One step at a time

Updated: 2015-02-13 09:44

By Huang Xiangyang(China Daily)

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One step at a time

Runners on their way to Beacon Hill at night, with the sight of Hong Kong's high-rises illuminated in the background.[Photo by Lao Yao and Kit NG/China Daily]

Long-distance running becomes an epic when your lottery number comes up forHong Kong's ultramarathon.

My toes were burning in pain. But I didn't dare to take off my socks to look. The sight of blisters or blackened nails-which surely was the case-could become the last straw to eliminate my already worn-out resolve to stay the course.

Once in a while, I had to stop, panting, with my mouth wide-open like a fish out of water, gasping for fresh air. After running for 12 hours since morning in Hong Kong's mountainous New Territories, I was exhausted, depressed and desperate.

It was evening of Jan 17 and I was a little more than halfway through the Hong Kong 100 Ultra-Trail Race, a 100-kilometer ultramarathon with a total ascent of 4,500 meters. The course boasts stunning views as it winds its way along coastal paths, across beaches, through villages and over mountains. But it also puts to the test one's physical and mental strength-to the extreme. Participants have 30 hours to complete the race, and those who finish within 16, 20 and 24 hours are awarded gold, silver and bronze trophies.

As a first-time ultramarathon runner, I had a dream of winning a bronze award in this challenging race. Not many people are granted the chance in their lifetime to realize a dream. I was lucky enough to beat thousands of other applicants through a ballot to qualify to stand behind the starting line, among 1,650 participants including the world's top trail runners.

For me, running is a life-transforming activity. Years of unhealthy habits had ruined my health, and it was only in May 2012 that I set my feet for the first time on a treadmill, as suggested by doctors, as part of therapies to cure my "extremely serious" fatty liver, among other ailments like high blood pressure. I was then 75 kilograms and heaved like hell to finish just 1 km. Six months later, I shed 10 kg and finished my first half-marathon. A medical checkup the second year showed that the fatty-liver problem had gone, though I still had to bring down my blood pressure to a normal level.

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