UTMB Oman 2018: Interview with Samantha Chan Hoka One One Elite Runner

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Oman by UTMB® is a runner’s dream – an ultra trail along mountain top ridges, through villages, palm plantations, deep wadis and narrow gorges. The journey will lead runners off the beaten tourist tracks, allowing them to explore the Sultanate’s hidden gems that are located deep within its rugged, untouched landscapes.

Our dear friend and journalist Mark Buley (@run_beyond)  was recently fortunate enough to catch up with Samantha Chan, Hoka One One Athlete, ahead of her assault on UTMB Oman. Samantha is an experienced Elite Hong Kong trail runner with a notable 3rdplace finish at the UTMB Gaoligong race in China.

 

What are your expectations of UTMB Oman?  Do you have any specific goals or race plan?

I would expect a special journey in life, it’s wonderful to see the country on foot. My race plan is to start easy, with reserves in the tank and hopefully, finish strong… 

What course knowledge do you have? What specific training have you completed in preparation, ie trail types, where etc?

I realize that the trails are very exposed and with steep treacherous climbs, so my training focus has been on elevation, Hong Kong trails are all stair cases, this might not replicate much of the race course, but will be good preparation and will allow me to try my very best.

 

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With organizers predicting an elite finish time of 20hrs plus for 137km, what does this tell you about the course, which event previously completed has most similar stats?

(laughs) this sounds similar to UTMB! I finished UTMB once in 2016, which was quite a relaxed finish time of 41 hours, I hope I can do a lot better this time!

Given the course finish times & cut offs, some of us may expect to be out there over 30 or 40 hours, how would you recommend a runner trains for such a duration and what would you highlight as the single most important factor for such a run?

I would recommend that apart from consistent running on a daily/weekly basis, a real focus on strength and conditioning sessions. It’s more about endurance and the big impact on your legs and other parts of body, being strong and able to resist these impacts is pretty important. Stronger muscles will also help to prevent injury and facilitate recovery, which is key for training.

Give us a sense of how you train for the mental aspect of ultra running? When has this approach succeeded/failed for you?

In the very beginning when I started ultra running, I tried to do super long training sessions, for example, 20 hours of training over a weekend. I found that it’s more on mental side rather than physical (as the physical recovery takes too long to recover), but now my training is more planned,  consistent (but diverse) and systematic, and I try achieve the goal that’s in my plan for every single training session, this in itself is a constant mental training for me too.

 

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Favorite trail in the world, anywhere?

I definitely like the course of TDS (UTMB week in France). That’s gorgeous, lots of climbing and lots runnable trails, and thankfully not too many stairs.

The trail running scene in Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland has grown exponentially over the last few years, with athletes now (easily) winning top global events (ie Yao Miao at UTMB 2018).  What has fuelled this growth and how do you see the future for the sport in Asia?

I think it has become a lot more “trendy” to take part in trail running, especially in last 5 five years. The sport has grown exponentially.  The social media wave has been a hugely important contributing factor to this trend. Also the brands that sell fashionable (and great!) trail running outfits have definitely helped its growth too. China is wealthy now, the sport is accessible and people are looking for activities that can fulfill their mental satisfaction by accomplishing difficult ultra races and challenges. This is a good sign, because at least trail running is very healthy, and with better and mature/quality race organisers in China and HK, it means we have more selections of quality races to take part in, we look forward to see you all at our races sometime soon???

Credit: @Run_beyond 

Photos: @Lloyd_belcher 

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