Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Running in Hong Kong II: The MacLehose Trail

After a week of eating and seeing people around Hong Kong, the city, we thought it’d be fun to spend a day running in the mountains and subsisting on just bread and water.

After consulting Helen's uncle and various guides and maps, and turning down an opportunity to do a 50K with her cousin, we finally decided that our major expedition would be on the Maclehose Trail in the New Territories. There are 10 sections of the 100 km long Maclehose Trail, and we set out to do sections 4 and 5, which go through Ma On Shan, a mountain 2300 feet tall.

Section 4: Beautiful Views

Helen's parents drove us to the start of section four on Saturday morning. The first part of the run was a long, hard climb to the top of Ma On Shan. The terrain was mixed – some parts were paved road, some parts were trail, some parts were stone steps, some were odd concrete steps. The terrain would stay like this through the whole route.

Because it was a Saturday and we’re in Hong Kong after all, the trail was crowded. It seemed to us that a lot of people were going to do the first half of section four, and then headed back. We were glad about this, because while we try not to be too snobby, we'd really had plenty of crowds during our Hong Kong stay.

Good thing we weren't going very fast anyway because we repeatedly stopped to take pictures of the fantastic views from Ma On Shan. Here’s Helen’s favorite:

Once we were past Ma On Shan, we were able to keep a better pace going. Overall, though, this was as much a hike as it was a trail run. We guessed that, of the 12 miles or so, we ran around 40%; 30% we were climbing; and the other 30% we were walking/hiking. Some of the downhills were just too steep to run, and the footing – either because it was rocky, or because it was a series of awkwardly long steps – didn't lend itself to keeping up a steady pace.

While section four was rated as “strenuous” and the estimated time for hiking it was listed at 5 hours, we finished it around three hours. Around five minutes from the end of the section, the signage suddenly got confusing. In general, the Maclehose Trail is very well marked, so it was surprising when it became misleading.

(to be continued)

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