Hong Kong local Siu-Keung “Stone” Tsang is looking for his fifth finish of the Vibram Hong Kong 100k this weekend. In our first interview with Stone, hear about how he got into running by randomly completing a marathon at age 25, his thoughts on Hong Kong’s unique trail running scene, his life and family outside of sport, and what he thinks of this weekend’s competition.
Stong Tsang Pre-2018 Vibram Hong Kong 100k Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m outside of Hong Kong. I’m with Hong Kong local runner Stone Tsang. Nice to meet you.
Stone Tsang: Nice to meet you.
iRunFar: So, I’m in your neighborhood now. This is a city—I’m probably going to mispronounce this—Yuen Long, outside of Hong Kong. How far from city center are we?
Tsang: It’s very close. In Hong Kong the mountains and the city are always together. It’s a very unique city.
iRunFar: This is where you’ve lived for about 20 years, you said. You are from Mainland China but you moved here as a teenager?
Tsang: Yes. At 17 years old I followed my parents to Hong Kong.
iRunFar: And you’ve lived in this town outside Hong Kong since being a teenager?
Tsang: Yes. A very beautiful town.
iRunFar: We had a little hike to get up here on this point where we’re doing the interview, so we had a nice time to chat. I learned you’re a paramedic.
iRunFar: So, as a paramedic in Hong Kong, does that mean you work for the government?
Tsang: Yes. We work for the Fire Services Department, just for the rescue missions.
iRunFar: So when there’s a health emergency, you’re a first responder to things like that.
Tsang: Yeah, I’m the motorcycle rider [laughs].
iRunFar: You’re a motorcycle rider. Like a “baby” ambulance.
Tsang: No, it’s big. It’s as big as my motorbike.
iRunFar: And you also have a family–a wife and two children?
Tsang: Yes. I have two boys. One’s six, and one is one-and-a-half years old.
iRunFar: We actually met at your six-year-old’s school, where you’re going to pick him up after this.
Tsang: Yes, my son’s school is next to the mountain.
iRunFar: So we met at the school, hiked up this mountain, and afterwards you’ll pick him up. His name is Silas?
iRunFar: Well, this is iRunFar’s first time getting to speak with you, Stone. I’d love to find out about your background in running. You became a runner as an adult.
Tsang: I became a runner when I was 25 years old. At the time I didn’t like running [laughs]. It’s boring and tough, so I didn’t really usually [run]. But I liked football, basketball, and some games.
iRunFar: So you did sports.
Tsang: Yes, sports, and badminton is my favorite sport.
iRunFar: I love badminton. I’m not so good at it, but I love it.
Tsang: Me too, but I love it, yeah [laughs]. So then by chance my colleague asked me to run a marathon. I don’t know how far is a marathon, I just went for a party. I was 25 years old at that time. That race, I almost died. I spent almost five hours finishing. Every single muscle in my body was cramping, I didn’t have food. So after that I tried some training for running and I fell in love with running.
And then at that time I found out Hong Kong is very beautiful. Before, I didn’t think of Hong Kong as having mountains, I just think of a big city. Even though I had lived in the city for six or five years. But after I found running, trail running, [it’s like,] “Wow, Hong Kong is so beautiful and so unique and a lot of mountains.” At that time, I loved running. I loved trail running especially. So, yeah, this is how I started.
iRunFar: Just so I understand that, your first race was a marathon. It was 42k long and when you started it, you didn’t know. At what point did you realize it was a really long way?
Tsang: [Laughs] I don’t know. I just say, “Oh, how come there’s still 20k [to go]?” I saw a banana skin on the ground and I picked it up to see if there was any banana still inside because I was so hungry.
iRunFar: Was there any banana in it?
Tsang: No. People had taken it [laughs]. It’s funny, yeah.
iRunFar: How did you convert from running on the roads? You did a road marathon to start. How did you discover the trails and get to coming up here?
Tsang: Two years later, I joined a trail running race. It was a 10k race. At the time, I just found, “Wow, this is the place where I live, it’s so beautiful.” The trails are so nice, and then I loved it. I mean, it’s very interesting. I like running on trails. It’s more technical, and a lot of fun.
iRunFar: You became a runner as an adult. You didn’t like running, and now you are somebody who runs very long ultra distances. I think your longest race is maybe Ultra Trail Gobi. Or have you done longer?
Tsang: [Hong Kong] Four Trails [Ultra] Challenge. Almost 300 kilometres. I just find myself so relaxed when I’m running on the trails, in the mountains. I like quiet. I really hear my heart beat. I really feel myself when I’m running in the mountains. I’m so relaxed, and also my brain is so… clean. It’s easy to face your challenges of daytime and your difficulties. Something like when you go to the mountains, you find answers for your difficult questions.
iRunFar: I like that your mind becomes clean when you go to the mountains. That’s a good way to think about it. I want to ask you about the Hong Kong trail running community. People who are watching this interview may have a fair bit of familiarity with it, but it’s a huge and very friendly community. Can you describe it?
Tsang: I don’t know. I’ve just found that all trail runners are very kind. They’re easy to talk, always help each other. It makes the community very warm. Yeah, this is my feeling about trail runners in Hong Kong, the community.
iRunFar: And it’s a big community, too. There are thousands of you.
Tsang: Yeah, so big.
iRunFar: So this race this weekend, I think this is Hong Kong’s most internationally competitive race. This is the race that draws in the most people from around the world. It also concentrates the fast Hong Kong runners together. You do this race a lot.
Tsang: Yes. I think four times.
iRunFar: So this will be your fifth time, is that right?
Tsang: Yeah, I think so.
iRunFar: Do you like that sense of competition and the international part of it? What keeps you coming back to this race?
Tsang: Of course I like the race course. Also I like the competition. I also like the big number of runners. I can have a chance to learn from some international runners and also talk with them, learn with them. It’s very fun. I mean, in Hong Kong we don’t have a lot of very international races, but Hong Kong 100k is the one. It’s the biggest one. So we have the chance to meet a lot of talented, big-name runners.
iRunFar: And the Vibram Hong Kong 100k course is a very unique course. There are sections of it that are flat and paved, and you have to run really quickly. Then there are these difficult, steep, and slippery trails with roots and stairs. What part of these trails do you like the best? What are you best at?
Tsang: My best is actually the Ma On Shan [“Saddle Hill”] area. I think for many people it’s their favourite because the section is like, you can see the ocean, you can see the cities, and views of the mountains. It’s quite an open area. Yeah, it’s very beautiful.
iRunFar: Best of luck to you this weekend.
Tsang: Thank you so much.
iRunFar: This is my first time taking in the Vibram Hong Kong 100k, though iRunFar has covered it before. I look forward to seeing you race through your home country, your home mountains.
Tsang: Thank you so much.