It’s hard to describe exactly what bromance is, but Alvin Chui Wui-chung and Gavin Li Shing might fit the concept. They supported each other during an almost 1,000km-run around Taiwan for their graduation trip in September.
The two ambitious runners are fresh graduates from the Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong. While most people would have chosen to cycle around the island, they preferred to go on foot.
It was not an easy challenge. Although Chui, 22, is a competitive runner, he had never run a complete marathon before the trip, while versatile sportsman Li, 21, had only completed the 42.19km challenge once, in this year’s Hong Kong Marathon.
“To prepare, we split the MTR system into about 10 sections, each about 20km, and ran between stations. We visited all the stations before we headed to Taiwan,” said Chui. “But the actual run in Taiwan was more tiring, as we had to carry heavy backpacks with all our stuff. We were exhausted in the first week.”
Their 24-day journey kicked off on September 7, and while they expected it to be tough, Chui and Li didn’t consider the possibility of having to battle against adverse weather conditions, too.
The duo landed in Taichung, a western coastal city, and headed south and then ran anti-clockwise around the island. They planned to run about 30-50km each day and everything was going well in the first week until they got to Kaohsiung.
“We had to stay inside the hostel for the whole day as typhoon Meranti hit the city,” said Chui. “I had never seen such a storm. The winds were so strong that we couldn’t cross the road to get to the convenience store.”
The storm had devastated Kaohsiung, causing chaos. And just two days later, tropical storm Malakas barrelled into the island and the pair had to change their itinerary again.
Because of the rain, Li decided to skip Suhua Highway, but Chui was determined to complete the route connecting Su-ao, in Yilan, with Hualien City. Each respected the other’s decision and agreed to meet again in Hualien.
“There were many big lorries passing by as I ran. The scariest moment was when I saw a shower of stones streaming down the mountain onto the road,” said Chui. “I couldn’t go any farther till a coach stopped and the driver offered me a lift. I could hear the stones hitting the roof when we passed that point.”
When they reached Taitung. Chui and Li were struck by typhoon Megi, their third storm in two weeks.
“We had to run 47km that day. We encountered foehn winds [the name for winds that are dry and hot] before the stormy weather came,” said Li.
“My backpack cover was blown off and we were only 6km from the next hostel but we could hardly move.
“We could only run when the rain was not too heavy. But we had to keep our mouths covered, as the wind kept blowing sand in our faces. I thought those scenes only happened in movies. It took us more than an hour and a half hour to finish that short distance.”
The pair ended their 926km-run on September 30, when they reached a hostel back in Kaohsiung. Li was impressed they didn’t give up. “I think it’s a huge achievement and a life experience. My life has been plain and ordinary so it is my biggest achievement so far,” said Li, who is now a full-time swimming coach. “Each of us has a Hong Kong flag full of autographs from people we met on the route.”
Chui agreed. “I am proud of us, as we didn’t give up, even though the weather was awful,” he said.
“I am not an outstanding runner and seldom win competitions. So completing this run around Taiwan is huge encouragement, and I am putting more effort into my daily training to prepare for my debut in the Hong Kong Marathon race next year.
“As a running coach, I can also use this trip as an example to inspire younger runners.”
The Taiwan adventure is over but the pair’s challenges are not. They are now training hard to debut in the upcoming Oxfam Trailwalker on November 18-20, a 100km race on the MacLehose Trail with a 48-hour time limit.