Born to run: Why Discovery Bay is a runner's paradise
- Written by Sam Agars, 1 October 2016
Its wide open spaces, proximity to the trails and quiet roads make DB a runners’ haven. Sam Agars catches up with five local enthusiasts to find out what makes them tick.
Running and Discovery Bay go hand in hand and have done for decades, and there seems to be a disproportionate number of highly motivated runners here who drive themselves to truly stratospheric levels of fitness. The fact that recent years have seen a massive increase in running events throughout Hong Kong only adds fuel to the fire.
Tung Chung resident Richard Cowley, who used to work for Action Asia and is now with Asia Sports Connection (the folks who organise the TransLantau), has seen the sport take hold in Hong Kong first hand. “Trail running especially has just exploded,” he says. “Literally now there are seven or eight races in a weekend and they all sell out. Next March, we expect more than 2,000 athletes to compete in the TransLantau.”
Through his DB-based running programme KIPMOVIN, Thomas Kiprotich has seen the follow-on effect this has had here. “Since I arrived in 2008, I’ve noticed many more people starting to run, as well as those who have been long-time runners who have found other types of running to enjoy, such as trail running or adventure running,” he says.
Kenyan Thomas, who trained at the prestigious Ngong Academy in Kenya and broke the all-comers record in
the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon in 2011, believes the plethora of options for runners is part of the reason for the sport’s growth. “There’s now something for everyone, regardless of ability,” he says.
A healthy addiction
The concept of healthy living has had a big impact on why people are more inclined to head out for a run, with awareness of what is good and bad for one’s body at an all-time high. Also, with races so well organised nowadays, it is easy for people to get involved and runners feel a heightened sense of achievement when completing an official event.
“People want to feel good and it is a lifestyle choice,” Richard says. “The drinking culture is out the window. People are looking for something new to do on the weekend and healthy living has had a major impact on their choices.”
For DBer Katia Kucher, who runs personal training and fitness business d.BeFit, it is clear just how important running is in the everyday lives of residents. “Get moving in the morning and you feel so much better for the rest of the day,” she says. “You have more energy and it can help you focus mentally. Running can get addictive, that adrenaline feeling, so when your body gets used to that and then it lacks it, it’s almost like a withdrawal.”
South Lantau resident Scottie Callaghan, co-owner of Redback Coffee in SoHo and a running buddy of Katia’s, talks openly about his compulsion to run. “I’m addicted to the endorphin rush – the runner’s high,” he says. “For hours afterwards, if you’ve really pushed yourself, you feel elated, hungry, thirsty, excited. Nowadays, just looking at the mountains, my heart beats faster.” Like Katia, Scottie is a regular competitor in Lantau’s big local trail races, including the TransLantau, Salomon LG70, Northface 100 and MSIG 88.
The perfect locale
One of the reasons behind running’s wide-ranging popularity is its accessibility, another is the ease with which individuals can get involved. This is amplified in DB because of the quiet roads and myriad of trails on our doorstep.
“Running is very efficient and it’s easy,” says Katia, who has been a runner most of her life and has been operating d.BeFit since 2011. “All you need is a pair of trainings shoes; it’s just very easy and low cost. You have the mountains right here and the beaches, and you can go up and down hills on the roads, so it’s great for training.”
For Thomas, who has competed in races all over the globe, DB truly is ideal for runners of all abilities and for all forms of distance running. “DB is such a great running spot because it’s safe, you can run very early or very late and not have to worry,” he says.\
“There’s a great balance of road and trail, so you don’t have to run the same route every day. To have both road and trail on your doorstep is a very great blessing.”
Running is also very social in DB, with plenty of like-minded people to keep you on track. “I like to do it for the social aspect,” says DB 10km Run for Charity co-organiser Erin Bowland. “I find I’m a bit more motivated if I’m with someone.”
The DB 10km Run for Charity, held annually in November, has become something of a local institution since it started 11 years ago and Erin, who organises the race with founder Kobi Janssen, has seen the number of participants (most of whom hail from DB) grow to a staggering 500.
“It is here for the local people so they can train the route and then aim towards their best time because they know the roads,” she says. “They use it as a motivator, to get the training done. That’s what’s always kept me exercising, the looming threat of a race you’ve signed up for.”
Registration is now open for this year’s DB 10km Run for Charity, and those looking to compete on November 12 are already pounding the pavements. “Get into a routine and start slowly,” advises Katia who, with a 100-kilometre ultra-marathon under her belt, is well-qualified to speak on the subject. “To run three days a week is very healthy. Increase your mileage weekly, no more than 10% a week and you will progress. People can progress very quickly.”