Round Lantau Island Epic Run
Updated: Dec 25, 2020
The Big Day is Upon Us
The big day arrived! Woo-hoo, the Road Divas (Linna, Jaclyn and I) were ready to take on 100+km Lantau Loop! Except for a “minor issue” that we didn’t know how to get from Disneyland to Discovery Bay, also known to be the toughest section of the planned route.
Super lucky for us, Linna recruited two wonderful runners Dina and Kash (aka The Trail Maniacs), to be our human GPS and bodyguards against Lantau’s notorious wild dogs. We also had Scott joining us for the morning. So the full crew included Linna, Dina, Kash, Scott, Jaclyn and myself, running in pairs to keep with the covid restrictions.
The Lantau Loop - 100km of adventures
The plan was to run the full 100+km from Tung Chung MTR in a clockwise manner. Our stops would include palm tree-lined Sunny Bay (12km), followed by an eerily deserted Disneyland (22km), swanky Discovery Bay (33km), authentic Mui Wo (40km), beautiful and chill-lax Pui O beach (64km), prison break Shek Pik (75km), via spooky Fan Lau trails to the rustic fishing village of Tai O (91km) and lastly finishing at Tung Chung (>100km).
I could barely imagine how I would finish the distance. My initial plan was to bail at Mui Wo (40km) or continue until it got dark because I still had a fear of night trails (partly to do with my last accident). But I was told that there was some plan of finishing within 20 hours. (Spoiler alert: Linna, Dina and Kash did way better than that. And I am yet to find out how on earth they achieved this amazing thing.)
From Tung Chung to Disneyland (22km)
We met up outside Tung Chung MTR at 730am and promptly set off for our first stop at Sunny Bay (12km). It was a bright, crisp day with clear blue sky - perfect for running. After Sunny Bay, we ran along the toll road highway towards Kap Shui Mun Bridge (汲水門大橋) connecting Lantau and Ma Wa 馬灣/ Tsing Yi 青衣. At about 15-16km, we left the road for some proper trails.
After some serious bush-whacking up to Fa Peng Teng 花瓶頂 (278m) and we descended down to Disneyland (22km). It was a tough/fun hike and the views of the bridge and the sea were breathtaking. We were super lucky to have Dina and Kash as our human GPS. They knew the most efficient way around Lantau. It only took us 3.5 hours to reach Disneyland (22km). We could have taken double the time if we were running on our own.
No Water at Disneyland!
Under normal circumstances, Disneyland would have been an excellent water stop. This time the water fountains and shops were all closed due to covid. By now we were low on water and definitely needed at least one litre for the next 2 hours of hiking. And guess what - we had another lucky strike! A staff happened to be there and he offered to fill our water bottles through a back-door in the mens room.
Well, I couldn’t care less about going to the mens as long as I had enough water for the next big hike. So, off we go through the park!
Deserted Disneyland (22km)
What happened next was quite cool and the Divas would not have figured it out if it wasn’t for Kash and Dina. Apparently one could access the Disneyland Park Promenade without buying a ticket. The park was completely deserted except for a family or two wandering around. The loudspeakers blasted Disney tunes like “A Whole New World” and “The Nutcracker” as we ran pass water fountains and statues of Disney characters. It was somewhat spooky, cool and surreal at the same time. After the park, we reached the Resort Pier and went along the resort hotel waterfront.
Three More Peaks to Discovery Bay (33km)
After the hotel waterfront, we ran along the creek, then up a trail to climb over three peaks - Tai Shan 太山 (291m), Lai Pik Sha犁壁山 (263m) and Tai Che Tung 大輋峒(302m), before descending to Discovery Bay (33km). Again, it was a beautiful and tough trail with lots of elevation. Jaclyn and I were tempted to take more pictures but we were falling well behind Linna and the boys. We tried our best to continue and I could see Jaclyn was in pain. Her hamstrings were under strain from the climbing earlier. The others waited for us at Discovery Bay but we missed Scott as he had to leave earlier for his family. We made a quick stop for 7-11 and toilet break. Jaclyn loaded up on Panadol (paracetamol) and we continued on to Mui Wo.
