Bad Boy Running

Ep 515 | Can the World Trail Majors challenge UTMB? with Steve Brammar, Hong Kong 100 race director

November 19, 2023 Episode 515
Ep 515 | Can the World Trail Majors challenge UTMB? with Steve Brammar, Hong Kong 100 race director
Bad Boy Running
More Info
Bad Boy Running
Ep 515 | Can the World Trail Majors challenge UTMB? with Steve Brammar, Hong Kong 100 race director
Nov 19, 2023 Episode 515

In this episode, David takes the reins as he dives into the world of Asian trail running, in conversation with Steve Brammer, race director of the Hong Kong 100. 

Steve explains how the prolonged lockdown in China and a tragic accident that claimed 20 trail runners reshaped the local trail running community and the impact of the emergence of the World Trail Majors. 

In the episode, Steve shares a story or two from the history of the Hong Kong 100 race, an intense two-day event challenging runners to conquer its 80K and 50K routes, and the vibrant trail running culture of Hong Kong.

Love the podcast and these videos? Buy us a beer! https://www.buymeacoffee.com/badboyrunning

Join the Bad Boy Running Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/badboyrunning

Visit the Bad Boy Running store for merchandise: https://store.badboyrunning.com

Join the Bad Boy Running Club here: https://club.badboyr...

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode, David takes the reins as he dives into the world of Asian trail running, in conversation with Steve Brammer, race director of the Hong Kong 100. 

Steve explains how the prolonged lockdown in China and a tragic accident that claimed 20 trail runners reshaped the local trail running community and the impact of the emergence of the World Trail Majors. 

In the episode, Steve shares a story or two from the history of the Hong Kong 100 race, an intense two-day event challenging runners to conquer its 80K and 50K routes, and the vibrant trail running culture of Hong Kong.

Love the podcast and these videos? Buy us a beer! https://www.buymeacoffee.com/badboyrunning

Join the Bad Boy Running Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/badboyrunning

Visit the Bad Boy Running store for merchandise: https://store.badboyrunning.com

Join the Bad Boy Running Club here: https://club.badboyr...

Speaker 1:

Hey, dude, bad, as long as you're a bad boy running. I've just recorded with Steve really really good episode. In this episode the things I think you'll really enjoy Firstly is how do you manage age stations when monkeys seven miles of monkeys, who are trained in how to eat energy gels, they pick up bags, they take food. So that was an element I wasn't expecting. We also talked about the impact of the huge tragedy in China where 20 trail runners died and the impact that's had on the community. But also we go into China lockdown for COVID, far longer than the US, than the UK, than Europe, and so the impact that that had on the local Hong Kong racing, where there are hundreds of trail races, and how those races have approached it. But we also talk about the ultra trail world tour, utmb and the ultra trail majors, kind of how the scene has changed over those years, what some of the issues have been, what some of the challenges have been and what the intent of the ultra trail majors is and how that's going to look. It's really fascinating. We talk about Gary Robbins, we talk about, you know, ostroff, about Fuji, and go into quite a lot of the I guess I just guess what it's like to be a race director in a very global community where it's changing quickly the pressures and how to keep that cultural identity. So enjoy Really good episode and so tuck in. Thanks, nick. So do you balance our next guest? Well, you've probably seen that the ultra trail world tour is returning and there's been quite a flare up around UTMB versus other races. We've been talking previously about why suddenly was Grand Canaria no longer in the tour. Then we've seen with We've seen with Gary Robbins for the guests on the podcast issues with ultra races and who gets to run where. But our next guest is here to actually not. We've already had a 40 minute discussion where we've been talking about the industry. That we haven't recorded and instead what we're going to do is feature on the positives of the ultra tour. But also actually it's been a long time since we've come to discuss what's happened in Asia with lockdown and COVID and how that's impacted on their races, because actually what we've realized is that the experience of race directors and runners in the UK isn't the same in every country, or in America it's been very different as well. So to give us an insight into how COVID has changed the race scene and its participants. We've welcomed on the race director for the Hong Kong 100. Welcome to the podcast, steve Brammer Wheeeee.

Speaker 2:

Thank you very much, steve. Great to be here and enjoying the chat. Looking forward to continuing it. And, yeah, hi to all the listeners you as out there. Hope you're doing well.

Speaker 1:

Did that set it up in the right way, do you think? Or did I milk it too much? Did I almost imply too many conversations that we won't be having in the intro?

Speaker 2:

That time will tell.

Speaker 1:

So should we go back then? Because we've already spoken a bit about how you ended up in Hong Kong, but I think it's a lovely story to Because Hong Kong's such a great place right To explain why they're Well in bearing mind.

Speaker 2:

No one will know me from Adam not the first clue. So it's not a Jim Wandsley, it's some bloke from Hong Kong. So I'm very happy to do the backstory stuff and I think Hong Kong probably has not had much positive press in a way, and the fact is it's still an incredible place. That is absolutely gorgeous. It's full of fantastic people who are very, very driven and very focused on education and family and doing the right things. It's an awesome place and I'd be very happy to do the kind of backstory first and so on. But totally, totally up to you.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I mean well how, Because my understanding is you've now been there for probably more than half your life.

Speaker 2:

Or close to you, it's more than. Yeah, you're right, it's more than.

Speaker 1:

And so what is it that first took you out there?

Speaker 2:

So I was a trainee solicitor with a London law firm that sent me out for six months, essentially to sort of learn and get experience. I interpreted that as to get as drunk as I could and party a lot, and so that was in 1995. And in the first week in the office of the law firm that I was working for, I met Janet, now my wife. We got married four years later and the co-founder of Hong Kong 100, the faster runner of the two founders, were you both runners at that stage? Interestingly? No, not so much. So I was. I've been a sports nut my whole life, so cricket, rugby, soccer, squash, bit of tennis, almost anything, golf, and I've always run kind of because of that, and so both to keep fit and just to stay sane. Janet not so much. And I remember the first time we the hiking in Hong Kong is amazing and when we were sort of courting, as my grandmother would have said, I remember going on a hike up one of the big hills in Hong Kong and Janet always seemed pretty robust, so I kind of went for it and I still remember her sort of throwing something at me. I think she kind of threw a rock at me kind of lightly and called me an inconsiderate turd because I dropped her a little bit. So we still call each other inconsiderate turd on occasions, but it turned out Janet was the school cross country captain and it was kind of interesting because, like a lot of trail runners in Hong Kong, we got our trail running start back in 1996 as a team doing the Oxfam Trailwalker, so four people doing 100 kilometers and it was the first of these Oxfam Trailwalkers. They're now all over the globe but the original one was I've not heard of those.

Speaker 1:

I mean there must have been in the UK, I assume.

