The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down life for many, and obliged to a lot of lifestyle changes. In my case, it was sadly 2020 was a year where my training efforts went dramatically down compared to 2019. It was thus that the appearance of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine and the resumption of some competition in 2021 was a really welcome news. This was also the occasion of starting something I had been doing partly in the past, namely barefoot trail running.
Trail Running With a Twist
A previous attempt at trail running was when I started a spartan trail run in May 2021. It was more akin to a simple hike because of the intense climbing involved, but was also my first brush-up with barefoot trail running in intense heat (I chose to run around 11 AM).
Some time later, in June 2021, we learned that the organizers of the Action Asia Events had obtained the agreement of the authorities to organize a trail running race fifteen days later. Although it was a short notice to organize a race, a lot of fans of trail running responded to the appeal, rushing to register for the 500 places allowed.
As for me, it was always going to be trail running with a twist, since I have been running barefoot for over three years now. I was thus ready to start barefoot trail running. Does anyone remember when I ran a spartan race barefoot?
The race was originally scheduled to take place on 26 June 2021, but on that day, intense thunderstorms made it all but impossible to run. Heavy thunderstorms kept pouring in until 9 AM leading many of us to hunker down under precarious shelters expecting a lull in the rain.
Because of the intense downpours, the decision was eventually taken to cancel the race and postpone it to one week later. Nevertheless, as I was already up, I decided to go and run up Kowloon Peak, also because it gave me some additional training. As you can see from the picture below, the sky was quite cloudy, after the thunderstorm.It was not barefoot trail running, as the road is completely paved to the top, yet it was a way of running uphill.
One week later, I woke up again at 4 AM (the race start at 6.30 AM, to avoid the intolerable heat when it is midday). This time, no signs of rain, no signs of storm. It was a perfect day to run.
This time again, people grouped up at the start and started getting ready for what was probably one of the first vaccinated competitions in HK.
Eventually, we were called to gather as the departure was about to be finally given, at 6.30 AM.
Because it was early morning, the heat was still sustainable, unlike a few weeks before, when I did try a dry run on the same track.
Despite this, I quickly hit a snag as we started climbing the first of many stairs to come. Most runners overtook me, even though the departure was still staggered.
Eventually, I was left last right behind everyone else, trying still to keep running where possible, despite the difficult terrain.
Ending the race
At long last, I ended the long uphill and mountainous part and came down on a paved road. The issue, here, was that this paved road was in part uphill too, and this put additional demands on a body already pretty tired by then.
Some of the organizers asked me if I was still continuing, and I confirmed I was ending the race and not doing a DNF.
You can see some excerpts of my trail running here:
Finally, it was time to reach the end. I mustered my last energy to cross the finish line at a small pacing run, even while the runners who had gone for the half marathon were arriving from their own race (basically the same path, but extended with another 10 k near the High Island reservoir).
In the end, this first race was not a competition I aimed to win or even to finish with a decent time by any stretch of imagination. I just wished to finish it and complete my own personal challenge. The fact that we were running in a group was just an additional plus, even though I believe I finished before last.
The pandemic has exacted a terrible toll on everyone, but for me the first part of the year 2020 has been terrible in terms of training and overall fitness because of the impossibility of running without a mask (some of the silly pandemic rules of Hong Kong). As vaccination gathers pace, we start seeing signs of a return to the normal, but the requirements of the pandemic still seem to be with us for a while. I still need to work hard to recover my fitness.
As a conclusion, my next goal is running the Hong Kong semi-marathon, which should take place on October 24, 2021. However, since this is subject to a lottery draw, my participation is still not guaranteed.
I am nearing 4 years of barefoot running. With the challenges of this practice, it has nevertheless always been an enriching practice and also something to push you beyond your comfort zone. Trail running, while difficult in terms of terrain, has the advantage of pushing you to your own barefoot boundaries. Keep running!