The 14th edition of the Anta Hong Kong 100 Ultramarathon was one for the history books. Unusually warm, it brought together some of the world’s best athletes to battle for glory and the first ever race on the newly launched World Trail Majors series. The winners are the first every in World Trail Majors, making history.
As we commented in the preview and at the press conference, there was much bravado from the male athletes who were predicting record times and several said that the target was under 10 hours – the record was set at 10:00:17 by You Peiquan who was in the race and chasing a third victory in Hong Kong – the women were more restrained and stayed guarded with their comments and predictions.
With the first half of the race running through the Sai Kung Peninsula on a mix of rugged and technical terrain or fast flowing trail. With hardly any middle ground, the second half runs through the mountains that are the backdrop to Hong Kong City, giving challenging terrain with even more elevation gain and would push the runners to the limit of their strength and stamina. Even more so this year with unseasonal temperatures and humidity.
Lin Chen achieves an extraordinary victory in the Women’s race
Based on their track records, the fight would be between the Hungarian resident in Hong Kong Eszter Csillag and the Polish Dominika Stelmach, but also no one was willing to rule out some extremely strong Chinese runners. Eszter decided not to start the race due to physical problems and Dominika dropped in a very challenging day for her.
In the start everyone was watching each other, the start was fast but without showing their cards, the competitiveness of the pace was making the selection at the front of the race.
The kilometres flew by and the chip times at the aid stations suggested that the pace was record-breaking. The best runners were setting a strong pace and pushing each other hard, sometimes shoulder to shoulder and sometimes in line of sight. Unrelenting pace and terrain were making the selection and after around 30 kilometres it became clear that the bid from victory by Lin Chen (China, Adidas Terrex) was credible. Behind, other Chinese runners were fighting hard aiming them and the conditions. Maintaining the high pace and breaking away from her opponents the victory went finally to the Chinese athlete Lin Chen who crossed the finish line in a time of 12:44:51 far from the previous record of 11 hours and 28 minutes held by Xiang Fuzhao but the conditions were far from what it’s usual in Hong Kong 100.
The fight behind Chinese runners to round the podium was furious: four runners, Ying Li, Ting Ma, Yuanyuan Wu and Ronghua Deng were split by few minutes after more than 13 hours race. After this cruel final battle the second and third positions were for Ying Li and Yuanyuan Wu.
Guangfu Meng leaves Hong Kong speechless
The men’s race was very entertaining and could be followed in its entirety by live streaming. A prominent group of athletes had gone out in front, watching each other from the start line, it was obvious that it would be a very fast race and the sub ten-hour barrier was there for the taking. As with the women’s race, pace and terrain have been eliminating challengers and the initial group has been cracking leaving an excellent duel mostly between the Chinese runners at the head of the field.
The speedy transitions through aid stations, the difference in the power on the climbs and fluidity on descents and the form of You Peiquan (China, Anta Guanjun) eventually decided the race in favour of You until the very last kilometres when Guangfu Meng (China, Hoka) emerged thanks to an extraordinary energy management. You struggled to finish and was visible exhausted and disappointed with the performance. Heat and a too fast pace were the reasons, commented on finish line, and 20 minutes were lost in around 5 kilometres.
The podium was completed by Tyler Green (USA, Nike) who recognized the talented Chinese runners but was around 3 minutes of catching You. Tyler commented also how difficult was to deal with heat and humidity, some problems with local monkeys and the beauty of the race.
The leader board in the World Trail Majors rankings
The first event in the history of World Trail Majors makes Lin Chen and Guangfu Meng the leaders with 1,500 points, seconds are Ying Li and You Peiquan with 1,420 and third for the couple Yuanyuan Wu–Tyler Green, 1,360 points.
The Third, The Half and the Grand Sam
The shortest race of the event, The Third (33 km, +1460 m) was won by Rachel Drake (USA, Nike) and Jisub Kim (Korea, The North Face/Coros).
Local dominance in The Half: Ruifang Zhou (China, Vibram) set a stratospheric record with 5:48:30 and Erqing Wu (China, Kailas) won the men’s race.
It was good to see Núria Picas (Spain, Salomon/Buff) finish third in the women’s race and Ruy Ueda (Japan, Red Bull), fourth in the men’s, both coming back from health problems, and it is nice to see them at the finish line of a prestigious international race.
The Grand Sam (completing The Third, The Half and the Hong Kong 100 held on consecutive days) a true test of endurance that a good number of participants try every year is underway and the winner has been for Chun Kit Tsang.
Next Race: Black Canyon Ultras
The World Trail Majors series has only just begun and in three weeks (February 10-11) the baton is passed from Hong Kong to the Black Canyon Ultras. Black Canyon Ultras is a race that usually attracts a high level of American runners in Arizona. A race of 100 km and an elevation gain of 1250 m we will see how the series continues and what the arid American terrain has in store for us. The race will be live streamed and is also the top three qualify for the prestigious Western States Endurance Run.
Anta Hong Kong 100 Ultramarathon: Anta Hong Kong 100 Ultramarathon Full Results
The Half: The Half Full Results
The Third: The Third Full Results
Grand Sam: Grand Sam Full Results