Speaker 2:

But they do, they do. They have at least two, maybe more, in the UK, and they're everywhere. They're in Belgium, france, australia, and they're great because it's a team thing that if one of you drops out then your team doesn't score. As a finish, each checkpoint you go through, you have to go through all four of you, and so it can go one of two ways. You can either feel like friends for life if you've been in a trailwalker team and it's like you were at school together or it can get pretty messy because there's pain and there's expectations and disappointment and so on. So I remember one friend of mine describing crewing for one of these teams and saying that whilst they were in pretty decent spirits for the first 50K, on the second 50K they said they were like the late era Beatles, with no one prepared to talk to anybody. And so we were putting together a trailwalker team and we were aiming to, I don't know, do it in, say 24 hours. And then Janet would come out with us for training and we kind of quite quickly realized that she was by far the quickest of all the. So there were four people in the team and Janet was way quicker than them. And so she said kind of politely asked can I be on the team please? And we were. It was Proper Boys Club, we were well no, not really. But we did let her in the next year. And then, yeah, janet, she became one of the better trail runners in Hong Kong, so she's still got the in fact, the Trailwalker Women's Team record with some other really quick runners from Hong Kong, plus Cami Semic, who was a very well known athlete out of the US who came over and did that, so people do run that.

Speaker 1:

It is seen as being like a trail challenge now.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's one of the really good things. So it was set up by the Gurkha Regiment who used to be here in Hong Kong, and so they set it up first as a kind of training and almost a not special forces but a test workout for recruits and so on. So it was a Gurkha thing originally, and then they did it for the public and then kind of turned it over to Oxfam. And this is over 30 years ago now, and so what?

Speaker 1:

they. I just love the vision of like some young recruits absolutely killing themselves and then having a team of female trail runners just having a great time overtaking them chatting away. You'd just be livid, wouldn't you Like? What the hell.

Speaker 2:

Well, it happens all the time and I must say it doesn't make me livid because I'm so used to it. It's yeah, try not even being the fastest runner in your own household. So yeah. I know exactly what you mean. And so, yeah, it was set up, I'd say, over 30 years ago and the good thing is and maybe this is partly because of its Gurkha military roots it has kept a competitive element, because it would be very easy to just say, look, this is a charity thing and all that matters is the amount of money that we raise for poverty relief. But what, certainly in Hong Kong, they've cleverly done is kept the competitive element to it. So, over the years, we remember a long, long time ago we had a Montreal team come out which I think included Scott Durak, and then we remember having a Salomon team come out that had Andy Simons, and maybe I can't remember who the other guys were, but some real top stars, and I remember that, going to, they did a bit of marketing around it, and so we went to see them talk about preparation kit, et cetera, et cetera. And very, very interesting, because four total stars from Salomon's international team and each one had a completely different nutrition strategy from the next. So the first would say, well, for me it's just gels, I'll just take gels and all the way. Then, oh, I have to have proper food. I'll be, you know, some sandwiches, then the next one well, I tend to eat pizza and then the next one it'll be rice balls and maybe potatoes that are boiled and salted. It's very, very interesting to see four people doing the same distance at more or less the same pace, all as experienced as possible, all four with an entirely different nutrition strategy. And this is 15 years ago, but it was very interesting to see back then how nutrition is so deep, so personal.

Speaker 1:

Although in some ways it's more variety, but probably people have a more similar. Now at the top level I'd say there's there's variants, but it's probably less pizzas and sandwiches and the like.

Speaker 2:

I wonder I won't out him, but someone who came in the top three of Hong Kong a few years back and who was sponsored by one of the nutrition companies and I was at the gear check at about 54K and I was sort of just helping him with sort of identify what was being checked and I saw two Snickers come out of his backpack when he was searching for his mandatory gear or whatever and he sent to me shh, don't tell anyone. He took him away and off he went so that he would be undermined by the fact that he was actually fueling with Snickers all the way around.

Speaker 1:

I mean, if it was all the way around, that would be impressive. That's a lot of Snickers. So when did the Hong Kong hundred first come out as an idea?

Speaker 2:

So first edition was 2011. So and the history behind it was again. So Janet got really good at trail running and I was always sort of a weekend warrior but very, very keen to be involved, and so we started to. We'd raced a lot in Hong Kong and loved it. There was a really good scene here. But interestingly, back then the scene was a bit more kind of charity races and NGO type stuff than really really competitive races.

Speaker 1:

So we started to do those Because the Nine Dragons are three dragons. I think it's quite a big one.

Speaker 2:

Nine Dragon. Yeah, that's relatively recent and yeah, it's pretty exciting. Yeah, I mean, I think I'm going to try it this coming year for the first time.

Speaker 1:

before I've always thought it looked a bit too hard, because I don't know if you know the format, but I think, yeah, we had James Paul come and talk about it, but I don't think he finished it. I think he ended up going and getting pizza and having sleep and then getting on a bit. I can't under the story. It was crazy.

Speaker 2:

It's tough because, yeah, you start, I think, friday night and you do, I think it's an 80 K and then you, so you and you know that's going to take, it's, it's quite gnarly, it's it's quite lumpy, so that's going to take you through till most people, late Saturday, and then you have a sleep and then you're supposed to come out and do another 50 K and again, it's quite a lumpy 50 K on the Sunday morning. So it's, it's quite a, it's quite challenging and, yeah, the temptation to stay in bed on Sunday morning must be huge. But yeah, and dragons was was started by really good friends of ours, probably eight years ago, I'm guessing.

Speaker 1:

See you before Okay.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we bit. And so, yeah, we traveled to races overseas and we we were actually down at what was then called North Face 100 Australia and we really enjoyed it. Janet did really well, kind of top 10 for sure. And the next day we went out to basically to celebrate to a winery in the Hunter Valley somewhere and, according to Janet, I got a little bit tired and emotional and kept crapping on about what fun it would be to put on a kind of 100 Kish individual race rather than the team race that we only had in Hong Kong, and I think Janet didn't think I was to be taken seriously and anyway, just to be able to talk about more interesting stuff, kind of said, yeah, okay, let's do it when we get back. And then I think I woke up and forgot we'd even had the conversation. But then we got back to Hong Kong and started looking to it and got loads of help from really good friends in terms of root finding and sort of putting it together and quite good fun. Because again I look back, janet said, well, of course we're going to need a website and I'll start working on that, and it sounded difficult to me. I'm not very computer literate at the best of times.

Speaker 1:

I don't think we need a website and luckily Janet won that argument, as you probably could have got away with a Facebook group back then or a Facebook page and potentially conducted.

