It will be in Hong Kong this weekend that the international trail-racing year kicks off with the Vibram Hong Kong 100k. The race begins on Saturday, January 27 at 8 a.m. local time, which is Friday, January 26 at 5 p.m. Mountain Time in the U.S.
The Ultra-Trail World Tour’s Vibram Hong Kong 100k offers up a diverse selection of terrain and surface on a course through the New Territories and Kowloon peninsula. The course will feature dirt and paved trails, thousands of stairs, steep ups and downs, the occasional beach, and a course that gets more mountainous as the race proceeds.
Local trail runner and journalist Rachel Jacqueline once described the course 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 and is covering the race live.
Thank you to Vibram for sponsoring our coverage of the Vibram Hong Kong 100k.
2018 Vibram Hong Kong 100k Men’s Preview
Here is our 2018 Vibram Hong Kong 100k men’s preview.
In an era where talk, not action can somehow get you somewhere in our sport, the USA’s Alex Nichols (pre-race interview) is a refreshingly understated high achiever. The guy puts his head down and puts in one solid performance after the next, all without any hype. 2017 saw him win the Black Canyon 100k to earn his Golden Ticket to Western States, where he then finished second. Alex has plenty of experience with the technical steeps he’ll see in the race’s second half, and he’s strategical with his pacing, so I expect that he’ll get through the flat and fast running of the race’s first half having meted himself properly.
Zach Bitter (USA) is best known for his fast running on the flats, often the track. In 2017, he took second at both the American River 50 Mile and the Javelina 100 Mile. He was on the track last month hunting records at the Desert Solstice track race, but according to reports he had to stop because of heat exhaustion. Though I don’t think the thousands of super-steep stairs Zach will find in Hong Kong are in his normal wheelhouse, I’d be surprised if he didn’t finish top five.
Nepalese runners have a lengthening history with successful trail racing in Hong Kong, and Purna Tamang is one such fellow who’s been a part of that success story. Twice, in 2016 and 2017, Purna has been a part of the winning Oxfam Trailwalker Hong Kong team–a 100k team event. He’s also got solid leg speed, having gone at least 2:22 for the marathon.
Japan’s Yoshikazu Hara is another runner who is better known for his flatter-terrain running. He’s a multi-time winner of the competitive Lake Saroma 100k in his home country as well as Taiwan’s Soochow 24 Hour. Early in 2016, he took fourth at the competitive Tarawera Ultramarathon and he won the TransLantau 100k. He’s been racing steadily since then, though his results haven’t been as strong.
Hong Kong’s Siu-Keung “Stone” Tsang (pre-race interview) has four finishes of the Vibram Hong Kong 100k, and all of them have been inside the top 10. Most recently, in 2016, he was eighth. In 2017, his top performances have been wins of the Green Race Ultra 70k in Hong Kong and the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa 170k.
Last year at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k, Harry Jones, who is from the U.K. and living in Thailand, held his own against a solid international field when he took eighth. He followed that up with a second at the 2017 The North Face Hong Kong 100k.
Inexperience watching the top Asian runners compete leaves me struggling to gauge how China’s Jia-Gen Yang will do, but he took ninth at the 2017 Vibram Hong Kong 100k. Among a number of wins and top finishes around Asia, he’s been on the podium of the The North Face China 100k four times, including as its winner twice. For our American readers, I also believe that Jia-Gen won the 2015 TransRockies RUN3 event.
I’ve watched Kazufumi Ose (Japan) run to several solid performances at international events over the years, with probably his best being a fifth place back in 2015 at Ultra Trail Mt. Fuji. In 2016, he finished seventh at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k. Among his 2017 performances were a win of the TransLantau 50k and ninth place at Ultra-Trail Australia.
