Hong Kong often seems like a place made of skyscrapers and concrete, condemning runners to crowded pavements and dodging cars – so it’s no wonder that so many people here head straight to the gyms. But for those of us who get a little crazy after 10 minutes on a treadmill, staying fit here can seem impossible!
Nevertheless, with just a little exploration, Hong Kong is so much more than a total concrete jungle! If you’re anything like me and like a weekly run outdoors to feel happy and healthy, you’re in luck – there are unbelievable places to run all over town. Here are my top five running spots on Hong Kong Island:
QUARRY BAY PROMENADE
Promenades can be a great way to remind yourself that you live on a tropical island. There are promenades similar to Quarry Bay all over the place: on Kowloon side, Ma On Shan, the South Side and even a short one next to Victoria Park. Nevertheless, I love Quarry Bay because it is easily accessible (turn left just before the end of Java Road, and you’ll find it) and about a mile long, overlooking the scenic harbour and the New Territories all the while.
Meanwhile, the recently built pet garden and boardwalk is slowly attracting more people in the mornings. Once you’re there, you can run past other joggers, dog walkers and groups of people doing tai chi to the sounds of K-Pop. It’s exactly the vibrant ocean-side running haven I love. As an extra bonus, there isn’t a single hill to get there!
HAPPY VALLEY RACECOURSE
I love going to the races on Wednesdays, having a beer, and betting $20 on a horse with a name like “Blueberry Cobbler” – but did you know that you can also run on the track?
The changing rooms in the middle of the racecourse have showers and lockers, and plenty of football clubs and workout groups use the fields too. The ambulance track doubles as a running route; it’s about 1400m around and when it’s sunny, you’ll probably get a farmer’s tan! This is a good place to avoid traffic (apart from the occasional maintenance vehicle driving around at 5mph!) and it’s especially fun for the perspective – being surrounded by a stadium and high rise buildings makes you feel just that little bit important!
The track is great for doing interval workouts, and there is a park on the south end of the track where you can do some body-weight strength training. Chin-ups, leg lifts, and core exercises are important ways to prevent injury. Unfortunately, the track you run on is paved, like many places in HK; it’s not ideal for joints and bones, but it’s still a fun run.
BOWEN ROAD FITNESS TRAIL
This is a beautiful place to run, with parks, convenient restrooms and the most runners and dog walkers you’ll see in one place in HK other than at an actual race! It feels social, even if you don’t talk to anyone; giving the customary ‘Good Morning!’ wave to a passing jogger and running past all the buildings from Central to Happy Valley makes you feel like part of a huge HK running community.
I have tried a few ways to get there and the best is turning off Kennedy Road and either going up Bowen Drive or Wan Chai Gap Road (whichever is closer to you). The uphill trek to the fitness trail is steep and long, and I can only do spurts of running – you may become envious of the hikers with walking sticks! The fitness trail is a great reward though: 4k, car-free, paved and shaded by trees with a smattering of fitness stations. You can have an intense workout or a lazy jog here and enjoy it.
JOIN A RUNNING GROUP
Hashes, trail running groups and even paddle clubs are great ways to meet new people, do group cross training (abs, sprints and push-ups) and get running. Those that have dues are still inexpensive, with the money mostly going towards a beer – a way better deal than your gym!
Yes, this is not a place, but clubs go to many places; one of the best things about running groups is that they inspire you to get exploring Hong Kong. It’s good for making running friends, gaining motivation and having fun – all good things!
SIR CECIL’S RIDE
You may be able to tell by now that I love soft running surfaces. There is a huge network of trails in Hong Kong that make you feel like you’re out of the city, most with softer surfaces that are much better for your knees and shins. There are hundreds of trails to hike and explore all over the SAR, from Sai Kung to Lantau – but also right within Hong Kong Island too (including Dragon’s Back, The Wilson Trail, the Hong Kong trail and many more).
My personal favourite is Sir Cecil’s Ride. It’s a flat 2.5k dirt path between Quarry Bay and Fortress Hill that connects with the Wilson Trail. I presume a knight named Cecil used to ride his horses there in the mornings – and now I do it weekly! You can enter the trail from Mt. Parker Road in Quarry Bay or the Po Luen Path in Fortress Hill; once you’re up, the forested path is dotted with spectacular mountain views, sightings of Victoria Harbour and Kowloon, and spots where you can forget you live in a small apartment in the middle of a city.
In my opinion, any hiking trail will do. You’ll have to do a hill or two to get there (and possibly climb a mountain depending on your selection) but the reward is fantastic. When you find a place where all you can see is forest, and all you can hear is birds and the wind in the trees, you’ll feel you’ve escaped to a running paradise. Look out for an article about my other fave hiking trails in Hong Kong on Sassy soon!
On the weekends it’s always fun to go out further – try trails and bike paths on Lantau, Lamma and Sha Tin to change up the scenery. The website HK Runners is also a great resource for runners to find races, running groups, training partners and tips. Doing a 6k road race can be enough to get some motivation; if that’s not enough, you can do anything from a 10k charity road race to a 100k trail run with beer at the end!
So go exploring, get running, and have a great time – get on those trainers, girls!
Jamie writes about Hong Kong life on her blog jamielynnolson.wordpress.com.