Discovery Bay to Mui Wo (40km)
By now Linna was running at a nice, neat pace with Kash and Dina. But Jaclyn and I were toast. We needed a plan B. We couldn’t run as fast and it would be unfair for them to wait for us and ruin their sub 20 hours time goal. Jaclyn and I figured we could skip the trails and stick to the lit roads, which would be easier and quicker. We were also keen to avoid those angry wild dogs in South Lantau. The new route would cut out 20km and allow us to close the loop back to Tung Chung. There might even be a chance of seeing Linna and the boys in the last 10km before Tung Chung.
Ready for the Night Run
By the time Jaclyn and I reached Mui Wo (40km) at around 330pm, Linna and the boys were already chowing down their McD burgers. Kash’s friend Wei Ling also joined us to run from Mui Wo to Pui O (64km). After our late lunch, we put on some dry and warmer clothes for the night. It was also the last chance to fill thermal flasks with some hot water.
Mui Wo to Pui O (64km/ 50km)
We set off together from Mui Wo for Pui O. The Trail Maniacs (Linna, Dina, Kash and Wei Ling) headed for the trails on Chi Ma Wan Peninsula leading to Pui O beach (64km). Since we didn't run this section with them, I assumed the Trail Maniacs were doing awesome, enjoying the romantic sunset on trails.
Pui O Beach Fun
Jaclyn and I stayed on the road as proud and happy as any Road Divas could get. Jaclyn was in pain from the elevation earlier on, I didn’t want to mention or remind her of the pain and hoped/ trusted she had all the motivation to tough it out. Jaclyn and I arrived at Pui O beach around 530pm, in time for a few sunset pictures. We heard the shop in Pui O closed at 9pm and shared the information with Linna and the boys via WhatsApp so they knew what to expect.
Splitting Up - But Only For A While
Warning: it may be a bit confusing from now on as the Road Divas and the Trail Maniacs went on different ways, but only for a few hours. Please bear with me as it would get better. 🙃
The Road Divas' Route - the Lazy 82km version
From Pui O, Jaclyn and I carried on to Shek Pik reservoir (61km) via the beautiful long beach Cheung Sha, then followed the well lit road up to Nyong Ping (64km) near the Big Buddha and another 4km to the fishing village Tai O (68km).
The Trail Maniac Route - the Hardcore 100+km version
As mentioned earlier, the Trail Maniacs took the trail in Chi Ma Wan Peninsula to Pui O(64km). By the time they reached Shek Pik, they would have completed 75km. They would then run 6km of catchwater and about 7km Fan Lau country trail (82km) in Lantau South Country Park, and onwards to Tai O village (90km). Those country trails were what I considered the most remote part of Lantau and sometimes plagued by vicious dogs. Fortunately it was a lucky evening, Linna's crew didn't see any dogs and everything went relatively smoothly until Tai O.
A Standoff With Dogs at Tai O (68km)
While things were going smoothly for the Trail Maniacs, Jaclyn and I were also getting giddy as we approached Tai O, because we had only 14km of easy path left to go! Then our worst fears materialised. It started with a guard dog barking at us and we had to backtrack our way to the other side of Tai O village. Just as we found our way and reached Tung O Ancient Trail, we were blocked by another pack of dogs. We spent a frightful hour of stand-off with the dogs at Sham Wat (73km). It was close to midnight, we called two taxi drivers but neither could get to us and we realised no one could help. In the end we took up the courage and inched our way pass the dogs. Luckily our strategy worked and the dogs left us alone.
The Trail Maniacs at Tai O (90km)
Before I describe what happened to the Trail Maniacs, I want to thank you Kash for providing the full account. It turned out Linna did not have a better time as Jaclyn and I were warding off wild dogs.
Poor Linna, who remained no less crazy than ever, was really suffering as she followed the Trail Maniacs to Tai O (90km). Her stomach protested and called it a night by throwing her guts out. She was in a poor state and could really use a hot drink but all shops were closed hours ago. Despite her poor condition, Linna the stubborn Maniac refused to give up and insisted on keeping going for the remaining 14km.
