Asia’s growing addiction to the ultramarathon | CNBC Sports


It’s about eight in the morning, where 1,800
people have gathered to run 100 kilometers. That’s more than 60 miles. I’m in Hong Kong exploring the
booming growth of ultramarathons. While a normal marathon is enough of a challenge
for most, more and more runners are tackling distances longer than the standard 26.2 miles. Hong Kong 100 is an annual event that takes
place through Hong Kong’s many scenic trails, and participants have come
from all over the world. From India. Thailand. Germany. I’m from Canada. I’m from the U.S. I’m from Korea. And while this is the first race
of this calibre for many, I think I’ve found the ultra-fan of ultramarathons. This is John. He’s completed 17 ultramarathons in the
past year alone – running more than 1,400 kilometers in competitions. That’s more than the distance
between New York and Chicago! Not to mention the distance he’s climbed
at these races is around 65,000 meters. That’s equivalent to the height
of Mount Everest’s base camp to the peak 18.5 times over! We meet up for a light jog
two days before the race. Would you consider it a passion or addiction? Probably a bit of both. John is a busy guy. Aside from his regular extreme races,
he works as an investment manager, and is married with two small kids. Hong Kong is such a hectic place to
live – there’s always things happening from 6 am in the morning to 11pm and for me, being able to get out and
run and just escape that, get into nature, all I’m thinking about is my foot
falls, it’s the way I relax. Well that’s quite inspiring that 100k
is your way to relax, I’m truly inspired. In fact, he’s so obsessed with the sport,
he even started a few companies on the side from his full-time job. One of them is called T8, a trail running
sportswear brand that makes breathable sports gear specifically designed for long runs. We have an integrated running band, so it
can hold your phone, soft flask, your keys… The price of a pair of shorts is $62. And make no mistake. You may think running is an inexpensive sport. But for long-distance trail runners
like John, costs can easily go into the thousands of dollars. Pair of shoes: $200. Your GPS watch,
that could be $300 or $400, you’re gonna need shorts, obviously your t-shirt, you’ve
got hiking poles, that could be another $200, then you got your backpack, that’s
another $150, coming over, that’s the flights, there’s gonna be the entrance fees, you’ve
got your hotels, you’ve got your taxis to the start and the finish. And add in $20 for this tiny phone that John
brings with him in case of an emergency. This phone is meant for
runners as a way to minimize the amount of weight they bring. It’s race day. I’m nervous, scared, excited. Everything. Excited. Super excited. Like a kid on Christmas Eve. It’s gonna be great. Excellent. Awesome. While the top runners could finish
in as little as 11 hours, all participants have a total of 30 hours to complete the course. The HK 100 course starts in Hong Kong’s
Sai Kung, and goes across some of the city’s most dense hills and mountains, before finishing
with Hong Kong’s highest peak and a 4 kilometer descent to the finish line in
Tai Mo Shan Country Park. In this city, there’s no in between. Hong Kong is one of the world’s most dense
cities and is home to the most skyscrapers in the world. And still, there are extensive trails
which support events like this one. Concrete jungle, skyscrapers everywhere,
didn’t really think about the outdoors but you get here and it’s amazing. 70% of Hong Kong when you look
at a map, is actually country park. It’s all the steep stuff that they couldn’t
build on and it’s so convenient as well. I can leave my office and run for 10 minutes and I’m in a country park. And there’s not many places
in the world you can do that. This is Hong Kong’s hidden secret, its countryside. And it’s absolutely stunning. There’s quite a lot of logistics
that goes into a race like this. Besides the setting up and taking down
the starting line and the finish line, each runner has a bag that they can fill
up and they can access later in the race. And they can put things like certain foods,
that will help them replenish all the calories they’re losing, they can put a flashlight in
there, because many of them are gonna be running through the night. So, the
volunteers are essentially taking the bags to the midpoint of the race
so that runners can access their stuff. Trail races are growing in popularity. Just look at this one,
which is in its tenth year. In the first, organizers say they
struggled to get 200 runners. This year, they say they received nearly 8,000
applications for the 1,800 spots available. The number of trail races in China
have blown up in the last decade. In 2009, there were just two. That ballooned to 457 by 2018. It’s a relatively new sport in Asia and
people are discovering all these different places you can go and travel to,
so it is growing exponentially. The world’s trying to get fitter, you have
all these people looking for the next sport, and trail running for me is
just such a logical place. You’ve got some good trails around. It’s been about 11 hours since
runners started on the starting line and I’ve now come to the finish line
where they’ve set up the stage it seems like it really is the ultimate
test of human endurance. It’s not just the runners’ friends
and family watching on. Companies are pouring in their
money too, with several brands sponsoring individual runners. Northface is my title sponsor. They support me so much, even some coaching. I got picked up by Hoka One One. They started to invest a lot in athletes The technology here is really quite advanced. You can go on their website, you can
actually track the runners in real time. John arrives at around 12 and a
half hours after starting the race, that’s about thirty minutes
slower than he was hoping for. But he’s pleasantly surprised to see his
wife and kid waiting at the finish line. After all, despite the accomplishment,
given the frequency of his races, this isn’t a very remarkable occasion for this family. You get this sense of euphoria, because all
these people supporting you, who mean a lot to you, are rooting for you
and cheering you on, and, yeah, that’s pretty special. I love the challenge, I love being out
there, and just being one with nature, just getting away from the
craziness that is Hong Kong, it just grounds me and
centers me, it’s my meditation. Hey guys, it’s Uptin, thanks for watching. Check out more of our videos and let me
know in the comments what you think about extreme sports. While you’re
at it, subscribe to our channel and I’ll see you next time.

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