Speaker 2:

I suppose, but I thought more a couple of posters and an address where you could send your checks and your application. So anyway, that was how we did it that first year, so 2011, january, we were hoping that we would get I don't know 100 participants and in the end I think we got 200 and something signed up. But to sign up, yeah, you had to fill in the application form and send us a check and so we'd get home and in the mailbox would be, you know, at nought or 30 of these applications, so when we'd be coming home from work, and how many applications I don't know. So there'll be 15 today in Jacksonville there'll be none, and luckily we thought it would be enough if we had 100 and we got I don't know 200 and something. So that first edition where we had to press gang pretty much everybody we knew, all family and friends to come and volunteer and we really did abuse friendships and family ties. You know, one of our really good mates did a 16 hour marshalling duty, surrounded by hungry monkeys, so that every time he went to try and steal food off him Brilliant. And then he course swept the last 30, it's probably 20 K of the course. He did a 16 hour marshalling duty and then swept the last 20 K.

Speaker 1:

And is that a common issue? It never occurred to me that wildlife stealing food would, because I guess once you're there and set up, they're going to tell their buddies right. It could be a focal point for the next 24 hours.

Speaker 2:

Genuine problem. It sounds like I'm taking the mickey or sort of come and do Hong Kong 100. Honestly, we've got dangerous wildlife, but no 100 percent. There's a period, a phase of about seven kilometers, about 80 K in, where there are lots of these monkeys. It's called Golden Hill Road, but it's now known as Monkey Hill, ma Lao San, and if you're not paying attention around there they'll steal your food and I mean I've trained in the jungle.

Speaker 1:

Do they take gels Like do monkeys?

Speaker 2:

like gels, absolutely, absolutely. And so last time we did Trail Walker, which was perhaps two years ago, we came to our support point. We got our own support crew and two of our really good friends had got everything set out for us a bag that we each set up, a headlamp because it's about to go dark, gels, bars, whatever you like to have. And we were just coming into this pit stop when our friend Monsey, who's normally very, very calm and very with it, was panicking. And it turns out what had happened was a monkey had come, picked up one of the bags and then, in two bounds, was sitting up in a tree, going through the bag to see what good stuff there was to eat in it. And the worst thing about it, the gels and the food were all replaceable, but it included. One of our teammates had got his headlamp in there and it's a sort of a 400 pounds worth of headlamp top of the range thing, and it was now with a monkey sitting up a tree. But then he, apparently, what this monkey did was found what he or she thought was a gel, knew how to open it which is amazing really, so going to bit the top off and sucked it up and it turned out it wasn't a gel, it was cramp fix. I don't know if you've tried cramp fix, but it's a vinegary beetroot juice that I understand. Instead of getting that caffeinated shot of sugar and energy, you've got this vinegar shot straight to the brain. And the good thing was that apparently the monkey it looked like a kind of cartoon explosion behind the eyes it threw the bag into the air and it leapt off the tree down towards the reservoir, down to the water's edge, and so our friend Montsay was able to go and okay, she's now lost the cramp fix, which she was able to pick up all the other contents from the bag, put it all back together and by the time we got there everything was fine. But she had to explain why she looked so flustered and panicked.

Speaker 1:

Wow, are you now leaving out gels around the aid station full of vinegar just to try and ward off the monkeys?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, there are various tricks. It turns out that, yeah, vinegar gels, cramp fix is one thing that works If you have hiking poles with you and you, if you draw them back, they're smart enough to know to stay away. And, frankly, if you just don't rustle with your pack, if you go in your pack because you're trying to get your camera out, because you're trying to get a gel or find your wallet or put a jacket on, they think you're going for food and they get quite excited about it. But if you don't touch your pack and you don't have food in your hands, then no, they leave you alone. But if you do start eating, they will not always. Sometimes they're intimidated or sometimes maybe they're not hungry, but very often they'll grab it from you. And yeah, I've been having an ice lolly on a kind of hot summer training day and happily enjoying my ice lolly. And then just saw something in the corner of my eye and by the time I'd realized what it was, the monkey had grabbed the ice lolly Again, two pounds and it was sitting up a tree and I'll swear it was looking me in the eye, laughing at me enjoying my ice lolly, and I've still got photos of it. I was kind of livid but also very amused. And yeah, it's a genuine thing Monkey's on the stage six of the Macklehoes Trail.

Speaker 1:

Really, I mean, that sounds reason enough to go in itself yeah, I don't know a safari as well as a trail race. And in terms of the because then now you've got the nine dragons, now you've got the Hong Kong 100. That the, did you see almost an immediate impact in how it changed the expectation locally or changed the nature of the community around it, or are these things always very as progressing?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it was kind of instantaneous because when we set up Hong Kong 100, I think the community realized that if these two numpties can set up a race, then anybody can. And so suddenly the sport in Hong Kong went gangbusters because all of these new races you know, every sort of available trail and every distance were all set up and that continues to this day that we've every weekend, during the winter, when it's cooler and nicer for running, there are multiple, multiple races, and it hadn't used to be like that. They used to be that there were there's for a long, long time. There's been the King of the Hills series, so like a half marathon and a marathon for a long, long time. Then there were a bunch of maybe six or seven kind of charity type races, for, you know, there's Oxfam, there's one for Green Power which is environmental charity, one for Sewers Action which is an education charity, and so on. But then suddenly, after Hong Kong 100 set up, there were, yeah, lots of different races, different distances, and every weekend sat in Sunday. You've got a wide choice of races to do, which is fantastic. You know, we've got all this choice and with it, I think, a really growing community. So I would argue and I can't prove it but that Hong Kong is probably the biggest trail running community on the planet, because we're a city of seven and a half million people, just surrounded by country parks, beaches, mountains and so on, and with, for probably six months a year, with multiple races every single weekend. So it's great. I mean it's a big community with people from everywhere, but it also feels small because we're at the same races every weekend and we are a lot of people race every weekend, so we all know each other, we all help out at each other's races, and so it's an incredible community. That, again, it's another reason to come and race here in Hong Kong is to sort of be part of the community here when, yeah, warm welcome, yeah, as I say, people from everywhere, some really talented runners, lots of less talented but it's really enthusiastic Lots of there's a real kind of volunteering culture where people are happy to in inverted commas give back.

Speaker 1:

So, yeah, it's another really good reason to come and racing Hong Kong and and in terms of trails, because we know in the UK there's very historic trails that have just been used for hundreds of years by people getting about, but there's still that. There's that history of the rain, the rain rides and and trail walking as a pastime for years. Um, in the States is very different, where a lot of trails are almost created and Then have to be maintained. So what's the in Hong Kong? What is the nature of the trails? Are they? Are they being created? At they very historic? Are they? Are they just naturally there or have they been? Do they come from his at historical basis?

