Oxfam Trailwalker Hong Kong Open is said to be one of the toughest races of its kind in the world, covering 100 kilometers of rugged tracks and hills, starting from Sai Kung and finishing at the old army barracks in Tuen Mun.
It was originally known as MacLehose Trailwalker, after the former Hong Kong governor Sir Murray MacLehose.
The race, an endurance event, was mostly held between the regular forces of the British army garrison in Hong Kong and the Gurkhas, and always won by the latter.
Its main purpose has always been to raise funds for the needy of Asia.
After the 1997 handover, the British Garrison left Hong Kong, and so did the Gurkhas.
Since then the event has been transformed into an international event, attracting participants and producing winners from various countries.
But the Gurkhas had left their mark in the event.
They were known as the hill people from Nepal.
It could be said there is not a single hill in Hong Kong that the Gurkhas have not conquered.
For them, the activity was not for leisure but performed in the line of duty and as part of their training.
They became more familiar with the hills of Hong Kong than with the city’s streets. They may have gone, but their legacy lives on.
One Nepali, the son of a Gurkha, is trying his best to carry on the legacy.
Santosh Tamang, a 27-year-old native of Taplejung, Mechi in Eastern Nepal, got into the sport as part of Nepal’s army team in 2013.
He started in short-distance races, and was winning by 2014.
From the start, he has been supported by the Hong Kong Trail Walkers Association of the Nepalese Community.
The group, aside from giving him with guidance and moral support, has found him a local sponsor, Columbia Sportswear HK, which provides him with the sports gear that he needs as well as small bonuses based on his performance.
Because he has to work in the construction industry at daytime, Tamang could only run one to two hours every night and practice the whole day every Sunday.
Although lacking proper training, diet and mentoring, he managed to achieve a lot in a very short time.
Here are some of the honors and awards he has accumulated so far:
- Winner, King of the Hill, 29.5km, 2014.
- Runner-up, Trans Lantau, 100km, 2014.
- 8th place (first among HK runners), Vibram HK 100 Ultra Trail Race.
- Runner-up, Bonaqua Action Sprint, 13km, 2015.
- Winner (Sai Kung and Repulse Bay events), Bonaqua Action Sprint, 12km, 2015.
- Runner-up, Hysan Healthy Hike and Run, 21km, 2015.
- Top 10, Lantau 50k, Sky Running, MSIG Sai Kung 50k, HK 50.
- Runner-up, Lantau 2 Peaks, 23km, 2016.
Despite his many achievements in such a short span of his sporting career, Tamang seldom gets mentioned in the local media.
Some friends tell him that had he been a Chinese or Caucasian, he would have been famous in Hong Kong by now, with companies lining up to be among his sponsors.
But Tamang is not in a hurry. As in a long-distance race, he must maintain his endurance and speed, and he has no doubt that, eventually, he will reach the fulfillment of his dreams.
He says he is deeply indebted to the kindness and generosity of fellow Nepalese, and of course to his sponsor. He promises to do his utmost in training and actual races.
His wish at the moment is to be able to find a daytime job that is not as demanding as his current employment in the construction industry, so that he can have more time and energy to do proper training before a race.
Anyway, Tamang is still young, and he wants to continue running until he reaches 45.
The blood of the Gurkha runs in his veins, firing up his legs and bolstering his endurance as he prepares for greater challenges ahead.
(SUUNTO Lantau 2 Peaks 2014)
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