2008 was a memorable year. Many things happened that caused tremendous change in my life. The first was quitting smoking after dozens of attempts over the years. The second big change came in my taking up hiking and exploring everything the Hong Kong countryside had to offer.
So I quit smoking and suffered from insomnia for a few months. I found myself waking up at 4 am or 5 am and unable to get back to sleep. This meant stupid long hours awake and one Saturday morning, I just got up and walked. Not like Forest Gump non-stop but getting out and walking for a couple of hours.
Then I would set myself a target every Saturday and Sunday to see how far I could walk and pretty soon, I'd invested fitness kit. Tackling all those places my friends had done, I'd driven or I'd heard about. Walking everywhere. I was unfit but determined to try and get out more.
Three months later, I did a three-hour walk up a steep hill to the Peak. Bear in mind, I'd not done much exercise for 15 years or so and I was unfit as hell.
Then a friend suggested we go out into the hills together. That again changed my life. We went for early morning walks in the country parks. Two to four hours of slogging on country trails, up and down millions of steps, dirt paths, through forests and jungle. It was exhilarating. I was getting fitter and fitter, seeing the beautiful parts of Hong Kong and getting into it.
Then it was suggested by my friend to enter a race; Green Power. There were three categories; 50km, 25km and 10km so I entered the 50km. Eight training walks later, and I was in a race for the first time in my adult life. It was a struggle, I walked most of the way on my own, but I did it. The feeling was amazing. I'd just walked 50km as a registered participant. Scary! I didn't record a world-beating time and I didn't care. I did that race five years running (but always walking).
It was a laugh really. I'd been the king of underachieving for so many years and suddenly, I was out training in the hills, doing races, and supporting other racers. I'd go out every Saturday or Sunday and ruin myself on the hills. I would take the odd day off and go walking in the hills. It was quite mad. A complete change in lifestyle.
I loved the solitude, the ability to escape from civilisation and get onto the trails discovering bits of Hong Kong I never knew existed. The views were stunning and it was a great escape. My favourite hikes were Stages 3 and 8 (reverse) on the Maclehose Trail. Stage 8 (reverse) entails walking up Tai Mo Shan on a windy road up to a satellite station on top. Thrilling, hard walk.