More Fast Men to Watch
- Justin Andrews (USA but lives in China) — 14th 2017 Vibram Hong Kong 100k; 5th 2017 Ultra-Trail Australia
- Majell Backhausen (Australia) — 6th 2016 TDS; 1st 2017 Tarawera Ultramarathon 60k
- Ching Chou (Taiwan) — 2nd 2017 MSIG Hong Kong 50k
- Jun Di (China) — A 2:22 marathoner with experience running shorter trail ultras on Mainland China [Added 26 January]
- Takashi Doi (Japan) — 25th 2017 UTMB
- John Ellis (Australia but lives in Hong Kong) — 2nd and 4th at 2016 and 2017 The North Face Hong Kong 100k
- Pierre-Andre Ferriere (France but lives in Hong Kong) — 2nd 2017 MSIG Sai Kung 50k
- Erik-Sebastien Krogvig (Norway) — 3rd 2017 Lavaredo Ultra Trail
- Suman Kulung (Nepal) — Winner 2018 Everest Trail Race [Added 26 January]
- Jorge Alyn Gil Jr Lanante (Philippines but lives in Thailand) — One of four sub-60 hour finishers of the Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge
- Jing Liang (China) — 3rd 2017 Yading Kora Ultra
- Min Qi (China) — 1st 2017 Yading Kora Ultra
- Jeremy Ritcey (Canada but lives in Hong Kong) — 3rd 2017 TransLantau 100k
- Sangé Sherpa (Nepal but lives in France) — 12th 2017 Vibram Hong Kong 100k; 11th 2017 Eiger Ultra Trail
- Michael Skobierski (Austria but lives in Hong Kong) — 5th 2017 The North Face Hong Kong 100k
- Matt Urbanski (USA) — 2nd 2017 Cascade Crest 100 Mile [Added 26 January]
- Phairat Varasin (Thailand) — 5th 2016 The North Face Hong Kong 100k
- Li Wei (China) — A 2:17 marathoner with experience running shorter trail ultras on Mainland China [Added 26 January]
- Ho Chung Wong (Hong Kong) — 10th 2017 Marathon des Sables; 3rd 2017 The North Face Hong Kong 100k
- Ka-Wai “Jay” Wong (Hong Kong) — 2nd 2017 The North Face Korea 100k
- Yun-Hui Yu (China) — 13th 2017 Vibram Hong Kong 100k
On Entrants List but Not Racing
- Jantaraboon Kiangchaipaiphana (Thailand) — Schedule conflict
2018 Vibram Hong Kong 100k Women’s Preview
Here is our 2018 Vibram Hong Kong 100k women’s preview.
Switzerland’s Andrea Huser (pre-race interview) somehow defies the burnout and injury odds that come with frequent ultramarathon racing. She ran at least 13 races in excess of 100k in length last year, with maybe six of them as 100 milers?!? Good grief. She was in Hong Kong right before the new year to win the Ultra Trail Tai Mo Shan. As the reigning Ultra-Trail World Tour champion, her top races last year were second at the 2017 UTMB and a win of the 2017 Diagonale des Fous.
Italy’s Lisa Borzani has two top Vibram Hong Kong 100k finishes, a third place in 2015 and a second place in 2016. Lisa is prolific racer, too, having put in at least 1,000 kilometers of racing each year for at least the last five years. Among her top 2017 finishes were third place at the Madeira Island Ultra-Trail and a win of the Tor des Géants.
France’s Mélanie Rousset has been racing trail ultras around the world for the last five years or so. She seems to do best when the terrain gets burly. Some of her top performances last year were third at Transgrancanaria, fifth at the Marathon des Sables, and sixth at the TDS. I do expect that, like several of the mountain specialists in this group, we’ll see her a bit back during the flatter and faster start before opening things up later in the race. Melanie knows stairs–which the Hong Kong trails are known for–given that she’s finished Diagonale des Fous twice, her best being fourth place last year.
A New Zealander living in Hong Kong, Marie McNaughton (pre-race interview) has had stellar home-team races for some four-plus years now. In the last three years at the Vibram Hong Kong 100k, she’s finished fourth, seventh, and third. She’s also a three-time champion of The North Face Hong Kong 100k. Just a month ago, she won the 115k event at the Ultra Trail Tai Mo Shan for the second year in a row.
