We chat to the HK-based trail runner and legal counsellor, Charlotte Taquet about her active lifestyle, inspirations and motivations.
Our That Girl this month is the talented and committed Charlotte Taquet. She shares her tips for balancing work as a legal counsellor and training as a trail runner, whilst making the most of this city we call home. We hear Charlotte’s thoughts on what it means to be a Hongkonger, what she gets up to in her downtime and what her biggest milestones are.
When she moved to Hong Kong 6 years ago, Charlotte couldn’t run the Peak loop without stopping. Now, she frequents 100k trail runs each weekend. In April 2020, she ran 600k (over 20,126m of elevation) along some of Hong Kong’s most challenging hiking trails. That’s equivalent to 20k for 30 days straight, or 50-100k runs each week with rest days – and a lot of uphill! Her story proves that anything is possible with hard work, determination and a good night out to celebrate.
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Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from and how long have you lived in Hong Kong?
I am from France and have been living in Hong Kong for more than 6 years. I’ll be proudly reaching the Permanent Resident status in August. I moved here with a work opportunity and was planning to stay here for 1-2 years maximum. It seems to be the story of the city, but it’s funny to see that I still enjoy living here just as much today.
We love that you make the most of HK hiking trails. Can you tell us a little more about what attracted you to trail running?
When I arrived in Hong Kong, a lot of my friends were into hiking and trail running. With what Hong Kong has to offer in terms of nature, I find that trail running is very popular here. So, I first started to hike with them, enjoying the outdoors. Then I started running because it’s a time- and cost-effective way to stay active (the Ladies’ Nights in Hong Kong don’t help you stay fit). I have always been quite sporty – I practiced Judo, skiing, snowboarding and salsa. I was a very casual runner in France but trail running was completely new.
I started to enjoy participating in race events. It was a great way to challenge myself and share the trails with awesome people. Not long after I started trail running, I registered and finished my first 100k – when it was deadly freezing in Hong Kong. I was not prepared or well-trained. I guess I was lucky as it didn’t take me too long to recover but that was a lesson learned, kind of a wake-up call.
I started to train smarter and better. As I wanted to improve my running technique and stay injury free, I contacted David at Joint Dynamics and had the amazing opportunity to join the team: Gone Running – Joint Dynamics. Today, I am also part of the Salomon team in Hong Kong. And I have a great coach, Andy Dubois. All of this definitely encourages me to train more and compete harder.
What keeps you going back for more?
I am very committed to my passions and love to challenge myself. The Hong Kong trail running community is amazing here. This atmosphere really helps you push yourself. For me, it has become more than just a hobby, it’s the best way to escape, disconnect and enjoy the moment. I also just love being outside and enjoy little things which can be found in Hong Kong’s nature.
We love that your running journey began here in Hong Kong. What’s your favourite part about this city?
The diversity and beauty of the terrain. There is so much to see here: remote villages, beaches, mountains. And also that people here love to challenge themselves. The people I’ve met in Hong Kong have inspired me to challenge myself even more.
You’re also a full-time legal counsellor – can you tell us a little more about your daytime job and how you balance a job and your training schedule?
I work as Brand Protection Manager (an Intellectual Property Legal Counsellor) at a sports company. My main role is to protect the company against counterfeit products in Asia. My daytime job has a lot of variety as I need to travel often. I could say that I am half lawyer, half investigator which makes my job super interesting.
I usually have normal working hours, so my training schedule is built around my work day – mainly very early in the morning and/or sometimes after work. I may be active out of office hours, but from Monday to Friday, you’ll often find me rushing through lunch at my desk in front of my computer.
There’s so much that comes with trail running. Can you share your most meaningful milestone?
The more recent milestone in terms of training is the 600k I completed in April. One of the yoga teachers I know was doing a 100k running challenge. When she mentioned this to me, I was already running around 130km after 7 days so she said – I guess as a joke – that I could reach 600km in one month. At the time I really didn’t think it was possible…
But as April went on, I realised how fortunate we were to not be in lockdown in HK. I felt lucky to have more time off due to the public holidays and some annual leave, and less of a commute because I was working from home. All of that, paired with the perfect HK weather – not yet too hot or humid, I found myself starting to run much more anyway.
Then, a week before April came to an end, I noticed that with a final push, I was able to achieve this 600k milestone. Coming from someone who couldn’t finish a Peak loop without stopping 6 years ago, this was very meaningful to me. It shows that people can accomplish a goal if they put the effort in (and enjoy the journey).
What does a typical week look like for you?
The beginning of my week is always quite calm, I try to rest more, as I am often tired from an active weekend. I wake up around 6am and go for my training and sometimes do a combination of morning and evening sessions. Every Wednesday night, I meet my team at Joint Dynamics for group strength training, some laughs and just a catch up, I love it! Then I usually start going out from Thursday night for dinner and drinks. Saturday is for long morning runs. To avoid the very humid and hot Hong Kong weather, I sometimes wake up very early (even earlier than during the week). When I know that I will go for a 20-50k+ run, I have to wake up around 3am to hit the trails, finishing before it gets too hot. If I wake up that early, I do try to nap during the afternoon to be ready for a Saturday night out with friends. Then, Sunday is usually reserved for mid-long easy recovery runs. As a lot of my friends are also trail runners, I have the chance to spend lots of time with them – sometimes more than 8 hours a day!
