Race Preview: 9 Dragons Ultra Part Two

9 dragons ultra

Today we pick up the second half of our race preview, the 9 Dragons Hong Kong Ultra. Find out today a little more about multi-day racing in Hong Kong, along with our preview of the race that features a number of Aussies such as Kellie Emmerson and Ben Duffus, contending for podium places.

If you want to win one of two free spots into the race, read through to the end of the article and send your answer to dan@ultra168.com

The concept of multi day racing is new to Hong Kong, what were your initial inspirations?

Steve: When I started race directing, I had always looked at certain RD’s as inspiration of what I should aim to be and what RaceBase should be. We had always discussed aiming high and setting high expectations for our events. I had read a lot about Gary Robbins and his events including the Squamish 50/50. When I went to UTMF STY in 2015 – I ended up breaking my arm and the following day at the Avid Adventures BBQ, i ended up meeting and getting very drunk with Gary. I asked if it would be cool if we borrowed his 50/50 format for an event in Hong Kong. He said “Yes!” Nic and I sat down with maps, and a lot of coffee, and started to come up with a route – this took around a year of planning the route, ‘recceing’, and then just seeing if the idea of a back to back multi day race would work.

Nic: Coffee, yes, but I think there was beer involved too. I started trail running in Hong Kong over 8 years ago, when there were very few trail runners or trail racing events at all. The King Of The Hills (KOTH) Mountain Marathon series was truly epic because they featured seriously ‘off road’ vertical climbs and descents that were just so fun and really gave the community type of event an exploratory and adventurous vibe.

When Steve suggested the 50/50 idea I thought he was mad. I still do, but in that nascent genius kind of way. Originally we wanted the courses to be extremely wild and as close to 100% trail as possible, emulating the King Of The Hills style. Sadly we didn’t get approval for this from the country parks authority, but I think the courses are 70-80% true to what we wanted.

Michael:  Many people in Hong Kong have raced in multi day events overseas so its bringing something to Hong Kong which already has demand in the ultra community – this is proven by the fact that the 50/50 entry was the first one to sell out for the 2018 edition!  All RaceBase events we aim to organise something different and exciting for runners – adding new elements, different race concepts but always making it a challenge.

The race is involved with the charity Free to Run, what can you tell us about this?

Free to Run’s mission is to use running, physical fitness and outdoor adventure to empower and educate women and girls who have been affected by conflict. We support those living within conflict areas as well as those who have been forced to flee and live as refugees outside of their home countries.

When we started RaceBase, we wanted to make sure that we could help make a difference to people who aren’t able to run our events. Free To Run do this and we had no hesitation in helping Stephanie Case and her team to work towards this in Hong Kong and overseas.

What are you most excited about for this year’s race?

Steve: For me, the 9 Dragons is Christmas. The excitement of waking up knowing that you have people rocking up to an idea you had, a course we designed, and a race we love, is just amazing. To see people who you have raced with and know well as friends, coming to your race – is one of the best feelings ever. Seeing them complete the race – whether the 50/50, 50 miles or 50 km – and then giving them the high-five, or hug, or medal, is a really special moment, for them and me! Ultimately we want people to finish and beat the dragons!

Nic: I had several friends last year who didn’t finish because they missed the cut offs, DNF’ed or got injured, so really I am excited to see them all come back and get it done! It’s a brutal weekend, and anyone who finishes is pretty much a legend. Watching people on the 50/50 arrive at the start of Day 2 is pretty intense – there’s a lot of energy and emotion even from the folks who finished late and didn’t get a lot of sleep. Following them around the second day and willing them to the finish, then being there to watch them come in and accomplish their goal, that’s worth all the work and sleep in the world!

Michael:  I really enjoying getting out on the course and seeing the competitors through the race, and also working with all the volunteers who are always amazing!  Then like the runners, I am looking forward to a Jaspas burger and gweilo beer at the finish after months of preparation then a couple of full on days out on the course!   

Jeremy:  I think the planning by Steve, Michael and Nic has definitely been stepped up a notch so I can’t wait to see how the race has matured.  The field is definitely deeper this year and more people are challenging themselves on the 50/50 so I think the vibe will be even more vibrant and exciting this time around.  The aid stations at the 9D are second to none and I’m looking forward to all the encouragement and cheering by the exceptional volunteer team!  

