Racing against time

Erin Hale
Anthony Tung

The Hong Kong Institute of CPAs began its first-ever CPA Virtual Run last month. Erin Hale speaks to three runners who will compete in the 10 km race and the 3 km fun run and finds out how they took up running and why improving fast involves slowing down

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Erin Hale
Anthony Tung


Katy Wong clearly remembers the cheers from crowds as she ran through the streets of Tokyo in 2018 as she participated in the city’s prestigious marathon. Only a small percentage of applicants were selected at random – and Wong was a lucky applicant that year.

“I ran 300 kilometres a month just to prepare for the marathon. I trained like this for six months,” says Wong, Tax Assistant Manager at RSM Hong Kong and a member of the Hong Kong Institute of CPAs. In the end, she achieved her personal best, finishing the marathon in under four hours.

It was a memorable moment for Wong, who has also participated in some of Asia’s most famous races including the Seoul Marathon and Hong Kong’s Standard Chartered half marathon. This spring, however, she’s trying something new and participating in her first virtual run with Institute members across Hong Kong.

Katy Wong, Tax Assistant Manager at RSM Hong Kong, is taking part in the 10 km race. She is pictured here training at the Hong Kong Jockey Club Happy Valley Racecourse.

Virtual runs have been the hallmark of 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19-related restrictions on public gatherings. Races from the London Marathon to community “fun runs” have all gone virtual, sending participants medals in the mail in lieu of rewarding them in person.

Between now and 16 May, CPAs can take part in a 10 km race or a 3 km fun run and compete as individuals, in teams of two, or as a family. Instead of running a predetermined race course, runners like Wong will be able to complete their run wherever and whenever they choose, recording their time with a running app or fitness tracker and then uploading it to the CPA Virtual Run website.

For Wong, the 10 km race, which she plans to run near her home, will be a welcome return to her running habit. “I haven’t been able to run a race during COVID, but now I have a reason to start training again,” she says. “I ran a lot before COVID, usually three times a week, but now it’s once a week – it’s quite difficult running with a mask, so I’ve been doing more yoga, dance and some fitness exercises.”

“I haven’t been able to run a race during COVID, but now I have a reason to start training again.”

Eric Leung, Finance and Administration Manager at Asphalt Surfaces (International) Ltd., is running the 10 km distance with his wife, Michelle. Here, they are jogging together near Kai Tak Cruise Terminal.

Clearing one’s mind 

Hong Kong’s humid weather does not stop Institute member Eric Leung, Finance and Administration Manager at Asphalt Surfaces (International) Ltd., from going for runs two to three times a week around his housing estate in Sai Kung. “I prefer running outside because it’s more comfortable unless the weather is really bad,” he says, a feeling echoed by Wong and other runners that treadmills simply don’t cut it.

“Running helps with physical and mental health. After a long day, you’re mentally very tired and so is your body, because you spend a lot of energy devoted to your work and solving a lot of issues,” explains Leung. “But when you run outside after a long day or week, you can take a break and breathe in some fresh air. Running, of course, will make you feel tired but you’ll always feel better than you did before the run.”

Leung first began running in 2014 after joining the Institute’s Football Interest Group. While exhilarating, he found playing football made him too susceptible to injury, so he switched to running.

“I started with 3 km runs at first, then jumped to 5 km and 10 km runs. Then I took part in half marathons and finally a full marathon,” he says, which he ran in Kanazawa, Japan.

In the years since, Leung has participated in other marathons in Canada and Taiwan, although he has had to forego his dream – for now – of running the Hong Kong marathon due to COVID-19 restrictions.

In its place, however, he has signed up for two virtual races this year, including the 10 km race as part of the CPA Virtual Run, which he will run with his wife, Michelle. “A virtual race is a totally different experience from a real race, where there is a lively atmosphere, but it’s an alternative during COVID,” he says.

The shorter distance, however, means that he will not have need to engage in the kind of training required of a half-marathon or a full marathon. For those events, Leung will ramp up his training for at least three months to build up enough endurance to cross the finish line.

