(Original version in Chinese, translated by Joanna Wong)
Hong Kong’s very own Cheung Man-yee finished 5th in last week’s UTMF (Ultra Trail of Mount Fujim, Japan), the highest ranking in the race by a HK runner.
The weather was harsh on race day, less than 5% finished the race when the race had to be terminated at around the 28-hour mark. To be able to complete the race at such a high ranking, and faster than some of those who are used to snowy conditions is already in itself an impressive feat.
We interviewed Man-yee after the race to find out more about her race and how she started running.
Q: You belong to the 19-29 category, still quite young! How long have you been running?
A: I’m actually not that young (chuckles), I started in 2017, a friend asked me to run together, and we also signed up for a race together.
Q: Did you start off on road running then went on to trail running, or did you start with trail running?
A: I started with trail running. Of course I have also joined road races before, the mainstream ones.
Q: Did you hike regularly in the past, that’s why you went into trail running?
A: Yes indeed I have hiked in the past, just that I didn’t realise you could run on the trails!
Q: Before joining UTMF, have you participated in other races such as HK100, TNF100, Translantau, etc and what were your rankings?
A: I have not participated in the above races, I only participated in UTMT in January this year (my first 100-mile race), and came in 3rd in the mixed duo race. I also participated in Garmin 100 in March by teaming up with Wong Ho Chung. Under his guidance (aka a fair bit of pushing), we managed to get first place (mixed team).
Q: I understand you work in a hospital. It’s widely known that working hours in the hospitals are long, how do you find the time to train?
A: I work in a government hospital, while work is very busy, it doesn’t mean that I couldn’t find the time to train. I have registered in quite a few races these few months, using these races as my training, I managed to accumulate around 300km every month.
Q: If you have more time to train, you would be even faster! Prior to UTMF, what was your expectations?
A: I didn’t have any (chuckle), I was having the same feelings as many fellow participants, it was mainly to experience and compete in an international race. I wanted to finish such a race and was very happy that I managed to do it!
Q: what was your target time for UTMF?
A: I set 30 hours for myself, already I felt it won’t be easy. It’d need a lot of effort to achieve that as we were not allowed to use poles and we needed to carry a lot of gear with us. Furthermore I wasn’t familiar with the route and the environment, even 30 hours is cutting it very close.
Every time I arrived at a checkpoint, I was checking my time, and noticed that I was faster than my estimated time, yet I still felt good and not too tired, hence I just pushed on and managed to end up 2 hours faster than my target time!
Q: At what stage of the race did you realise you had a chance of a podium finish?
A: I didn’t even check my ranking as most of the race marshals only spoke Japanese, and I didn’t know how to ask nor did I know how many were in front of me. Some of them passed me and I passed some people, I only knew of my position at the finish line.
Q: The weather this year was harsh, how did you cope with it? Was the condition of the trails quite bad?
A: It was shortly after I arrived at the finish line when the organizers announced that they had to terminate the race. The last few kilometers were quite cold and it was snowing, I just had to put up with it! There weren’t a lot of muddy patches that were difficult to cross, fortunately those in front of me were quite fast in their descents, and hence there wasn’t a lot of human traffic on the trails for me, but I couldn’t say the same for those who came later.
Q: What was the prize for finishing 5th?
A: I received a wooden plague with my name on it, and vouchers from the sponsors.
Q: What other overseas races will you participate in this year?
A: I will be joining an upcoming 50km race in Taiwan, I will also be joining the 101km Eiger Ultra Trail in Switzerland in July.
Q: The Eiger Ultra Trail is very scenic, you should stay on for a few days in the Jungfrau area for some sight-seeing!
A: I don’t have any more annual leave, hence I can’t really stay on for some sight-seeing. I have to come back to HK right after I finish the race .
We wish Man-yee all the best in her future races!