Fortunately, as they went on, they came across a group of people having hot pot dinner in a building. The diners were obviously shocked to see these three running round Lantau island in the dead of a frigid night. They kindly offered Linna some hot water, and the boys some water, beer and soda, and persuaded them to take a taxi home. Unsurprisingly the runners were having none of it as there was only another 14km to go. After some hot water, Linna was feeling much better and ready for more sufferfest.
So here is a picture of Dina and Linna taken in Tai O. Can you see their happy faces? They might be expressions of relief as they knew the finish line was within reach.
Tung O Ancient Trail (99km/ 77km)
So now it was 1 o'clock in the morning, shortly after we escaped the angry dogs. Jaclyn and I were walking through the last stretch of Tung O Ancient Trail towards Tung Chung. Gradually we heard some footsteps approaching. Those were light, swift and steady footsteps of a runner. Who the hell would be running at this ungodly hour on this quiet trail? It was Kash, with Dina and Linna a couple of minutes behind. Unbelievable! By this time, the three of them had almost 100km under their belt, with most of the distance over remote trails and elevation in the dark cold night. They had completely caught up, overtook us and on their way to achieve a record sub 18-hour finish!
The Final Five Kilometres
I couldn't see Linna's face as it was too dark. She said she was really tired but I was so impressed she was running at such a nice clip. I was so proud she kept up with the two extremely strong runners for 100kms and close to 3000m elevation in the last 17 hours. Now Kash and Dina were quickening their pacing as we got closer to Tung Chung. Jaclyn was trailing them closely and enjoying the last 5km of road running. I couldn't keep up with them. Then I realised this was the perfect opportunity to run the last 2km with Linna to the finish line.
Linna the Fighter
Now that we were running with street lighting I could see Linna's face more clearly. (I am sorry if the description isn't flattering but I am writing this with a lot of respect and admiration.) Linna's face was pale green, she looked like she could puke up a whole bucket any moment and yet she continued to spin her legs. Note at this point I didn't know she had thrown up at Tai O as I was told a few days later. I always knew Linna as a crazy maniac, but the final 2km of her mega challenge was something to behold. How could anyone look this pale run like she was racing a 5k?
First time in my life that I saw someone looking so sick running so fast! This was true grit. My mind was blown. This was amazing!
Finish line (82km/ 103km)
We were almost there. I could see signs directing us to Tung Chung MTR. After a couple more turns, I wasn’t sure which way to go anymore. I stopped in front of two ladies who were chatting to each other on the street, and said “where is the MTR?”. They replied, “MTR? There are no trains running at this hour.” Of course they didn’t get what we were doing in the small hours of the night. Eventually they showed us the way. After another minute or two, Linna and I made it back to the finish line. Before 2am! Sub 18 hours!
An Epic Journey
This was incredible! Linna, Dina and Kash finished the job like pros, within 18 hours, Linna got a beautiful Lantau loop on Strava to tick off her loop fetish, Jaclyn and I completed our longest run ever. The victory was sweet and it was so much fun that the five of us managed to finish within minutes of each other. I am very honoured to be a part of this insanity. Thank you so much to my lovely Road Divas, Dina and Kash for being excellent guides and taking care of Linna, and Scott for running with us and taking wonderful pictures!
Thank you for reading
If you have reached this far, here is a bonus gift for those who want to give Round the Lantau Island a try.
Ten Great Tips from Linna:
Don’t pack too much - 2 x T-shirt’s, 1 flask, 1 jacket, 2 buff. 1 pair of sleeves, 1 cap and a must 😎 whatever the weather.
Always think positive and focus on your next check point not the whole route.
Bring the boys as they act as human GPS and guardsmen from vicious dogs.
Must bring a filter in Lantau as there are not many water stops.
Mind your rucksack (not your head) on low branches when you carry too much 🤪
For people like me who have stomach issues, avoid cold drinks at all costs from start to finish. If you have a chance to sit down, drink hot chocolate or Milo to soothe your gut.
Plan your 100km well and try and arrange your drop bags whenever possible. We should have arranged this in Mui Wo at Lantau Base camp or with friends who live in DB 😉.
Tung Chung start and finish was perfect with no problem on transportation 24/7.
If you sweat like me, must change and wear a buff before it gets dark to avoid the cold. You are wasting energy if you trying to keep warm all the time.
Keep moving and don’t stop during the night to keep warm.