Race Contenders

50-50 Female:

  • Kellie Emmerson – 3rd 2016 Ultra Trail Australia 100k, 4th 2017 Tarawera 100k, 5th 2017 UTMB
  • Corinne Williams – 1st 2015 Shinetsu Five Mountains Trail 110k, 4th 2016 Vibram Hong Kong 100k, 1st 2016 Formosa Trail 100k
  • Elsa Jean De Dieu – 11th 2017 Vibram Hong Kong 100k, 1st 2017 9 Dragons 50k, 1st 2017 Lantau 70



50-50 Male:

  • Thomas Robertshaw – 11th 2016 North Face Hong Kong 100k, 2nd 2017 Ultra Trail Tai Mo Shan 100 Mile, 2nd 2017 Lantau 70k, 1st 2017 HK168 – 168k
  • John Ellis – 2nd 2017 9 Dragons 50-50, 5th 2017 Translantau 100k, 4th 2017 North Face Hong Kong 100k, 7th 2018 Vibram Hong Kong 100k
  • Kazufumi Ose – 8th 2016 North Face Hong Kong 100k, 1st 2017 Translantau 50k, 9th 2017 Ultra Trail Australia 100k
  • Alessandro Chini – 2nd 2017 The Most Beautiful Thing 100k, 3rd 2017 Malaysia Action Asia 50k
  • Jeremy Ritcey – 4th 2017 9 Dragons 50-50, 3rd 2017 Translantau 100k, 6th 2017 MSIG Lantau 50k
  • Ho Chung Wong – 3rd 2017 North Face Hong Kong 100k, 8th 2018 Vibram Hong Kong 100k
  • Mat Leng – 5th 2016 Translantau 50k, 5th 2017 MSIG Sai Kung 50k, 6th 2017 MSIG HK 50k
  • Keita Kobayashi – 8th 2014 UTMF, 9th 2015 UTMF, 2nd 2017 Interlac Trail 80k



50 Mile Female:

  • Itsuko Uemiya – 3rd STY 2015, 7th 2017 Sean O’Brien 100k, 11th 2017 TDS
  • Marie Mcnaughton – 3rd 2017 Vibram Hong Kong 100k, 1st 2017 9 Dragons 50-50, 1st 2017 North Face Hong Kong 100k, 4th 2018 Vibram Hong Kong 100k



50 Mile Male:

  • Harry Jones – 8th 2017 Vibram Hong Kong 100k, 2nd 2017 North Face Hong Kong 100k, 5th 2018 Vibram Hong Kong 100k
  • Bogdan Onyschenko – 7th 2017 MSIG Sai Kung 50k, 9th 2017 Translantau 100k
  • Michael Skobierski – 1st 2017 Lantau 70k, 5th 2017 North Face Hong Kong 100k
  • Guomin Deng – 13th 2017 80k du Mont Blanc, 15th 2018 Vibram Hong Kong 100k



50k Female:

  • Nathalie Darbon – 5th 2016 Translantau 50k, 1st 2016 Most Beautiful Thing 50k, 7th 2017 9 Dragons 50k, 17th 2017 Translantau 100k
  • Chiann Bao – 8th 2017 MSIG HK 50k
  • Sandi Menchi Abahan – 2nd 2016 North Face 100k Hong Kong, 21st 2017 TDS, 6th 2017 MSIG Lantau 50k



50k Male:

  • Ben Duffus – 5th 2014 Ultra Trail Australia 100k, 3rd 2014 80k du Mont Blanc, 2nd 2016 Ultra Trail Australia 100k
  • Brian Mcflynn – 5th 2017 MSIG HK 50k, 4th 2017 North Face Hong Kong 50k, 9th 2018 Vibram Hong Kong 100k
  • Kevin Scallan – 3rd 2017 Lantau 2 Peaks, 3rd 2017 Moontrekker Sunrise 43k, 3rd 2017 MSIG HK 50k


The above list is by no means exhaustive and there is bound to be a few surprises on the day. 

Now, if you’ve read this far, the question to answer to grab one of two spots into the race is. Name two Australian runners taking part in the race this weekend featured in our preview. Email dan@ultra168.com and the first two responses will win free entries into the race.

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I'm a mediocre runner who can bat above his average when I train hard. A man of extremes, I do enjoy everything life offers and consider it an absolute pleasure just to be able to put one foot in front of the other and let my mind wander somewhere different.

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