Local favorite Wyan Chow Pui Yan (Hong Kong) won the Vibram Hong Kong 100k this year (post-race interview), and was third in both the TransLantau 50k and The North Face 100k – Hong Kong in 2014.
Dong Li of mainland China was caught with 15k to go just three weeks ago at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k, where she took second to Wyan Chow (post-race interview). Dong was ninth in the Ultra event at the 2014 Skyrunning World Champs last year.
Nepal’s Mira Rai is the defending champion of the MSIG Sai Kung 50k, and was second at the Lantau 50k last year.
Australian teenager Lucy Bartholomew started ultrarunning by crewing her dad’s first 100k, and ran by herself and finished second in the 2013 Surf Coast Century 100k in Australia. After finishing 11th at the Tarawera Ultramarathon last year, Bartholomew is now 18 years old.
Alessandra Carlini (Italy) was second at the Sai Kung 50k last year behind Mira Rai, and comes back with her 10th place Transvulcania and second place Ice Trail Tarentaise performances from last year.
Other names to watch in the women’s 50k are:
- Hsiao Shiang Chong (Malaysia) – 2nd at the 2014 OtterBox Salomon Action Asia Malaysia – Trail Run/18k
- Ho Jo Chun (Taiwan) – Winner of the 2014 Taiwan Action Asia 50k
- Shiho Iwadate (Japan) – 3rd at the 2014 Skyrunner Japan Series in 2014
The men’s 50k contenders are quite mix of global elites. Yan Long Fei (China) comes back to Hong Kong after his course-record win at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k in January (post-race interview). He’s a proven speedster with his 2:15:45 marathon PR (Beijing Marathon, 2011) and already known to locals as the winner of the HK 50k and Lantau 50k, as well as 16th in the Sky discipline of the Skyrunning World Champs with a sprained ankle last year.
From the U.S.A., Luke Nelson will follow up on his win of the Bighorn 100 Mile and second at the Bear 100 Mile last year. Sai Kung could be his first significant performance in an international running event in Asia.
In the Asian trail running community, Vlad Ixel (an Australian residing in Hong Kong) is a familiar name as the winner of the 2014 The North Face 100k – Thailand, 2014 TransLantau 50k, and the 50k event at The North Face 100k – Hong Kong last year, as well as 12th at the 2014 Ice Trail Tarentaise. Recently, Ixel withdrew from the Vibram Hong Kong 100k before the race because of minor sprain in his ankle.
The names of global elites continue: second at the 2014 TDS, a sister race to the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, was Samir Tamang (Nepal), and he may nail this race as his Nepalese colleagues often do in Hong Kong.
Blake Hose (Australia) is one of the Aussies who surprised the audience at the Skyrunning World Champs last year. Hose was sixth in the Ultra event there. He’s also a two-time winner of the Ocean Walk 100k in Australia.
One more Aussie to watch is David Byrne, a proven track runner with a 28:40 10k PR. He is new in trail running but he won Australia’s classic 45k trail race, the Six Foot Track Marathon, last year.
From Japan, Sota Ogawa and Kazufumi Oose will compete among the crowd of leaders. Ogawa was ranked second in the 2014 Skyrunner Japan Series, and Oose was 19th at the Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji and 22nd at UTMB last year.
Here we have more names to watch in the men’s 50k:
- Casey Morgan (U.K.) – 10th at the 2014 Transgrancanaria
- Marco Sturm (Germany) – 1:08:37 half marathon PR
- Fulvio Dapit (Italy) – 5th in the 2014 Skyrunner World Series Ultra ranking
- Mohamad Affindi Nudin (Malaysia) – Winner of the 2014 OtterBox Salomon Action Asia Malaysia – Trail Run/18k
- Chou Pin Chi (Taiwan) – 4th in the 2014 Taiwan Action Asia 50k
- Miki Ushida (Japan) – 3rd in the 2014 Skyrunner Japan Series
- Naoichiro Muto (Japan) – 4th in the 2014 Skyrunner Japan Series
- You Peiquan (China)
- Cai Rengui (China)
- Zheng Jian (China)
- Qu Lijie (China)
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- Skyrunning starts early in 2015 with the niche sport’s continued growth. Who do you think will prevail in these very early season races?
- Whose fitness do you know about? Who’s primed for a good race? Who’s using this weekend as a training race?
- Is there anyone who you think should be on these lists? Let us know in the comments!