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So it's a good question and the answer is it's kind of a mixture. So a lot of the trails are old paths from village to village, you know. So villages that are Sort of out in the forest and in the hills, that don't still don't have road access, but they will always have had a path, you know, out or to the next village. But in addition to that, back when Hong Kong was under British rule, various governors um opened up long distance hiking trails. So they'd be, I guess, yeah, british governors, sort of born of that kind of British approach to the outdoors and the health and health benefits of a constitutional. So we've got a bunch of Really, really good long distance trails. So there's there's the Hong Kong trail, which is 50k, and on Hong Kong island the Wilson trail after Lord Wilson, who was the governor at the time, which is 70 ish K and it's a bit on Hong Kong island. And then this is interesting Then you take the MTR, you take the, the underground across and then pick up the trail on the other side and then it Way up north Towards the Chinese border. So that's the Wilson trail. And then there's the Lan Tao trail, which is again 70 odd K On Lan Tao Island, which is the island where the air, the new airport is now, and then there's the, the Maclehose trail, and that's probably the most famous one in my view, it's the most beautiful one, and that's 100 K basically from the Very east of the new territories of Hong Kong to the very west of the new territories of Hong Kong. 100 K goes past beautiful beaches and then over hills that are kind of the, the backbone of of Hong Kong, with great views down to the, the Again, I think arguably the, the best skyline in the world, looking down at the harbour, and then over the, the very highest peak in Hong Kong, which is Taimou Shan, and you know that's about 75 Ks into the Maclehose trail and it's it's 95 Ks into the To the Hong Kong 100 route and then from down there, from Taimou Shan, which is just under a thousand meters, you go bang down to the finish line of Hong Kong 100, or if you're doing Trail walker on the full Maclehose trail, you've still got another 25 Ks to go. So lots of little village trails, and then there are these, these big sort of main they're called maintained trails that have been opened by the government and are very well mapped and so on, and Very, very hilly. The whole terrain here is super hilly. It's very hard to find flat ground and lots of steps. So anyone who's done Hong Kong 100, if you ask them what was your impression apart from a lot of the beauty of the course and and I'd like to think how Kind the volunteers were to them They'll say but I really don't want to see any steps.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, they're brutal as well. So you need to get Ali Mack out there. She's the steps queen, she's, uh, she's, she's. She's very good uphill runner. I mean, she's won. She won the vk before or she's run that. She's won the world champs last year.

Speaker 2:

But um, she won. Yeah, we saw her in Thailand winning the, the uphill, the short course, and yeah, she's Incredible be a get on steps, and she'll be.

Speaker 1:

She'll be laughing that up, but um so then. So when when covid hit them because We've seen with um on the golden trial at meow meow, one of the Chinese runners, she had to change from she'd done UTMB races, she changed to actually focus to getting a fast marathon time because she just wasn't able to To run any trails. But also prior to that, we obviously had the massive tragedy in China with a lot of their top runners being killed and officials being punished for Um, for some devastating weather that hit the races. How did those two events impact on the psyche, but also the, even the legislation and the uh, the, the participants in races.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, taking the tragedy first, it had a very big impact in on chinese trail running. So, um, because of it and and I don't know if if all the listeners Um know what we're referring to, but this is, uh, I think it was june Two and a half years ago, I think it may have been three and a half years ago when very, very cold weather and kind of a freak store um Happened and and runners at a race um, we ran into it and over 20 perished, and including, uh, a very, very famous runner called yang jing um, who, who had been in uh in the top three in hong kong 100 a couple of times and was was a fantastically brave racer, really aggressive front running racer. So it's awful, awful, awful tragedy, um, and yeah, as a result, um, there have been restrictions put on some um Races in china, so the the longer distances have been discouraged or prohibited Um, and a lot of races for a while Just couldn't happen. I think it's coming back now, but still Not nowhere near the the number of races that there were in china before the the tragedy. And, yeah, that's, it was the most horrendous thing and and you look at it and as a race organizer, you feel a kind of you know it could happen to to any of us. You know, that sort of weather, um, and there's a sense of there, but for the grace of god, when you, you look at something like that happening, absolutely horrendous and and did it impact on the psyche of runners?

Speaker 1:

Uh, what is there more of a hesitation towards getting on mountains or to to going long?

Speaker 2:

I don't think so, but I think there's probably a. Have I got all the kit? I need? Mindset, you know, you sort of where you used to be tempted to, uh, really cut it down to the bare minimum and perhaps or take chances. I think now your mandatory gear, for example, it's not just mandatory gear, it's you know what, what do I really need if something like that happens again? Um, so I think I hope anyway that it has Changed people's yet mindset towards what you need to bring with you for a Tripping the mountains and and to to think well, you know, if some, if freakish weather happens, have I got everything I need to be able to withstand it? For you know enough time? Um, so, but in terms of mindset, I don't think so. I've not heard of people saying I left the sport because of that, or I I don't go to the mountains anymore. Um, so I've not heard of anyone saying that, but certainly yet the. The scene in China, which has been growing fast and which is is vibrant, um, was quite badly affected by the, the sort of the. The consequences were To restrict the, the race permits that would otherwise perhaps have been given out, and I say it's coming back now, but it, yeah, for a while it's been subdued. Interestingly, in Hong Kong that hasn't been, hasn't become an issue. So, um, the kind of permitting process, there's never been a sort of cross-reference back to to that tragedy, um. But yeah, to answer that, it was actually the first part of your question, um, here in Hong Kong we weren't able to race physically for a bit of a longer period than perhaps in Most European countries or in the US, for example, um, so the covid restrictions Um lasted much longer than than they did for um, for for other countries, which it Was frustrating. And you know we were writing plenty of letters to to ask for trail racing to be allowed back, um, and eventually, you know it was and that's fantastic. But the, the kind of silver lining was we, we discovered virtual races and Um, and so there were a lot of them about and it kept people going a little bit, not not everyone. So some people say I was not prepared to do a race. Yeah, um, yeah, it's not doing it. But a lot of others said, well, at least it's something, it's a goal, it'll get me out there, and so on and so forth. And so Hong Kong 100 had two, two years of big virtual races and we actually had more people doing our virtual. Um, then we in 2021, then we uh have ever had doing the physical because we're capped capped to uh, 2800 runners in our three physical races in total. So, um, we had 3400 doing the the virtual, with probably 3000 of them in Hong Kong and 400 in the rest of the world. And so, in a way, that was fantastic that you know people's resilience and, um, that they're still looking for a challenge, even when they're kind of locked down at home. Um, it was amazing. But, and with them.

