Eight Brave Women - Part 2

By Veronika Vadovicova


'The first edition of the Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge (HK4TUC) dates back all the way to 2012. Whilst the event has grown significantly in terms of global following, it still maintains the same spirit. HK4TUC is a low-key, personal challenge in which participants must run or hike all four Hong Kong long distance trails non-stop, on their own and self-supported. HK4TUC is not a race, there is no course marking and no aid stations. No entry fees. No prizes. The total distance is 298km and approximately 14,500 metres of positive elevation gain. The sequence is Maclehose trail (100km), Wilson trail (78km), Hong Kong trail (50km) and Lantau trail (70km). Participants cover the trails in reverse direction, from trail end to trail head. The event starts in Tuen Muen and finishes at the green postbox at the Mui Wo ferry terminal on Lantau island.

Participants can have crew support between each of the four trails but not whilst they are on the trails. Here no pacers or outside companions of any kind are permitted. Participants can take rest breaks at their own discretion during the challenge, but the clock does not pause, and the total time also includes the transition time required between the trails. The use of trekking poles and music or sound playing devices is not permitted. Painkillers and anti-inflammatory and performance enhancing drugs are banned. Anyone who complies with all HK4TUC rules and completes the full distance in under 60 hours is deemed a Finisher. Those who complete in under 72 hours are deemed a Survivor. 2022 marked the 11th edition of HK4TUC. Over the years an increasing number of female athletes participated in the event and this year half of the field were women.'

(Andre Blumberg - HK4TUC Founder & Organizer)



Virginie Goethals - 180k

Photo by Lucien Chan


What made you want to take part in this challenge?

I survived HK4T two times already in 2020 and 2021, and with no races in Hong Kong in sight I had set myself as goal to improve my HK4T time. I also love this challenge, as you have to manage what the trails will throw at you. Long distance running is a continuing lesson in acceptance, love, humility and vulnerability. For me, that is what life is about.


What was the most important focus of your training?

I love training, and how it regulates my life as due to my work at RUN HK every day is unpredictable. Training is often the only certainty that I have in my day, and it provides me with some distance to how I manage all the aspects of my life. This year was the first time that I was coached by a woman, Stephanie Howe, based in the US. I love her personality and training approach. I did focus more on speed work and nutrition on the trails, as well as making sure I was mentally fresh at the start. I also focus on strength work with David Jacquier at Joint Dynamics, as after 100 km your body takes a big beating and things tend to fall apart.


Who was your support and why did you choose them?

This year Nikki Han and Brenda Sawyer crewed for me, with Brenda's husband Martyn managing the logistics at home. They are all dear friends, with whom I am comfortable when the going gets rough. Brenda has crewed for me over the past editions and knows me inside out. I love running with Nikki, and she knows how I approach the trails, and with her amazing long distance expertise she knows exactly what to say to shake me up. Both also have a fantastic sense of humor, which is needed to keep perspective.


What was your best moment during HK4TUC?

When I started on Pat Sing Leng, it was around 1.30 am, raining and very foggy. I loved moving over these hills in the dark, as I had trained a lot on that section. I felt like the mountain was helping me move.


Any special tips you would give to future participants?

I am not the fastest runner, but with consistence and commitment in training, many can do it. It is a wonderful adventure.


Any important lessons you have learnt? This year I had to DNF after 180km, and I did not see this possibility coming at all as at the start I was in the best physical condition of my life. I felt awful after 140 km, and could not figure out why and troubleshoot. It turned out that in the colder rainy weather this year I had very likely got hypothermia, which caused my heart rate to be all over the place. Medical advice confirmed that the best decision was to pull out to avoid more nasty consequences. The challenge this year forcefully taught me everything about hypothermia, I am an expert now : )


Would you do it again?

One amazing aspect of HK4T is the parity of male/ female participants, and I wish that this will be maintained in the future. This was the third time that I am on the HK4T starting line, and for the time being I am focusing on other long distance adventures.


Do you have a message for other Asia Trail Girls?

You can do it, never say never.



Chamelia Suhra - 100k

Photo by Jean-Luc Karlin


What made you want to take part in this challenge?

Well, I love challenges and I thought it was time for me to challenge myself.


What was the most important focus of your training?

I train a lot on uphill, but in hindsight I realize that I overworked myself in the training.


Who was your support and why did you choose them?

My support team consisted of people from my running group. I know them all so well. One was my main support, who was there to drive me between trials. He knows the roads well and that’s why I chose him. Another one was my running mate, I chose him because I feel comfortable with him and he is very encouraging. I had a different crew for the ferry (but I never made it to the ferry unfortunately).


What was your best moment during HK4TUC?

