MacLehose Trailwalk

The MacLehose Trailwalk is an annual charity event organized by Oxfam Hong Kong. The Trailwalk is a 100 km (60 mile) race across the rugged and mountainous terrain in the New Territories of Hong Kong. The route follows the MacLehose Trail, a long distance hiking trail named after the Lord Murray MacLehose, who, during his period as Governor of Hong Kong from 1971-1982, supervised the establishment of Hong Kong’s extensive and beautiful country parks. The Trailwalk began as a military training exercise for the Gurkas soldiers who were stationed by the British in Hong Kong before the Handover. The Trailwalker charity event began in 1981.

The race takes place in teams consisting of four persons per team. Some teams run the 100 km, but most of the teams walk the race because of the long distance of the Trailwalk and the extreme difficulty of the terrain.

The Trailwalk is divided into 10 segments or checkpoints, and all members of each team must pass through each checkpoint together or the entire team is disqualified. At each checkpoint, water, isotonic drinks, soup, tea, bread, peanut butter, jelly, fruit, hot noodles and other provisions are available, and medical tents and personnel are posted at several of the checkpoints.

The teams are encouraged to train extensively for months before the Trailwalk, including night hikes and at least one complete hike of the entire Trailwalk. Most teams take this advice seriously and train extensively, especially in the 8 weeks before the race. Each team has a support team that meets the team at several points where the Trails cross public streets. The support team re-supplies the team with food, clothes, medicine and other necessities and relieves the team of excess provisions.

I completed the Trailwalk in November of 1999 while I was living and working in Tokyo. My team consisted of Ian Learmonth, Chris Pollard, John Parkes and me. My teammates were all Australians. I was 57 at the time of the Race. 501 teams finished the Trailwalk with all team members crossing the finish line. The winning team was Cosmos Boys which completed the race in 13 hours 54 minutes. This team obviously ran most of the Trailwalk. The last team to cross the finish line logged in at 70 hours 10 minutes.My team finished the race in 27 hours 52 minutes, and we placed 89th in a field of 881 teams. We were happy with this result, since we were just hoping to finish in less than 30 hours and never dreamed that we would place in the top 10%.

Chris wore a wrist watch with a calorie counter that measured the amount of calories burned based upon his height, weight and a measurement of his pulse rate. He burned 18,000 calories during the Trailwalk. The average number of calories burned in a day is 2,000. Thus, Chris burned nine days worth of calories in 27 hours and 52 minutes. I can only imagine how many calories I burned during the race. I lost about five pounds of body weight during the race, although some of that was water loss.

The Trailwalk was an incredibly punishing experience causing great stress and strain on nearly every body part and muscle. However, 1 have always loved hiking in the mountains and was grateful to have the chance to complete the Trailwalk. Three things sustained me through the race. First my faith that God was always by my side, helping me up and down each mountain. Second, the knowledge that my family was tracking me through the entire race on the Trailwalk website. I thought about that a lot during the race, especially as we passed through the checkpoints. Third, I was blessed with a great team with teammates who cared about each other and were determined to see this through as a team to the end.

A full trip report can be read here.

Click each photo to enlarge the images.