By LUXE City Guides, Images by Hong Kong Midnight Runners
If you head down to Central Harbourfront or Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade on a Tuesday evening, chances are you’ll be overtaken by what appears to be a high-energy party; as a tribe of black-and-neon-clad runners stream by seemingly chasing a person with a large speaker strapped to their back – hello Midnight Runners.
Hong Kong has a stellar reputation as a trail-running destination, with events like HK 100 Ultra Trail Race, Lantau 50, The Ultra-Trail Tai Mo Shan and Oxfam Trailwalker attracting eager participants from around the world to the city’s magnificent mountain trails. But equally, those looking for a distinctly urban location in which to work out won’t be disappointed. Swathes of flat, pedestrianised promenades, mountain-hugging roads and city parks, often backdropped by famous landmarks and epic vistas, afford terrific gallop-ortunity. Add in easy access to trails, safety, and the fact that running only requires inclination and a decent pair of trainers, and well, it’s a sporting opportunity open to anyone visiting Hong Kong.
For Jody Bragger, a nomadic Brit who’s CEO of Midnight Runners, the union of city and community is central to the group’s identity. Hong Kong is the first city in Asia to set up a local chapter of the global community, and since launching in early 2019, Midnight Runners welcomes a mix of residents and visitors of all ages and abilities to its weekly runs and bootcamps.
Like it says on the tin, the group meets at nighttime (though at a more civilised 7:30pm, rather than pumpkin hour), because “cities at night are very beautiful,” says Jody. “If you’ve ever run along Hong Kong Harbour in the evening, you’re running through this amazing experience of culture, of architecture with a real sense of place.'' Midnight Runners offers the chance to engage with the city on a deeper level. “There’s an unwritten rule that all our runs, exercise spots, warm-ups and cool downs are next to cool locations, so you connect with the environment,” Jody continues. “You’ll be stretching and behind you is The Peak or HSBC Building; you get to discover fabulous, hidden parts of the city and appreciate the amazing Hong Kong that we live in,” he says.
A typical Tuesday Midnight Runners session attracts anything between 30 and 80 participants; after a group warm-up, there’s a 10km run with bootcamp intervals either along Central Harbourfront or TST Promenade. No one is ever left behind, and everyone is cheered along; the session only ends when the last runner finishes. We’re more than a running crew,” says Jody, “it really is a community of like-minded people who use running as a catalyst to improve their lives, meet new people and connect with the city.”
Although a degree of fitness is required – Jody suggests newbies are comfortable running at least 7-8km before joining one of the Tuesday runs – Midnight Runners attracts a mix of abilities ranging from those training for their next ultra-marathon, to the recreational jogger. As Jody says, “exercise is such a great way of meeting new people, of connecting; I’m really proud of the fact that we’re a grassroots community that brings people together.” Run on!
Hong Kong is a remarkably safe environment for runners of all abilities, but if you’re not used to the city’s sweltering heat and humidity, it’s important to acclimatise and ensure you’re hydrated before and during a run (download the app Water for Free which shows water fountains around Hong Kong). Here are three of Jody’s favourite routes.
You’re surrounded by thousands of people watching the light show and there’s nothing better than running along listening to some really awesome music, and all the endorphins kick in and you look back over the harbour and the city and it’s a ‘my God I live here moment’. It’s awesome.
For pure wow factor, Bowen Road at night is just something else, there’s nowhere else quite like it. People often say that running is a little bit like flying and on Bowen, this is so true. You’re at the same level as the tops of skyscrapers looking down onto the hive of the city, but also you’re seeing bats fly over your head and hearing the jungle nightlife around you. It’s an amazing juxtaposition.
Sir Cecil’s Ride to Mount Parker
I’m now one of those dreaded people who do 100km ultra-marathons and when I want a hard run that still offers an experience of Hong Kong, I do the trail run up Sir Cecil’s Ride up to Mount Parker (well, I hike up to Mt Parker). It continues down to Tai Tam Reservoir – there’s something special about running down to the reservoir at sunset.
There are dozens of running clubs in Hong Kong catering for all levels of the sport – beginners through to advanced, trail or road runners, kids through to veterans. www.hkrunners.com/node/18 is a handy portal of information containing info about the city’s clubs, routes, training sessions and events.
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