Apparently there’s a big race happening in the Blue Mountains next week! As part of the build up to the UTA100 and 50km, we’ll be posting a series of articles on the some of the runners you can expect to see lining up.
First up we have Marie McNaughton, originally a New Zealander but currently residing in Hong Kong. Marie had a great UTA100 in 2016, placing sixth and has decided to return again this year. In the following interview we talk about her running background, training and why she decided to come back again this year. Thank you Marie for taking the time to talk to us and best of luck for race day.
Please tell us a little about yourself and running background?
I’ve always enjoyed running, mostly through my 20’s and 30’s as a way of keeping in shape and trying to balance hedonistic London living. Running was mostly limited to gym and the odd marathon (I think I’ve done all the majors except Boston). Nothing amazing about my times, but I really enjoyed the process of traveling to spectacular cities to run and the camaraderie of a large sporting event. We moved from London to Hong Kong seven years ago and running took a backseat to having three kids. I took up trail running in Hong Kong four years ago as a way to get healthier post kids and I soon became hooked on the whole trail running scene here. Even though I’m from New Zealand, unfortunately I’ve done very little running there so far.
You live in Hong Kong, how does the racing scene compare to other countries?
The trail running scene is in Hong Kong is very vibrant and pretty competitive. There are races most weekends now, three trail races in a weekend is not uncommon in the winter season. Even in the steaming hot summer you can still find shorter distance or night races. The ultra trail races have become increasingly popular in recent years and the big ones tend to sell out in minutes. We are fortunate to have four or five large 100k races and I think four ‘milers’ now, as well as a multitude of middle distance races covering all kinds of terrain. The attraction of Hong Kong as a destination city means we are lucky to see a revolving door of international talent coming to race here too. The proximity and accessibility of trails means you probably race more in Hong Kong than you would if living in another city.
Can you please tell us how you juggle your family and being such a successful runner?
I have to be honest. I wouldn’t be able to work (part-time) train or race without the help of some amazing domestic helpers – Jen and Juliette. I’m extremely fortunate in that respect. Also the kids are all at school now, so that helps too I work part-time job with flexible work hours so I can re-shuffle things relatively easily on any given week. Lastly you can’t underestimate having a supportive partner who doesn’t give you ‘the look’ when you go for a run… or enter another race…
You’ve run the UTA100 before, what’s brought you back?
I found the race super tough. I’m not particularly fast and probably prefer a few more hills and by the end last year, I was in bits and swearing my head off. My husband also ran and it was his first 100k. He absolutely loved the whole experience so has dragged me back with him again this year. Hopefully I will be a bit more better prepared this time. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved Katoomba and the race atmosphere is amazing, but this course is a tough one for me. My training this year has probably been a bit more consistent in its build up, so hopefully this will help. I’ve tried to focus a bit more on longer, flatter faster runs to better match the specifics of the course. Stairs are par for the course for Hong Kong runners, but we don’t normally get so much runnable trail in 100k race.
What does your diet and race nutrition consist of?
I try to eat wholefood/plant based diet. I’m not super strict, but I think this help balance the stress on the body from all the running and racing. Race day though, everything goes out the window and a lot of sugar is consumed. I love Overstims gels and electrolyte drink. I’ll balance this with the cp food, bananas, nuts etc
What are your goals for the UTA100 this year, and what are you looking forward to the most about being back in the Southern Hemisphere?
My goal for the UTA100 this year is to finish strong, and finish still ‘racing’ (as opposed to dragging myself swearing across the finish line). Not stopping for a little sit down on the Furber stairs would be a bonus! I also had a little ‘spell’ on the ladders as I’m a little scared of heights and need to keep it together better this year! I’m most looking forward to the spectacular views in Katoomba, they really are breathtaking. And the fresh Australian air and food. Coming from steamy Hong Kong the clean fresh crisp air is just amazing.
All the best to Marie for her race this year.
Feature Image Credit: Viola Shum