Before the dawn of the modern Strava era, back in the time of hand-scribed runner logs, people tracked their annual mileage and set goals on their wall or desk calendar. Now, with the aid of activity tracking devices, smart phones and GPS watches, those objectives loom and taunt us and are bolstered by the fact that we share them for all the world to see, motivating or whipping us to go longer or push harder to reach our annual number.
And some of us do that with miles flown. I’m guilty as charged.
While the sheer number of miles or kilometers I’ve logged on foot has never been that important to me, I do keep a careful accounting of my air miles. As a frequent flier, I greatly appreciate the perks that come with “status”—that sitting near the front of the plane, gaining special access to early boarding, free baggage, plentiful lounges, accommodating service, waived change fees, and ample space make the experience of travel so much better. Or, at least, when things don’t go as planned they make the ride a lot less unpleasant.
With that in mind, one of my best buddies—a trail runner and fellow air travel geek—and I decided to book a long haul excursion in late 2016 that would rack up enough mileage to ensure a “top flight” status for 2017. We wanted our destination to be warm and exotic so we chose Hong Kong. Besides being a beautiful location with urban trails, delicious food, and a great history, Hong Kong was one of the best miles-per-dollar deals for flights and one that also allowed us to use our international upgrade vouchers for Business Class both going and coming. That’s enough to close almost any deal!
The meat market at the Sheung Wan market. Photo: Adam Chase
We chose to stay on the Kowloon side, south of Hong Kong, where we had a full view of the harbor and access to trains and a variety of exotic outdoor markets. Taking the subway under the harbor to downtown Hong Kong, we stumble upon a building with two floors of stalls that sold raw food to restaurants. On the top floor of Sheung Wan there was prepared food and for less than a dollar we were treated to big plates of spicy vegetables, tofu and a bowl of rice.
Now we were ready for a run. So we simply started to ascend, eventually finding our way from roads to a path that took us to Victoria Peak from Victoria Road. From there we came upon incredible views of Hong Kong before descending Hong Kong Trail to University of Hong Kong and back to the city. Being built on a hillside, the city was rather easy to navigate and we quickly found future runs and places to visit, including Bowen Road, Dutch Path, Tregunter Path and the Mid Level section, where there was a thriving café culture and diverse people watching, as many expats frequent that part of the city.
Pottinger Peak Country Trial en route to Big Wave Beach. Photo: Adam Chase
Another excursion that is a must for trail runners is to take the ferry over to Lantau Island and explore the Lantau trail system. Lantau is much less populated than either Kowloon or Hong Kong. It was easy to run right from the ferry station through the tiny villages and into the forest and hills that rise up from the port. Hong Kong can have terrible pollution and a trip to Lantau is how many city residents can get away to run in clean or at least clearer air, and feel far away from their urban existence.
For a destination run without a ferry ride, take the route from downtown Hong Kong or Mid Level all the way to Big Wave Beach, a location reminiscent of Muir Beach of the Marin Headlands near San Francisco. The beach can also be accessed via Pottinger Peak Country Trail, then Hong Kong Trail Sec. 8 and finally Tai Tam Country Trail. The run can take shorter or longer about 9 to 14 miles, depending on the route. You can also get a cab, take a bus or run back after showering at the free beach showers and refueling and rehydrating at one of the cafes in Big Wave.