Speaker 1:

Because because over here we we saw, even, say, a race series like centurion or or even a white star, where the the general response was to allow people to roll over their places. Um, but actually I know that having Andy from white star, for example, just stopped Putting on new races for a while because he said that they they weren't getting anyone new signing up because they had so many Everyone had so many races that were rolling over that when they looked ahead the next 18 months, they already had all these fixtures in their diary. And and similarly with James, I think he was saying when he, when we spoke to him, that, um, if, if the lockdown had continued further, then they just wouldn't have had enough new money coming in to be able to actually Continue as an organization, because the percentage of People that had already paid in advance but they'd lost a lot of costs over that period as an organization Would be too high. So in Hong Kong, where you've mentioned, you can have race weekends of you know, five, six, twelve races, what, what was the approach by race directors towards existing places, new places and? Um, and did it have an impact on? Are the same races still around or did it lose a lot of races?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's a really good question, and so, from Hong Kong hundreds perspective, we Didn't have to cancel anything. The timing was such that we hadn't got any any registered runners when it became clear that we couldn't hold an event in 2021 or in 2022. But we had the same sort of issue a couple of years earlier, when the protests were going on in in Hong Kong, and so we could tell that a lot of people from overseas wouldn't want to come, and so what Hong Kong 100 said was you can either have full refund or defer, and a lot of people from overseas did defer and, interestingly, it's taken us till. So where are we? This is our second physical edition and we should clear that backlog of deferrals after the edition that we're about to hold in January 2024. So we'll finally, after four yeah, it's over four years, almost five years we will clear the backlog of people who deferred because they didn't want to come when there was the kind of unrest here. Other race organisers I think everyone was different in terms of what their approach was. On the whole, I think it was mostly deferral was the approach that people took. Sometimes it will have been refund, sometimes that refund was derisory, and I can remember seeing comments where people are pretty upset and felt they'd been chiseled a little bit but at the same time I think on the whole people have been quite understanding of the race. Directors need to eat too and so if you don't get a full refund they can understand that there are a lot of sunk costs and so on. But yeah, I don't think there was a sort of general Hong Kong wide approach to those cancellations, but on the whole it was a deferral approach and that sometimes explains why organisers might be really keen to put the next race on, in part to be able to work through that backlog of deferrals.

Speaker 1:

And have you seen, because we, for example, the Obesity World Champs now bought by Spartan, there's been quite a few races, I think, taken over by threshold, like the big. It seems like the organisations of Deeper Pockets started to buy up a few of the races that were struggling financially and there's now fewer races and those races are organised by fewer organisations. Did a similar thing happen in Hong Kong?

Speaker 2:

It looked as if it was going to happen. So a couple of race organisers that were very busily organising a bunch of races before the pandemic didn't seem to come back. One had deafening left Hong Kong and another seemed to have gone into other activities. But actually now they're all back with some other ones added on. In some cases the races that used to be organised by people who had left have been taken over by. For example, there's an organisation called the Peac Hunters, which is a real trail enthusiast club organised by Wang Ho-chung, who is probably Hong Kong's best trail runner, very famous trail runner and a fantastic athlete and a really, really lovely guy. And he's got a club called the Peac Hunters and they coach youth athletes and they train coaches and so on and so forth, and they've taken over a couple of races, which has been great because I think that funds their, their outgoings and so on, and it also keeps those races alive and in fact injects new impetus into those races because they've got this club full of really keen and some very talented trail runners so that some get to race those races, others will happily volunteer at them. So again, it's another sort of a silver lining and, yeah, we were quite worried when we first came out of the pandemic that we would have essentially lost at least two of the race organisers, but it seems as if, no, they're all back and so there are just as many races as there were in pre-pandemic. And it's fantastic actually, because, yeah, we were quite worried that there wouldn't be the same level of energy and the same amount of choice and yeah, no, it would appear that now that the dust is settling, that, yeah, we've got just as as many races and just as much fun to be had out there as pre-pandemic, which is great.

Speaker 1:

So then on to Ultra Trail World Tour. It's been announced, I think last week, in fact, I had a few journalists tipping me off in advance, who couldn't give me the full details, but I was aware something was brewing.

Speaker 2:

I'm going to stop you. David, you called it Ultra Trail World Tour, oh sorry.

Speaker 1:

It's the World Trail, but it's an easy mistake to make. No, no, don't worry.

Speaker 2:

Easy mistake to make. We'll soon, and we'll soon, I'm sure, clarify the older than you, the older than you.

Speaker 1:

Well, even why do we explain the reasons behind that mistake? Because actually there's been a conglomerate before, things have changed and it's back, so talk us through that journey.

Speaker 2:

Sure. So yeah, world Trail majors just been launched and, in a nutshell, it is nine emblematic races around the world that are grouping together as the World Trail majors and looking to provide the opportunity to to runners to take part in a series around the world and to to have kind of the guarantee that these are fantastic races where you'll have an amazing experience, but also that they're independent. They run kind of for the right reasons, they're super authentic, they're very local and of their place and of their community, and so something I'm really, really excited about. We've been working on it for months and months and it's sometimes it's felt like two steps forward, one step back. Sometimes it's felt because we've got race directors from all over the world. So sometimes getting us all together and battling with time zones and making sure everyone is aligned on everything that we want to do can be a bit like herding cats.

Speaker 1:

But yeah, kind of kicks. He kind of kickstarted that who was sending out that first email?

Speaker 2:

Well, we're really at pains to emphasize that the decision making is flat, non-hierarchical, alliance of equal. But the first communications it's quite an interesting story. I wrote to Sidonia Ofreitas at Madeira Island Altar Trail to say we're looking to put well, hong Kong 100 is thinking that we'll be great to put together an alliance of independent, authentic, like-minded trail races all around the globe. Most important thing is that the experience for runners is absolutely as good as it can possibly be. Also super important that we're independent and that we group as a non-hierarchical alliance, so nobody's in charge, kind of thing. But yeah, that first WhatsApp was sent by me to Sidonia O and Sidonia O replied from Madeira oh great, steve, so you've been talking to Fernando. This sounds like a really exciting thing to do and we definitely can't. I said hold on a minute, I haven't been speaking to Fernando. He's the next person I was going to contact and Sidonia O said well, he's written an email to me that's almost identical to yours, so we should all speak. So that was sort of straight away. We got Transgrancanaria, that was Fernando, and when was that out of interest? That will have been in, I think, may of 2023. Yeah, okay, could be April, but I think it was May 2023. And so next was me to contact Chiba San, who looks after Fuji, and it was brilliant. Chiba San came back straight away and said absolutely, we would love to be involved in this and can we get on a conference call? And he sent me a time and I thought I was in Europe then but I thought that doesn't look like a sensible time. But he insisted no, let's do this call. And it was at 3am his time, which I think shows how keen he to get the ball rolling. And I remember I felt terribly guilty because it was I don't know six o'clock or whatever, where we were in Europe. And there he was with his team, including a translator, working away at 3am. It's just incredible. And then the next was the Cape Town team. So we knew Nick quite well because he used to live in Hong Kong, nick Wollman, and we knew Stu, but we knew Nick better. So we reached out to Nick. He brought Stu in and again, straight away they said, yeah, let's do it, and took it from there and Jameel at Aravide.

Speaker 1:

But yeah it's okay, yeah.

