Trailwalkers, go for it!
Oxfam Trailwalker 2017, the annual charity hiking event, will take place this coming Friday to Sunday. I would like to take this opportunity to cheer the participants on. In the past, I have taken part in the Trailwalker four times and then as a volunteer for many years. The event has given me many fond memories. This year, a total of 5,200 walkers from 1,300 teams will take on the challenge of completing the 100 km MacLehose Trail and other trails within 48 hours. It’s not just a physical challenge, but also a test of willpower and perseverance.
The theme of this year is "We are Trailwalkers". As the Chair of the Oxfam Trailwalker Advisory Committee, Mr Bernard Chan said, it doesn't matter whether you are young or old or people with disabilities, as long as you are persistent and work in partnership with others, you too can be a Trailwalker. When I first joined the event with my teammates all those years ago, it was for fun only. But the experience of that first year prompted me to take part again every year until one of my teammates developed a high blood pressure problem while I suffered from knee ligament injuries. I then turned to volunteering.
I believe each Trailwalker will all have a different experience. For myself, the deepest memory I have was the scene on the first night of the race. Although a crowd of Trailwalkers had been walking all day, the distance between each team had not opened up yet. When night fell, and the torches on the helmets of each person were lit up and flashed about, it looked as if there was a fire dragon criss-crossing back and forth on the pitch dark road. It was a magnificent sight.
No judging of heroes by success or failure
Trailwalker is a race that tests the patience. I believe that the majority of participants would not be too concerned on how well they did in the race rankings. Instead of talking about winning against other people, it would be better to talk about winning against yourself. The special characteristic of a race of patience is challenging yourself and not about judging heroes by their success or failure. Trailwalkers have to run for long periods in the countryside and traverse over 20 peaks including Hong Kong’s highest, Tai Mo Shan. As such, this requires strong physique and sufficient training, as well as unusual perseverance in order to do it. Apart from sufficient prior training and preparation, and bringing along enough provisions, Trailwalkers also have to cope with unexpected changes in the weather. In addition, the coordination of support teams is also very important. Team members have to also maintain good communications with each other, and mutually encourage and look after each other, so as to demonstrate the strongest possible team spirit.
I believe many Trailwalkers have had this similar experience. On reaching the final stage, especially on the section nearest the finish line, you feel as if you’re not reaching the end. But only by gritting your teeth, at the moment when the whole team successfully pushes through the finish line, that look of satisfaction and joy you see is an unforgettable lifetime memory.
Volunteer support, teamwork
As in the past, behind a successfully held event is the support provided by all walks of life. I know that apart from the race participants, this year there are about 3 000 volunteers coming from the Government Disciplined Services and uniformed group, over 40 000 donators, 5 200 support team members, etc. taking part. Each person has an important role and post. In 2000, an unforgettable moment occurred when I was the checkpoint coordinator at Checkpoint 7 (Lead Mine Pass).
On that day, I remember there were wind and sunshine when the race started but the weather suddenly worsened during the day, with strong winds and heavy rain. The temperature plummeted to below 10 degrees. The tracks in the hills turned to mud, making the going difficult. Moreover, many participants had dropped off their kit at the checkpoints beforehand so as to have an easier run. The result was they did not have enough warm clothing for the sudden change in weather. Some of the runners experienced hypothermia, which was extremely worrying. We reported the situation to the organisers. After discussions, the organisers decisively made a difficult call, which was to abort the race.
Now when I remember it, I have another feeling about it. At the time, I was in charge of announcing to the participants who had already reached Checkpoint 7 of the decision of the organisers and explaining the situation. I also had to organise the safe withdrawal of all people. When circumstances can suddenly change for the worse just like the weather, safety is thus the top priority regardless of whether you are organising or taking part in any event to avoid any unpleasant situations. Participants also need to fully assess their own physical condition. Apart from challenging yourself, you also need to safely complete the race. In fact, every time an event is organised, experience is built up, and along with the teamwork of everybody, things can be done better and better.
Persevere to experience, and benefit a great deal
The experience gained from Trailwalker, regardless of whether it was running in the race or providing support behind the scenes, is rich and deep, for example, when difficulties were encountered in the area of team co-operation, how to keep a positive attitude, to calmly handle different problems as well as maintain morale of the team members, etc. The Development Bureau is involved with many departments. Each day it has to deal with many difficult problems and has to frequently sit down and talk with department colleagues, Legislative Council members, District Council members and different stakeholders. During the process, it is unavoidable that each side insists on their positions and reasons. However, I believe that as long as everybody comes together, serious obstacles would able to be overcome. No matter how difficult are the discussions, everybody can invariably make the push together over the line!
12 November, 2017