Running along side with survivors from previous HK4TUC editions was a highlight. Also, when I ran beside Man Yee, female finisher who broke 60 hours in Four Trails this year. I was also able to run with Wong Ho Chung, who won the event and broke 50 hours this year. That was the best moment - they are both so down earth and inspiring.


Any special tips you would give to future participants?

Keep training hard and don’t give up!

Any important lessons you learned?

I have learnt a lot of things from this event: to not let my failure shut me down, to keep that fire burning, and to rise up and become a stronger runner.


Would you do it again?

Definitely!


Do you have a message for other Asia Trail Girls?

Keep running - it doesn’t matter if it is 1km or 10km. Everyone starts from somewhere and it eventually will lead to bigger runs!



Man Yee - 298k HK4TUC Finisher & Female Record Holder

Photo by Jean-Luc Karlin


What made you want to take part in this challenge?

First of all, I am crazy.

Second of all, I love the trail =)

Third of all, if I didn't finish Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge at least once during my trail-running life it would be really imperfect!


What was the most important focus of your training?

You do not need to run very fast to complete the challenge. But you need to be able to run in a steady pace for a long period of time despite physical exhaustion. I train by running nearly daily to train the endurance of my muscles, as well as tendons and ligaments, so that they can still "work" even in an exhausted state.


Who was your support and why did you choose them?

John and Samsam were my support. Both of them are experienced trail runners and good friends whom I know since I started my trail running journey. I chose them because they are wonderful people, and I knew that they would provide the best support for me!


What was your best moment during HK4TUC?

There was a lot of enjoyable moments, particularly when I could run with other participants of 4 Trails. I ran with Chung Sir, Richard, and Thomas for around 10-20km each and their presence kept me in a good spirit and a good mood to continue!


Any special tips you would give to future participants?

1) I would advise them not to carry too much food or equipment. I calculated how much food I needed for each trail and I just brought enough to follow my plan. (E.g. 200 calories (usually bar or gel) each 10km). Although it is not the safest way but you really cannot run fast while carrying too much stuff.


2) If possible, try to run with another participant (Andre allows two participants to run together) if your speed is similar, especially during the first night. As it is quite easy to get lost in Sai Kung and Pat Sin Leng.


Any important lessons you learned?

"Prepare for the worst, hope for the best" is what I learned. HK4TUC is such a big challenge with so many unpredictable difficulties you need to overcome. Thanks to the experience in my last try at 2020, this time I was able to keep at it and finish!


What did you feel when you kissed the green postbox? It was really a moving moment for me. I doubted myself a thousands times during my journey but at last I was able to finish within 60hrs. It was certainly the happiest moment in the last 3 months.


Would you do it again?

I think I would not do it again. There may be other challenges and other goals that I want to achieve in the future!


Do you have a message for other Asia Trail Girls?

Many Asia Trail Girls are so strong and fast and I believe that next year there will be someone breaking my record. And maybe it will be you if you try!



Tanya (Piratay) Bennett - 200k

Photo by William Leung


What made you want to take part in this challenge?

I had been part of the event as the support crew for many years (where you are allowed to offer assistance to your runner in-between the trail heads, driving to the next trail, restocking their bag, providing change of clothes etc.). I always thought maybe, maybe one day I might be able to attempt it. It took me years to even build up the courage to admit I was thinking about entering.


What was the most important focus of your training?

Interestingly, given that it has such a big elevation profile - we (my coach was Andy Dubois from Mile27) focused on flat running. The aim was to get my overall speed up from getting used to running flats - there are a surprising number of catchwaters in 4 trails! I was very concerned about finishing the Maclehose cutoff (100k) in under 18hours as I had never achieved that before.


Who was your support and why did you choose them?

My support team was Will Hayward, who has completed HK4TUC 2 times. I have supported Will on each of his 3 attempts, so he owed me some miles ;) It really was a great help to have someone on your support know exactly what you were going through. My other support was my husband Ali who is the person who knows me the best and had been through the months and months of preparation with me.


What was your best moment during HK4TUC?

Finishing the Mac was pretty fun, hearing Andre's cowbell ringing you in. I also really enjoyed the people who cheered you along the trails, it made me feel like I was part of something really magical and special <3


Any special tips you would give to future participants?

Knowing your trails is the most important thing, its easy to get lost and disorientated when you are super tired.


Any important lessons you learned?

I have always maintained that I run better without any time pressures, but I really regret not setting myself some more basic time targets after the mac. Without them, it was hard to gauge how I was doing as the overall distance is so enormous. I also learnt not to get out any snacks near lead mine pass - a monkey stole mine!!


Would you do it again?

Of course I will haha. I have just moved to Ho Chi Minh, so probably not next year but it will definitely feature in my long term running plans for the future.


Do you have a message for other Asia Trail Girls?

Don't worry about what everyone else is up to, the only thing of importance is your own relationship with the trails.