Speaker 2:

And then Madeira Island Ultra Trail had been in a an association, a friendly association, with Swiss Canyon Trail and Quebec Mega Trail. So again they were kind of obvious, both fantastic races with a long history and great standing in the community and so on. So say again approached them and they were, they're very, very keen. And then the at the same time, because I'm from the UK and raced back in the UK from time to time, you know, I sort of always spent a bit of time in the UK and yeah, we'll often do a race or two or three when I'm back in the summers. So I knew about South Downsway 100, but also spoke to people who knew the scene they're better than I did and there are plenty of those and they said, yeah, look, speak to to James at Centurion Running. And we did and we seemed to hit it off and we seem to share ideals and we seem to both be as excited about doing this as one another. So that's the nine races. Now, of course, along the way we spoke to some others as well. We're still speaking to some others and but yeah, those are the nine where straight away there was an obvious sort of fellow feeling of this is something that we really want to do. We want to to try and put on fantastic races in the right spirit, in the true trail spirit, with, you know, runners at the very heart of of everything in terms of decision making and making sure that their experience is, you know, absolutely optimal.

Speaker 1:

Because I was speaking to Briggs, my wife, last night about this and her immediate reaction was why they're nine is too many. And there's an element where I I'm inclined to agree in the way that the power of the marathon majors is that you know there are six, that you know it's increasing, but actually you've done, you're probably going to do one or two as an individual, naturally. And then it's that temptation of can I get them all, whereas nine seems too out of reach for the, for the casual trail runner to be. Oh yeah, maybe I'll do more, so do you? Is is, was the hope that it would be? Is is the aim to try and market it as you have to run them all, or the hope that people want to do them all? Or is it more just saying we're cool guys, these are cool guys. If you love us, why not give them a go?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's, it's well. I'll just go back a little bit to so the the ideal number. We're still not sure, and we've been debating for eight months, or however long it is since. Since May we we would have gone ahead with five, but we're delighted to have nine, and I think it will grow a little bit from here, and the idea is that these are races of a lifetime, so we're not really encouraging anyone to do, you know, all of them in a year, and it's interesting. I've had a bunch of people saying I want to do them all and I said, well, yeah, me too, but over a few, you know and yeah, certainly not a year.

Speaker 1:

I'm thinking even the month of May. Three years is is almost impossible really. Yeah.

Speaker 2:

I think occasionally people do do that, but no, I agree. So over my trail running career I would like to do all nine of these races. And it's an interesting one because on the one hand, in a way, you keep it small and that means there's more focus. Each race probably has a little bit more influence. In a way, it's probably easier to manage, but our sense is that the demand from race organizers to be part of something like this is huge. Also that there is, we feel, a real strength in an alliance. You look at each of the races and they each have their strengths and maybe their weaknesses and together we complement each other. And I think the the the real feeling that actually the more races are in the circuit, the more powerful the voice becomes. So as long as everybody is like minded and we're all kind of pulling in the in the right, in the same direction, then the more we have, the more powerful it will be. So there's a balance to be struck and we haven't decided on where you know how many is the perfect number. We've had lots of races already knocking on the door saying I would really like to be included.

Speaker 1:

Are any of those races like TransGank and Area X, or current UTMB races?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, well, yeah, definitely some X UTWT races. As far as I know, there aren't any of the sort of current UTMB races, but of course the UTMB races are all, apart from Western States, owned by UTMB. Yeah, okay, yeah, yeah, so that I guess that couldn't, couldn't happen. I still don't quite know. Maybe they, because the TransVulcania retirement from the UTMB World Series surprised me a little bit, because I had understood that the model was you're bought by Ironman or UTMB, apart from Western States, which I guess.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think there there has been a blending of different relationships based off trial periods and things. There certainly are some races owned by UTMB in my understanding, and that's where they've had more of the power. But I think there are these growing pains and these growing period where there is breakout clauses from both sides potentially.

Speaker 2:

So you know a lot more about it than I do, I think, which is good.

Speaker 1:

So, yeah, lots of races would like to be part of it and I I'm totally sympathetic to that and it's fantastic, I think it's kind of a boat of confidence as to what we're trying to do, and have there been, because, if you look at how it could evolve, one thing that could be set is minimum requirements or standardization of. You have to have at least this in terms, almost a service, a charter of to your customer agreement. One thing could be shared marketing, shared discounts, a race series, a finals, what, what, what is the vision for those elements?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so that one way of approaching it would be to say, yeah, you know, you have to have had X editions, you have to have X runners this distance. But we're trying to avoid, I think, setting those sorts of parameters and and boxing, boxing ourselves in. So I think, the races that so far that have applied. You know there's some fantastic races there and and you know all I must admit, like I'm a bit of a purist, I absolutely love trail running. I absolutely love small races, back of a back of an envelope type stuff. That kind of turn up on a Sunday morning with, you know, your subscription off, you go, come back and have a pine, a pint or a scone and a cup of tea and and I think in a way, you know that's that can be the real spirit of the sport. So they also need to keep me out of the, the decision making processes, to admitting new races, because I'm much too much of a softy and if it's left to me I'll bring them all in. And there will be 175 races in the the World Trail majors. So but yeah, we're just at that stage where races are contacting us, we're sort of pulling information so that we can make decisions as to what next in terms of growing the World Trail majors, or maybe doing something for 2025? And and do you think?

Speaker 1:

do you think, say one of the races has a shocker, make some bad decisions, change its leadership is? Do you think the organization will kick out races?

Speaker 2:

It's a bit early to be thinking of that, David.

Speaker 1:

Yes, it's a negative stuff, and then bring to first foot forward.

Speaker 2:

But yeah, I mean the way it's set up is as a as a not for profit association, and so there are ways, if somebody you know really does annoy the other races, of getting rid of a race. But yeah, I am pretty confident that that we'll never need to do that. But yeah, I mean it is catered for in the kind of associations charter, if you like. But yeah, we've not been focused on that. You're covering all the angles.

Speaker 1:

We always do and how, in terms of what's kind of motivated this to you feel that almost the homogene and the size of market that UTMB is now grabbing in every continent. Is this a reaction to that?

Speaker 2:

Yes and no. I mean, the straight answer is no, not really we would. When we were talking about this in sort of eight months ago, we were, and you know, actually setting it in motion. When we were back in the ultra trail will talk week and we think we've mentioned ultra will talk, we haven't quite explained for the listener what the ultra world talk connection is. So this was something set up about about, I think, maybe 2013, 2014. And it started with 10 races and then I think it expanded to maybe 28. But it started with 10 and of the 10, hong Kong 100, mount Fuji, gran Canaria and we're all in the original ultra trail world tour, and then ultra trail Cape Town and Madeira Island and have a lean 100, which is a sister race of black Canyon ultra's, and all joined. If you're wondering how those six races sort of form a core part of the World Trail majors, well it's because we all the race directors, the event teams all got to know each other really well through the ultra trail world tour. And the ultra world tour to begin with was an absolute joy to be part of because it was this new association of races from all over the planet. It was set up with promises that it would be democratically run and everyone would have a say and so on. But it sort of lost its way slightly and when it did the races, a lot of the races started to talk about well, should we set something up separately? Because we love the concept, we love the ability to share expertise and know how knowledge amongst the races and to even just sort of help each other problem solve, and we love the camaraderie, the fantastic people behind behind a lot of the races that were in the ultra world tour and they are in the World Trail majors. So it's great having as as close colleagues these event management teams and race directors. So we absolutely love that. But we, yeah, when the ultra world tour was was losing its way, we were talking about doing something separately, but then it kind of fragmented anyway and then covered, happened and so we basically we've picked up a conversation that started before the Ultra. The UTMB World Series was even an idea. So that means that yeah this idea must have, you know it predated UTMB World Series and I think it was a good idea then. I think it's a good idea now. But I think, because of the perhaps there's a level of discontent just under the surface. I think that the bubbled up above the surface, with the whistler Ironman UTMB controversy that has been, I've never seen the trail running community as vocal and as as livid and as united almost as it has been in the last three weeks, you know, since since that blew up, and it suggests to me that there is, there's a discontent with, with perhaps, what is going on, and so I think that's the way that the UTMB World Series.