What do you do in your downtime?
My downtime is mainly for meeting my friends, going for coffee, drinks or meals at plant-based restaurants. I have been vegan for almost 2 years and really enjoy supporting local businesses and creating awareness around this. We are very lucky as there are so many amazing plant-based shops and restaurants in Hong Kong. Recently, I’ve enjoyed going to the beach – I also love finishing my runs there.
In terms of sports, I also go to the gym, yoga classes, organise HIIT workout classes for my colleagues during lunchtime and help running groups such as the Women’s Five.
There are so many things to do in Hong Kong that I find it really hard to stop, relax and do nothing.
What are three things you do to maintain work-life balance in your day-to-day?
1. Wake up early and set up a morning routine. I have not always been a morning person and trust me, I still struggle sometimes, but I really think that if you want to start the day in the best way possible and feel energised, nothing beats some morning exercise. I have learned to love my morning runs, I often run the Peak trail and enjoy catching the first light of the day. When you exercise in the morning, the job is done: you are ready for anything during the day. If a personal or professional matter comes up suddenly, you don’t feel frustrated. Being an early bird also means that I need to go to bed not too late and have enough sleep. Truth be told, there’s some room for improvement in that area…
2. Set up a training plan. I usually look in advance at my work obligations, social plans (drinks, dinners, coffee catch ups etc) and training schedule to have a clear view of each. Having a plan helps me to stick to it. If I cannot workout in the morning, I will try to plan differently. My view is that if you organise in advance, there is less room for demotivation… you just follow your plan. For example, if I know that I am going for a run the next morning, I will prepare my running clothes in advance and may also ask friends to join me for the run. This makes it easier for yourself! I don’t have to think about anything in the morning – I’m on autopilot and that makes it all less stressful.
3. Listen to my body. It is important to know that sometimes it’s just better to rest, or to skip a specific training session. At least I know that I will feel more energised the next day, professionally and personally. I love spending time on the trails but I also love spending time going out – maybe too much sometimes! I think it’s important to find your own balance so you don’t feel that “you have to” go for a run. At the end of the day, I am not a professional athlete, it’s just about having fun but also pushing my limits to become better.
Your training schedule sounds incredible (and intense!). We’re almost scared to ask… what are your workouts outside of running?
Right now, the main workouts I do outside of running are provided by the Joint Dynamics online training. It can be tailored to your needs, and for me, it’s a great addition to running, as I need strength and conditioning. I find it very useful and easy to do at home. Otherwise, I sometimes have PT sessions at the JD gym in Quarry Bay.
What makes Hong Kong feel like home for you? What do you think makes someone a Hongkonger?
Hong Kong feels like home because it is a very convenient place. It is indeed a busy metropolitan city with crazy nightlife and lots of great (plant-based) restaurants. And the trails, mountains and beaches are not far. From my flat, it takes me less than 15 minutes to reach a trail. Even though I’ve always been an active person, I feel that I have never been as active as I have been in Hong Kong. I also have a great job with flexibility which is key for me. People are very open-minded. There are also a lot of French people, so if I ever feel homesick, I have a strong community to lean on.
To be honest, I think what makes someone a Hongkonger is just to appreciate this place as “Home Kong” – if you feel at home here, you are at home!
This year has been a challenging one across the globe. What are 5 personal goals you’re working on to keep you going?
Agreed! This year has been a bit… hectic. I am working on:
1. Being more grateful for the simple things
2. Continuing to get stronger
3. Being more environmentally conscious
4. Developing myself personally and professionally
5. Continuing to be open to new challenges
How do you envision your journey evolving in the next year?
Strangely, I do not have a real plan for the next few years. The current situation has made things very uncertain. The main thing is, I don’t know when I will be able to travel again – for work or even to visit my family back in France. But one thing I do know is that I really enjoy living in Hong Kong. It is a great place to live – especially during the outbreak of the virus.
I have also learned to “never say never” and be open to any opportunity. So much can happen. If I look back to 6 years ago, arriving in this city, I was definitely not the person I am today. My friends back in France are still surprised that I run up and down mountains for fun! That’s one of the reasons I like being involved in helping running groups, sharing my experiences and letting new runners know that there is a beginning to everything. With motivation and determination, you’ll naturally improve.
If you had one piece of advice to give to aspiring runners in Hong Kong, what would it be?
Whatever you do, have fun! Challenge yourself and never give up. It’s sometimes a mental game and you are better than you think.
Thanks to the incredible photographers and videographers who helped put this together. Videography by Robbin Lee (@robintlee). Photography by Annie Yuen (@annie_images) and Ester Geldenhuys (@ester_geldenhuys).