Beating the sun: MoonTrekker is back for 2016

Catching up with race founder William Sargent, Emily Dowd discovers why Barclays MoonTrekker is one of Lantau’s most popular night-time activities.

”Our humble little race,” is how founder William Sargent describes the massive annual event that is Barclays MoonTrekker. Humble maybe but little? Certainly not. The number of participants has nearly quadrupled in eight years to 1,500. Consider too that places for this year’s race, on October 14, sold out in four minutes flat back in May.

Teams of four sign up for either the Sunrise 43, a 43-kilometre course, starting at 8.45pm, or the Moonlit 30, a 30-kilometre course, starting at 11pm. Both routes kick off from Mui Wo and head up and over 934- metre Lantau Peak, possibly the toughest of all Hong Kong hikes, before finishing in Pak Kung Au. The idea is to beat the sun – catch the sunrise over Lantau Peak. 

The fastest ever Sunrise 43 was run by Stone Tsang, a Hong Kong paramedic, in four hours 16 minutes in 2015. While some runners are in it to win it, your average hiker takes eight to 10 hours to complete the Moonlit 30. There is a generous cut-off time for completion of either course. 

William refers to MoonTrekker as a gateway event – it welcomes a lot of newcomers into the fold – but he stresses that first-timers shouldn’t underestimate the challenge. “People make that mistake sometimes because they hear it’s great fun,” he says. “They don’t realise that you have to put the time into training. It’s not easy.”

While nearly 20% of participants now fly in from overseas, MoonTrekker is first and foremost a community-driven event. “Many of the top runners and podium finishers have come from Lantau, like Scottie Callaghan, Jeremy Ritcey, Valerie Lagarde, Shane Early, Clement Dumont, Zein Williams, Cosmo Richards and Pierre-Arnaud Le Magnan,” says William, who first moved to Lantau 30 years ago.

As an incentive, the MoonTrekker organisers provide everyone with a well-deserved beer at the finish line. “If people just head home after the run, there’s no community spirit. Our challenge is that people don’t leave,” William says with a smile.

Raising money for a great cause

From its start in 2009, MoonTrekker has raised over HK$9 million for sustainability, literacy and children’s education. Funds raised this year will again go to The Nature Conservancy (TNC), MoonTrekker’s nominated charity partner since 2015.

“TNC works in more than 35 countries, addressing the most pressing conservation threats at the largest scale,” William explains. “To date, it has been responsible for the protection of more than 119 million acres worldwide, including cross-border initiatives in the Coral Triangle and the forests of South East Asia.” 

Of funds raised for TNC, a large percentage goes to support its development of sustainable leadership in Hong Kong school children. “Last year, MoonTrekker funding helped educate around 300 local children on pollution and its effects, encouraging them to adopt eco-friendly habits,” says William. “The work by TNC encouraged students at ESF schools to request reusable cutlery instead of disposable plastic.”

Each MoonTrekker participant must raise a minimum of HK$650 through sponsorship, and competition to top the fundraising leaderboard is fierce. At the time of writing, Team Intel MoonTrekker 2016 was leading the pack with HK$31,607.79, closely followed by Credit Suisse MoonTrekkers with HK$31,342.35. The overall target this year is HK$2 million.

For more on Barclays Moontrekker, head to www.barclaysmoontrekker.com.

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