When she was 16, she was told that running and hiking over the trails was too much for a girl her age, and that it would damage her body and mind. But Australian trail runner Lucy Bartholomew has defied these limits and shown everyone that she is more than capable of handling the world’s toughest trails.
The 22-year-old spent a week in Hong Kong recently to lead a training camp for sport company Salomon, ahead of the annual Lantau Trail 70km race this past weekend, which she was also competing in. She was inspired by her father, a former road marathon runner, to start trail running seven years ago. The two used to spend long weekends conquering trails together; it was never just about the running or overcoming distances, but rather sharing precious bonding time.
“Running with my dad taught me not to concentrate on the distance, but to enjoy the time I spend with him. This makes trail running more fun than exhausting,” she said.
Bartholomew took on her first 100km race when she was 16, but many people doubted she was ready to engage in this physically and mentally challenging sport because she was “just a teen”.
“I had a lot of people waiting to pull me out,” she said. “I was only allowed to take part if I looked healthy and happy throughout the race, so my dad told me to put on a smile the whole way – and I did.”
Jaws dropped as Bartholomew made it to the finish line; the experience is still one of her most memorable races, and the motivation that keeps her going. It’s clearly working: last year, she won both the 100km Ultra Trail Cape Town in South Africa and the 50km Ultra Trail Ninghai on the mainland.
Bartholomew often competes alongside her father, relishing the experience of standing on the starting line with him. While they sometimes run side by side, the two usually say goodbye at the beginning of each race and meet again at the finish line.
“Sometimes I have to wait a long time and I get cold and hungry, and I’m like, come on, Dad,” she laughed.
But the runner told Young Post she admires her father’s persistence, and is grateful he’s a still major part of her sporting life.
“He is 57 years old and he goes out every weekend, doing all these amazing things. It’s awesome that we can still share running together.”
Bartholomew started trail running as a way to improve her health and fitness, but now she has others reasons to love the sport.
“It reaches a point where my growth is not that significant anymore, but I get to meet the community and I have the chance to visit different places around the world.”
Of all the deserts, mountains and bushland she has conquered so far, her favourite trail is in Northwestern Europe, one surrounded by mountains, glaciers and deep coastal fjords.
“I really fell in love with Norway because of the ability to run from the fields up to the snowcapped mountains, she said. “It’s a pretty awesome experience.”
Fitness is of utmost importance in Bartholomew’s life, and she is now also a yoga and Pilates instructor. She said together with weightlifting exercises and swimming, these activities have increased her muscle strength, which enables her to continue competing at such a high level.
She said that success on the trails also depends on a balanced diet. For Bartholomew that is a meat-free one, which she believes has improved her performance. “I had run eating meat, then as a vegetarian and eventually as a vegan,” she said. “I just noticed my training, racing and recovery all excelled with it.”
Having visited the city, and seen its potential for trail running, she hopes young Hongkongers will follow her lead and try it.
“You’ve got awesome mountains in Hong Kong. So get a group of friends and just go marching into the bush,” she said. “You don’t have to run at first – pack some snacks and make it fun!”