Scott Jurek, one of the world’s greatest runners, has just landed in Hong Kong from his home in the US. He’s here to take part in this coming weekend’s Moontrekker event, a 43km overnight trail run from Mui Wo to Pui O beach. The aim of the game is to beat the sun.
A running dynamo, Jurek’s credits include the 153-mile Spartathlon, the Hardrock 100, the Badwater 135-Mile Ultramarathon and – his signature race – the Western States 100-mile Endurance Run. He also recently completed the Appalachian Trail, running around 50 miles a day over 46 days – “I did have a bit of a rest after that,” he admits. Basically, he’s a running phenomenon.
First up, he loves Lantau. “I first came to Hong Kong fifteen years ago (to take part in Oxfam Trailwalker) and was amazed by the mountains here. It’s quite special.”
He claims he will be running Moontrekker “for fun”, not for speed. But somehow I feel he won’t have any problems beating that sun.
As for advice on tackling the 43km overnight challenge, he says lighting is a good place to start.
“You’ve still got time to sort your lighting out,” he advises, as we tuck into a delicious afternoon tea in SoHo’s Grassroots Pantry. “I’m a big fan of getting the brightest headlamp possible. And I always use lithium batteries because they’re nice and light – don’t forget to make sure you have brand new ones. I’ve been there with the fading beam, convinced that the batteries would be good for another hour or so.”
In terms of energy, he reckons you don’t need to break out the caffeine until three or four hours into the race. “I know it will be dark, but the start is still within a time when most people would normally be awake. Save the caffeine gels for a few hours in. During the run, you need calories, so make sure you’re eating something – gels, energy drinks, etc. – every thirty minutes or so right through to the end.
“I also try and set goals along the way, other than just completing the course. This keeps me motivated. There will be challenges – bad weather, injury, whatever – but I always think it’s at these points we grow the most. Embrace those tough times – and believe me, I’ve had a few. Trail running is all about being adaptable.”
Post-race, Jurek admits to enjoying a bit of “comfort” food. “I kind of feel I deserve it. A beer can be good, although maybe not at dawn. I do hear a breakfast will be laid on, though?”
A committed vegan, he enjoys a varied, plant-based diet, although warns that this doesn’t mean low calorie. “With any kind of sport, if you’re burning energy you need calories to increase muscle mass. If you go too low fat, your energy ends up being low. I love a good salad, but you need more than that to keep run-fit. After every run, you should be looking to consume carbs and proteins within 30 minutes of finishing.”
He experimented a lot in the beginning, did a lot of reading, and it took around a year and a half for him to become completely vegan. “I did it gradually, which worked for me. I think people can be very hard on themselves, a change in diet like this is a big thing and not everybody has the personality to persevere with such a change all in one go. Don’t be too hard on yourself.”
At the end of the day, he says, enjoy it. “To be out on the trails, enjoying the environment, with a bunch of like-minded people, that’s what I love about this sport.”
While Jurek talked, we enjoyed delicious sharing plates of Smoked Carrot Toasties, Popcorn “chicken” (Hedgehog mushroom in BBQ Amino sauce), Coconut Sugar Cannoli and Macca Pudding pots. Grassroots Pantry is at 108 Hollywood Road, Central.
Find out more by reading Jurek’s best-selling memoir Eat & Run, and international best-seller Born To Run. A third book, focusing on his experiences on the Appalachian Trail, is due for publication next year.
Moontrekker takes place on the evening of 14 October, barclaysmoontrekker.com.