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Healing power of trail running: the journey of a running refugee

Sydney is an asylum seeker from South Asia who has been in Hong Kong with her family for 16 years. She got into running thanks to RUN Hong Kong - an NGO whose mission is to rehabilitate vulnerable refugees through sports, education and beyond. Here is Sydney's inspiring running journey.

I joined RUN Hong Kong (RUN) 3 years ago, first starting with a weekly hike with the female participants of RUN. This was the first time I hiked with my friends, and I could not keep up with them because they are super strong. I thought I could never keep up with them! I only started hiking when I joined RUN, and as I became stronger, I slowly joined the weekly track running sessions as well.

At the moment, I run and hike at least 3 to 4 times a week. I hike with a good friend on Mondays, I hike on the trails with the RUN group on Tuesdays, and at the track on Thursdays. Every weekend, I run at least 15-20 kilometres with a long-time RUN volunteer who is also my good friend.

I like to hike because I love nature and I like to explore new trails. Hiking makes me happy and makes me stronger day by day.

Since starting my hiking & running journey 3 years ago, I have taken part in many different races of varying distances. This includes a 5km road run, a 14km and 19km trail race, a 30km trail race, a 50km trail race and I also participated in the Hong Kong 100 in 2019. However, I only managed to finish 75km of the 100km race.

Not being able to finish the Hong Kong 100 was very difficult for me. I could not finish because we missed the cut-off time at checkpoint 7. I was very disappointed in myself because I trained so hard but could not finish the race. However, everyone around me was very encouraging and said that we should be very happy because we finished 75km. Even so, I was very disappointed in myself. However, I learned a lot about myself that day.

  1. I need to rest the week leading up to the race. I could not sleep well for the 3 days prior because I was nervous and excited.

  2. I need to eat more regularly throughout the race, not only drink water to fuel myself.

  3. At every peak along the trail, singing and dancing puts a smile on my face and gives me the energy to continue.

  4. I don’t need to be so nervous at the beginning of the race. When I was climbing Sai Wan Shan, or otherwise known as “Sydney’s* (my) mountain, I felt nauseous and I did not want to continue. But after having a few candies and some encouragement from my team, I put my head down and kept going. I passed that mountain, and I had lots of energy to continue. I think that if I was more confident at the beginning, I would have felt stronger throughout the race.

  5. I don’t give up easily.

I will be running the Hong Kong 100 flex in 2021, and my goal is to finish under 30 hours. Although there will not be any checkpoints and no other support during the race, I am still determined to do it. It will be challenging for me, but I will try my hardest.

Running and hiking has given me so many gifts and has changed my life. Before, I was a housewife without any natural sports ability. When I joined RUN, I became happier, mentally and physically. I was also more confident, determined and resilient. I do not doubt myself when I face a challenge, I face it with strength and determination.

I think sports, and in my case hiking and running, is so important for everyone to do. It is a great way to improve physical and mental health, and a great way to make new friends and take time away from the busy day to day commitments.

If I could go back in time and give myself some advice, I would have the following things to say.

  1. If you are willing to do it, you can do anything.

  2. Every day is a new day. Start with new thoughts.

  3. Try to push yourself bit by bit, then you will reach your goal.

*Name has been changed

RUN Hong Kong is an NGO whose mission is to rehabilitate vulnerable refugees through sports, education and beyond. RUN aims to Rebuild their beneficiaries’ mental and physical strength, Unite as a community and with the local Hong Kong community, and Nurture each other through sport, food, friendship and education. RUN aspires to create a resilient and empowered community, and envisage a future where refugees are integrated with the local community, and respected and treated as equals.

RUN Website: RUN Facebook page:

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