Speaker 1:

I'd say this is an observation based on, yeah, the way that I mean I think objectively that's anyone would say that and you know if, if you can be are not aware of that and they've got bigger issues than what they already have. But I mean that's an objective. Look at a piece of social media that they've put out to the action, to it, and I think that's the community standing up for someone who, gary Robbins. He's one of us and everyone knows he gives like he is. He's a lovely person who is he's. He bleeds trail. So, yeah, that's what it is. I think it's more, if this can happen to, if this happens to Gary, then what's this? What's going to stop it happening to everyone?

Speaker 2:

And I think that that's well observed. And and, yeah, I think part of the outpouring is that it has happened to Gary, who is such a popular member of the global trail running community, and when UTMB essentially forced Fuji to mount for so ultra amount Fuji, then now Mount Fuji 100 to change its name because UTMB was claiming intellectual property in in part of the Fuji name, despite UTMF having been set up as a sister race essentially of UTMB. I think that didn't get the, the opprobium, the, the kind of upset community response that it, that people probably expected it would. Certainly I saw that move and thought it was pointless. Nobody benefited from it. It was well the. Dylan Bowman described it as as just pure bullying and I thought that would actually have a real backlash. But it didn't seem to and I think partly because UTMF response to it was very dignified and muted but, yeah, very different. So two moves that I think again objectively very controversial and and very on trail.

Speaker 1:

you know where we pride ourselves on being this big community and looking out for each other and suddenly seeing someone do something like that or what is perceived to have gone on within in Whistler, I am a little bit surprised when I look at it that the the response we saw in Whistler wasn't the response that we saw with the Fuji naming intellectual property, and I think a lot of that comes down to, to language in community as well, is that it's it's a race of a community of a different language to the majority of the trail running community, and so it I don't think those communications, that discontent bleeds into the wider community, that something like a similar to the ones that a Whistler does, because even if you're not a trail runner, you know Whistler, you've heard actually, I mean, you know Mount Fuji, of course, but I think it's the yeah, the. You're picking on an audience where social media users are nearly all connected through the English language on Instagram, on Facebook, whereas that's not true of of the Japanese social media.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it could be right, it could be culturally, it could be that a Japanese trail runner is less likely to be vocal below the line on issues such as I actually don't know. But but it was interesting to me that two sort of controversies One has really blown up and I think Megan Hicks on iron said it's tens of thousands of social media posts bemoaning what happened in Whistler, whereas I think what happened in Fuji didn't actually get all of that or that much coverage, despite being, I think, something that should have been raising concerns. I think in the I say they were, it was for Dylan Bowman and for, you know, there were people who remarked on it and criticise it on social media and so on, but it didn't get the sort of media attention that this one is getting. So you've probably nailed some of the reasons for that. But yeah, I guess and my point is it does show this perhaps the disgruntlement that there may be not very far from the surface in the global trail running community at the moment.

Speaker 1:

So, coming back to the ultra child world, tour them when you were saying that before you know the UTMB World Series and that actually it was, it wasn't fulfilling what you'd hoped. What were those folks in the road where it started veering off? And how do you stop the ultra child majors making those those choices and going in there veering off as well?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, there were a few things that were beginning to happen, so I think it was at the time that UTMB was setting up it, some of its first by UTMB races and then, I think, without them having a track record and without any real consultation, just popping them into the global tour. And I think that the existing races, and many of which had exemplary track record and and so on, thought well, hold on a minute, you can't just create a race and put it straight in. It devalues the whole, the whole thing. And so I think when that sort of thing began to happen it, that's when the it began to fragment, I think, and and that wouldn't have happened If we were run as a sort of alliance yeah, races all of which are equal. So I think the risks of that kind of thing happening in the real majors are pretty much zero, because the structure is flat. Now it'll be harder to make decisions because we, you know it won't be nothing will be imposed top down, but I think the decisions will make will be much higher quality and I think it'll be much easier to implement because it will, we, everyone will abort in.

Speaker 1:

And when you say government, it sounds like a dilution of quality. Really was the frustration. But when you say an organization is flat, though, there's a very big difference between a majority vote and that it has to be in everyone agreeing. So it is the structure that it has to be in unity, so that everyone Unanimity, unanimity.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, unanimity depends on the nature of the topic. So on the whole, decisions will be made by a majority, but there'll be somewhere no unanimities required.

Speaker 1:

Okay, yeah.

Speaker 2:

I can't speak to the real detail and so on, but yeah, basically majority on most decisions and then the very biggest decisions will have either a higher threshold or even unanimity, depending on exactly what that subject matter is.

Speaker 1:

And the big, big question that I know some people will be wanting answered is will there be a nine medal medal at some point?

Speaker 2:

It's funny we've just been discussing that overnight. So there's a really nice proposal from Jamil in Arizona and so, yeah, there's going to be something special for finishers of World Trail Majors races, for sure. Yeah, we haven't quite finalized design and what that will be, but yeah, there'll be something that certainly, if it were me, I'd be really proud to earn. But you know what One person's proudly earned medal is, another person's TAT and environmental sort of mistake. So I guess we'll make that optional and so on. But I must admit, for me, if, yeah, completing races in the circuit, I'd be very proud of it and want to mark it with something. And I suppose, yeah, that does mean we could do something electronic, but for sure, for everybody who completes a World Trail Majors race, yeah, there'll be something that a proud keepsake to honor the achievement. Yeah, for sure.

Speaker 1:

And actually that would be. I could visualize more, rather than a medal, actually a holding board where someone has to be creative enough to actually draw a consistent painting that then, when you place the medals in the right position, actually has some cohesion between them, because that's going to be the challenge, right.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it reminds me of a really good friend of mine is a serial Wainwright bagger, so he spends a lot of time in the late districts and you can get these charts that allow you to essentially chalk off every single way in the late districts. So certainly it'll be a lot easier to be during your race, your trail racing career, to be chalking off the World Trail Majors than the I don't know how many it is, but hundreds of Wainwrights.

