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Saturday December 14, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Saturday December 14, 2013 MYT 6:04:00 AM
by dr foo yuen cheng
All kinds of terrain are covered during the Oxfam Trailwalker. – Photos by UU BAN LEONG and OXFAM HONG KONG
Can you can walk or run for 100km up and down hills within 48 hours? While also enduring scorching sun, chilling nights and sleep deprivation ...
THE Oxfam Trailwalker event in Hong Kong is billed as one of the world’s toughest charity team challenges as it covers a course of 100km over hilly terrain within a time limit of 48 hours.
But the event, held in November, goes beyond the physical challenge as participants are also raising money for Oxfam to help overcome poverty and injustice around the world.
My running buddy, Lee Yeu Sheuan, had been trying to get into this event for the past two years without success. Four-man teams from around the world are chosen based on lottery selection and the chance of being one of the 1,200 participating teams is only about 25%. So when my application was picked, I was delighted!
I (a medical doctor) immediately formed a team comprising my running buddies: Lee (an engineer), Uu Ban Leong (a photographer with The Star) and Khor Siew Kiah (an IT specialist). We decided to name our team Ooooi Faster Lah to reflect our Malaysian identity.
All of us had some trail running experience. As we lived in different parts of Malaysia, we decided to train on our own on weekdays. However, we did meet on a few weekends for training in Gunung Nuang, in Hulu Langat, Selangor. This mountain was chosen as its trail was quite similar to the terrain we would encounter in Hong Kong.
After a few months of training, we felt that we were well-prepared to conquer Hong Kong’s rigorous MacLehose trail, the venue for the Oxfam Trailwalker. It was a big event and this year there were 4,800 walkers from 1,200 teams participating along with 3,000 volunteers, 4,000 support team members and more than 45,000 donors.
We began at Pak Tam Chung on a hot afternoon but soon discovered that we had to skip Checkpoint 1 due to a protest by about 100 residents of Sai Wan village (in east Sai Kung). They were claiming a picturesque part of the path was on private land, and they were against the government’s plan to include it in Hong Kong’s park system.
This forced Oxfam to hurriedly change the route for the event. However, the unexpected diversion did not dampen our spirits and we were still happily chit-chatting and snapping pictures of the panoramic views along the way.
It took us five hours to reach Checkpoint 2 (which was 24km from the starting point) and it was getting dark when we finally arrived. The weather was also getting cooler and it made running more comfortable.
We had to come in together at each checkpoint – each member had an electronic tag on his wrist to be scanned. There were nine checkpoints throughout the entire 100km trail and at each one, there were volunteers who served us hot drinks and food like bread.
As the night wore on, many trekkers grew tired. The chit-chat died down and everyone trudged on like zombies. By the time we reached Checkpoint 3 at 11pm, I was feeling sleepy too, but decided to push on with the team to Check-point 4. It was a long, torturous walk and often I couldn’t even open my eyes. It was like sleepwalking!
I couldn’t help but to take three short naps along the way. Finally I arrived at Checkpoint 4 at 4am. Here we decided to take a short nap. Sleep deprivation was a major obstacle for me during the long hours on the trail. The cold weather at night was another challenge as we are used to the hot humid weather in Malaysia. The occasional strong winds blowing against our sweaty bodies made us feel even colder.
After a short 30-minute nap and two cups of hot coffee, I felt more alert and energised. We resumed the challenge and soon, it was daylight again when we reached Checkpoint 5 at 8am. Yippee! We had covered half the distance, only another 50km to go! We were determined to cover it within 12 hours. Everyone was in high spirits despite walking throughout the night.
Trekking from Checkpoint 5 to 7 during the day was relatively easy though there were many high hills to conquer along the route. We were walking in the mountains of Hong Kong and, along the way, we could see many high-rise buildings in the distance. We also met a few locals who were doing their morning walks. It took us seven hours
of walking under the hot sun to reach Checkpoint 7.
Getting to Checkpoint 8 was more challenging. It was getting dark when we arrived and Lee, who had knee problems from the start of the event, needed medical attention. The cold, fatigue, sleep deprivation, hunger and Lee’s painful knee all made it more difficult for us to achieve our target time of 12 hours.
However, we were determined to complete the trail together in line with this year’s event slogan: “Press On Through Life’s Peaks And Valleys”. No matter what challenges we faced, we felt we could overcome them with stamina, determination and team spirit.
Finally, we arrived at the finish line at Po Leung Kuk Jockey Club at almost midnight. We had walked for 33 hours, climbed countless steep paths, negotiated challenging terrain and we made it as a team.
We crossed the finish line holding our hands together as a big group of waiting supporters cheered us on. The atmosphere at that moment was fantastic. It was almost midnight and suddenly I discovered that I was wide awake!
Despite not achieving our target time of 30 hours, I was happy that the team had displayed excellent team spirit, determination and commitment in overcoming all the obstacles and difficulties along the trail. We were also truly impressed with the well-organised event and happy to support Oxfam’s causes. In fact, for next year’s event, we are looking to sponsor an all-female team. Our current male team will then be the supporting team for the ladies, helping them to carry stuff, running alongside and encouraging them along the trail.
After experiencing the rough terrain, scorching days, chilly nights and sleepiness, we will be more prepared next year. The event was not about coming in first or last, it was about determination and commitment in overcoming all obstacles and difficulties along the trail while helping to raise funds and eliminate poverty.
I sincerely hope many Malaysian runners will support this event in the future.
> For more info, visit www.oxfamtrailwalker.org.hk.
OXFAM Hong Kong is an independent development and relief agency based in Hong Kong. Oxfam works with the poor regardless of race, sex, religion or politics in their struggle against poverty, distress and suffering.
They organise major fundraising endurance events every November on the MacLehose Trail. Since 1986, more than 73,000 participants have raised over HK$365 million (RM150mil) to support Oxfam’s various poverty alleviation and emergency relief projects in Africa and Asia.
Each team of four competitors must complete a course of 100km within 48 hours. All teams must also raise a minimum sponsorship amount of HK$6,800 (RM2,830).
Teams are chosen through lottery after payment of HK$120 (RM50) per team for the balloting fee. The chance of being selected is about 25%. After selection, the registration fee for each team is HK$1,200 (RM500).
Since Oxfam Trailwalker is a challenging team event, participants are strongly recommended to have adequate time for training and team-building before the event. Changing of team members is discouraged.
Participants are expected to have a reasonable level of fitness, good planning and adequate training in order to be able to complete the 100km trail.
Knowledge of first aid is recommended and good communication between members is essential to avoid any dispute due to differences in expectations.
Tags / Keywords:
Lifestyle, Trekking, Mountain Climbing, Trail Running, Marathon
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