According to her race results, China’s Fu-Zhao Xiang entered into the mainland China trail-ultra world in 2015, and has finished first or second in everything she’s finished. She headed to Hong Kong to finish fourth at the 2017 Vibram Hong Kong 100k amongst a competitive women’s field.
Nepal’s Mira Rai was something of a supernova in 2015 when she had several top performances internationally, including a win at the 2015 Mont Blanc 80k and a second place at the 2015 Ultra Pirineu. Success, sponsorship, a lot of racing, significant injury, recovery: it’s a path many ultrarunners follow and Mira is on the recovery part of that path following knee surgery. Last month she raced in Hong Kong, winning the 2017 MSIG Sai Kung 50k. If she is close to her pre-injury form, she’ll contend.
Japan’s Kaori Niwa has twice finished inside the UTMB top 10, including fourth place last year. If I recall correctly, she took fourth with a cast on her arm from a fall she’d taken at a race not too long before. Her other top race of 2017 was finishing second at Ronda dels Cims, and she’s been on the international ultra scene for years. She excels in steep and technical terrain, and I can’t help but think she may lag a bit behind in the race’s flatter first half before moving up in the steeps of the race’s second half.
Until recently, the USA’s Nicole Kalogeropoulos lived in a pancake-flat part of Texas. But that didn’t stop her from seeking out races on big-mountain terrain. This led to success racing in the mountains, like taking sixth twice at the 2015 and 2017 Western States 100 and a third at the 2016 Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile. In 2017, she also won the Black Canyon 100k. She’s now moved to Arizona where there are hills on which to train, so races with lots of vertical and technicality should be shortly in her wheelhouse. Her leg speed could see her pace setting the women early on.
Pui-Yan “Wyan” Chow (Hong Kong) has two Vibram Hong Kong 100k finishes, second in 2014 and a win in 2015. I think these years might have been her competitive heyday as we haven’t seen that level of performance from her since. Her top runs in Asia last year were a win of The North Face Korea 100k and an eighth place at The North Face Hong Kong 100k.
Ying-Suet Leung (Hong Kong) took sixth at the 2017 Vibram Hong Kong 100k after finishing several hours slower the year before–she figured out how to run this race! Also in 2017, she was on the winning mixed team at the Oxfam Trailwalker Hong Kong, a 100k team event.
More Fast Women to Watch
- Man-Ha “Samantha” Chan (Hong Kong) — 13th 2017 Vibram Hong Kong 100k; 13th 2017 TDS
- Wai-Han “Nicole” Lau (Hong Kong) — 9th 2017 Vibram Hong Kong 100k
- Wing-Yan “Nicole” Leung (Hong Kong) — 10th 2017 Vibram Hong Kong 100k
- Yang-Xing Ma (China) — 8th 2017 Vibram Hong Kong 100k; 12th 2017 UTMB
- Elisabet Margeirsdottir (Iceland) — 13th 2017 Transvulcania Ultramarathon
- Sarah Morwood (Great Britain) — 2nd 2017 Swiss Alpine Marathon 78k
- Yin-Hung “Ada” Tsang (Hong Kong) — 3rd and 2nd at 2016 and 2017 The North Face Hong Kong 100k
- Natalia Watkins (U.K. but lives in Hong Kong) — 8th 2016 Vibram Hong Kong 100k
- Emily Woodland (U.K. but lives in Hong Kong) — 3rd 2017 The North Face Hong Kong 50k
- Miao Yao (China) — Ultrarunner for at least 3 years; Has run at least 2:44 for the marathon [Added 26 January]
On Entrants List but Not Racing
- Nathalie Mauclair (France) — Injury
[Author’s Note: Thank you so much to Andre Blumberg and Koichi Iwasa for their expertise in Asia’s top runners which helped me write this article.]
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.