“During the week, I run in the evenings after work but during the weekend, I prefer running in the morning because the air is fresher. I enjoy waking my body up with a run.”

Leung, who typically runs seven to 10 km during a normal workout, says he plans to run the CPA Virtual Run on a familiar path near where he lives.

“Running, of course, will make you feel tired but you’ll always feel better than you did before the run.”

Tiphaine Chan, Regional Head of Compliance and Audit for APAC at a United States communications company, is racing alongside her four-year-old son, George. They have been doing laps around their neighbourhood in Yuen Long in preparation for the race.

Fun for the whole family

Tiphaine Chan, Regional Head of Compliance and Audit for APAC at a United States communications company, is also competing in the CPA Virtual Run in a team of two – with her teammate being her four-year old son, George.

“Due to COVID, a lot of the big running events have been cancelled, but these virtual runs give me the choice of when I run and how I want to run,” says Chan, an Institute member. “So when I saw the category of ‘family run’ for the CPA Virtual Run, I knew that my son would be able to handle it.”

The pair are planning to run the 3 km “fun run” together near their home, and as Chan notes, her son has already shown potential to be a future runner. “We usually go running somewhere near our home just for leisure. He likes it and enjoys it. Whenever he sees me in my training clothes, he says ‘I want to go with you, mum!’” says Chan.

“I think he can run the first kilometre of the race. We might stop a little bit, but I’ll keep encouraging him. We do something similar during our previous leisure runs.”

Chan began running in 2013 when she first signed up for the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon 10 km race and quickly found that running was a welcome part of her life. She has since signed up for several other 10 km races as well as the ICBC Asia & Caritas “Step for Love” Virtual Charity Walk that ran from March to April this year.

“Running has always helped with stress – especially during COVID pandemic. Lots of places were closed, especially gyms, so I definitely saw more people hitting the road and running, a lot more than before,” she says. “By running, I get a chance to see a little bit of nature. The road I usually go running on is very nice, quiet and peaceful. It’s not long, but it’s better than nothing.”

“We usually go running somewhere near our home just for leisure. He likes it and enjoys it. Whenever he sees me in my training clothes, he says ‘I want to go with you, mum!’”

Taking the first step 

Running can be intimidating for many first-timers, but unlike other forms of exercise, it requires little financial investment up front. It’s also easy to get started as there are so many running resources available online – you don’t even need a treadmill or smartphone to get started.

New runners may find it easier to bring a friend on early runs, as it can make a challenging experience enjoyable. As Wong notes, running with a friend can also make sure you don’t start off too quickly in the beginning – a common mistake for new runners – and pace yourself. “Make sure you start at a comfortable pace where you can talk with your friend while running. After a while, you will feel like you can run faster,” she says.

Chan agrees: “Take it step by step and pace yourself. Find an easy and flat road to run on if you prefer the outdoors or just hit the gym for a quick run on a treadmill. Try to get a feel for it first,” says Chan, who recommends starting off with a few short leisurely runs around the neighbourhood.

“Pick a time where it isn’t too hot or humid and try running a kilometre first. Slowly increase the distance, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself,” she adds. A general rule of thumb for most runners is to only increase distance each week by five to 10 percent to prevent injury. “Something like running is more about the endurance; it’s about how you put up with it during longer distances. Don’t set a goal or target that’s too tough.”

While running can help to burn fat and tone certain muscles, it can also be easy to get injured if one’s leg muscles are too weak. “I focus on stretching even on days I don’t run. Stretching before and after running is very important because it helps your body recover and get accustomed to running,” Leung adds.

Running and cross training also doesn’t require signing up for a gym, and many runners still prefer to run outside on Hong Kong’s many scenic paths. In the excitement of trying a new sport, just remember to not take things to hard, says Wong. “You don’t need to always run fast – sometimes that can make people forget how much they love running. Slow down a little bit, and you can enjoy running in different places.” Please refer to here, for more running tips provided by a professional coach.

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