Speaker 1:

So 200 and something, oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, amazing. Well, thank you so much for coming on the podcast and if you were to, we'll give you a free reign to sell Hong Kong 100. What would you say, the main, other than the monkeys? What's the main thing that people should come to race it for?

Speaker 2:

Incredible physical beauty that you don't expect. You think of Hong Kong as being skyscrapers and it may be amazing food, but you get out into the countryside. 40% of Hong Kong is country parks, so you get out into those country parks and it is incredibly beautiful. And then the friendliest volunteers you're ever going to meet. So, yeah, come and join us at Hong Kong 100. It's full for 2024, but 2025,.

Speaker 1:

Come and join us and what are the dates of 2025 approximately?

Speaker 2:

It's always mid to late January. Just occasionally it sneaks into February. But yeah, usually it's mid to late January. So this year it's 18th to 21st of January, so yeah, come and join us.

Speaker 1:

If you don't want to have to be wading through the snow or the wet of the spine for three to five days, then it's a warmer, nicer alternative.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's right, you'd expect it to be between 10 and 22 degrees, but there was one year and remember, hong Kong is subtropical, but there was one year in 2016 when it froze. So we had ice all the way down from the highest hill in Hong Kong, time or shine. All the way down to the finish line was completely frozen. So that that was a pretty stressful weekend for everyone involved in making sure everybody got safely back to the timeline.

Speaker 1:

And I've just thought of one more question that feel free to not answer it. Actually, I had that I was going to put in mid into you. Were you wooed by UTMB to join the series and if so, what's that process like?

Speaker 2:

Well, I should imagine that all of these races were wooed to join UTMB, yeah, utmb World Series, but of course, if anyone were, they'd be under an NDA, so it's something that probably nobody will really talk about. But it wouldn't surprise me if all of these races had an approach or more from from UTMB or from Ironman, but they wouldn't be allowed to speak about it because, yeah, they would have to sign an NDA. I suspect.

Speaker 1:

So in 40 years time, when you're in your deathbed and I'm still podcasting to like two people, that's what I need to be like. Steve, come on tell me what actually happened. The NDA doesn't matter anymore. They can't come after you.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, or I suspect, if you get the right people at the right moment in the right pub, they may have forgotten that they signed an NDA and in fact, very often those things only have a certain lifespan. But yeah, yeah it's a tantalising question and I suspect that all of these races would probably have had an approach from one or other side of the UTMB World Series fence. But even if they had, they wouldn't be allowed.

Speaker 1:

True, and in a way, that's what we're here for. We're here to informally get the word out of what's going on without naming individuals once they've got drunk. So hopefully we'll get drunk together at some point in the future and then if a story pops up on the podcast, it will be from an anonymous source.

Speaker 2:

I would certainly deny it, and so would my wife.

Speaker 1:

Amazing. Well, thanks so much for coming on the podcast, steve. If people want to follow the race yourself your wife what are the best social handles and things for them to reach out to?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so Hong Kong 100 on Facebook and Hong Kong 100 on Instagram. Simple as that. But we're not great at social media. So, yeah, don't get your hopes up. That's certainly not our forte. We'll try our best. But yeah, don't get too excited about our Facebook or our Instagram page. We don't bother with Twitter or X because it's too complicated and it seems to be too full of bio, from what I can tell.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and who knows, it'll be around in five, 10 years and what that will look like. Well, thank you again for coming to the podcast, good luck with future editions and if there's anything else we can do to help as a podcast, then please let us know.

Speaker 2:

Brilliant, total pleasure. Thanks so much, david. Really appreciate it.

Speaker 1:

So there you go, steve Ballas. What a lovely person and so interesting. Actually I thought the three different elements of the kind of history COVID, the impact on China of that tragedy and then the changing scene of Oaks Trail. With respect to Brian Brian a couple of weeks ago from Trail Running Magazine about how that's changing and it's interesting to hear from a racist point of view just what the perception is. And there's obviously a lot of things that can't be said legally, but also because it is a small community and people don't want to create enemies and there's a little bit of respect in there as well. So we did have about a 45 minute conversation before we even started recording them. We're like, right, okay, let's film the stuff we can talk about and similarly the relationship in Hong Kong and various things. We didn't discuss those areas partly because it's not necessarily safe to talk freely, but also if I explain my situation, I'm going to be going there potentially next year with Golden Trail and from my point of view it's far more powerful to actually connect with the community and to bring a lot of, hopefully, chinese individuals, runners, community into the global trail community. I think that have far more of an impact than just saying some things that we maybe would like to say right now and not being able to make that happen. So that's my position. But, wow, hong Kong if you haven't been out there, it sounds like we need to go right. To be able to have five, six trail races over a weekend is incredible. I guess you can get that over the UK if you're prepared to travel. But the difference is that Hong Kong is super, super accessible, great public transport, so you can probably actually do any of those things quite easily without having to take several days of work or travel five hours across the country by car. But thanks for listening to this one. I was trying to think of some other good episodes for you to listen to if you liked, the themes that we talked about here. We mentioned briefly one of the episodes we did with James Paul. We've done a couple with him, one where he hallucinates across the Gaby March, but he was also talking about doing the Nine Dragons. I think he'd probably hallucinate. He seems to hallucinate wherever he goes and he was talking about that race experience. I remember being very, very funny. We also spoke to Chris Vanderveld on his Asian Trail series. He's got trail races across Asia and this was, I think, episode 182. So quite some time ago, but actually it's still very, very interesting to hear how the growth of the sport was happening and the different approach to trail whether you were in Malaysia or Hong Kong or Thailand or Vietnam and how the communities were changing and what their approach to even things like hydration dramatically different. We also spoke to well, what was John Cername? He was great. He was one of the champions from Hong Kong, one of the best trail runners in Asia and, as ever, my memory lets me down. But plenty of great episodes to listen to. If you enjoyed this one. But if you've got any suggestions of future guests or episodes or topics, message me, david at badboyrunningcom or just pigas on Instagram. And yeah, thanks for listening. Please do rate and review, as it helps us get greater visibility and that helps us get better guests. So, thanks for listening and we will see you next time. Bye, bye, bye, bye, bye, bye, bye, bye, bye, bye, bye bye, bye, bye, bye, bye, bye, bye, bye bye. I must admit I was a clown to be messing around, but that doesn't mean that you have to leave town. Come back, yes, and give me one more try, because I love like this. Should I never, ever die? Come back.

Speaker 2:

Fuck you, buddy you, you.

COVID's Impact on Asian Trail Running
Hong Kong Hundred
Trail Running Community in Hong Kong
Trail Majors and Race Organizers
Formation of Global Trail Racing Alliance
Controversies in Global Trail Running Community
UTMB World Series and Future Issues