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Peak Potential

Trail runner Charlotte Taquet’s advice on escaping the city crowds: hit the outdoors and explore Hong Kong’s beautiful landscapes.

Charlotte Taquet often runs up to the top of Victoria Peak before the first morning light breaks. From the summit of Hong Kong Island, she watches as the city below comes alive in the soft glow of a new day.

“At this hour, you can catch the sunrise,” she says. “The colors are so special; it makes you forget everything.”

Trail runner Charlotte Taquet spent a lot of her youth hiking and skiing in Haute-Savoie before she moved to Paris, where she picked up running.

Taquet, a French native who grew up in the Haute-Savoie region in the Northern Alps, moved to Hong Kong more than seven years ago for a job opportunity. She took advantage of the thriving social scene, going out for drinks at Lan Kwai Fong – Hong Kong’s nightlife hub – before realizing she wanted to explore more of what the city had to offer. She started joining a few of her friends on hikes to get active and eventually started trail running.

Since then, she has been hooked on running. “It’s time for me to connect with nature and with myself as well,” she says, explaining how trail running has become much more than exercise, “It allows me to reflect on my day.” 

There are many trails and many routes, so you’re never bored.

Victoria Peak, one of Hong Kong’s most visited spots, offers runners plenty of routes and spectacular views.

Like Taquet, many in Hong Kong love the thrill and buzz of the cosmopolitan city. But it’s the great outdoors that offers a welcome change of pace and chance to recharge. The diversity of the city’s natural landscape – breathtaking scenery and plenty of mountainous terrains – makes it a prime location for trail running.

“There are many trails and many routes, so you’re never bored,” says Taquet, who runs nearly every day. With four kilometers of flat paths that wind up the mountainside to the steep steps flanked by dense foliage and views of Hong Kong’s skyscrapers, there’s always a different scenic route to the top.

“Sometimes you’re under the shade of the tree, sometimes you’re crossing beaches, and other times, you’ll find yourself in nature,” Taquet says.

Kowloon Peak is the tallest peak in Kowloon, standing at 602 meters, and offers unobstructed views over Hong Kong.

Active Life, Happy Life

Taquet has participated in many races, including the famed Vibram Hong Kong 100 Ultra Trail Race. Runners from all over the world come for this annual 100km ultra-marathon. The race starts in the coastal district of Sai Kung and covers some of the city’s most challenging yet scenic trails, with undulating hills, lush forests, and sandy beaches, before ending with a descent from Tai Mo Shan, Hong Kong’s highest mountain.

Drone view of Observatory station in Tai Mo Shan, highest peak in Hong Kong.

“Before coming to Hong Kong, I would have never imagined that I could run the entire 100km,” Taquet says, recalling how she could not even finish the Peak loop when she first started trail running.

Being part of the running community in Hong Kong has been instrumental to her improvement. Joining the Gone Runners-Joint Dynamics team – one of the leading running clubs in the city – has helped her train better, and her fellow runners are a source of constant motivation, pushing her toward her full potential.

I’ve seen people with families. They work and have to take care of their children, but they still wake up very early in the morning to run.

“The community is really important because it helps us challenge ourselves,” Taquet says. “Someone will start to do 20km, and you’ll be like, ‘oh, let’s do 30’ and then you’ll get hooked doing more and more.”

It’s impossible to resist Hong Kong’s natural beauty, even for the busiest of people. “I’ve seen people with families. They work and have to take care of their children, but they still wake up very early in the morning to run,” she says. “You get inspired by these people. And you inspire others by sharing your experience.”

Mount High West, is easily accessible by public transportation and the trail is a short, steep hike that offers incredible 360-degree views at the top.

A Place to Call Home

When Taquet first moved to Hong Kong, she planned on staying for just the duration of her two-year work contract. “But I love the life here. There’s so much to do,’” she says, and she became a permanent resident in August 2020.

This is why Hong Kong is so amazing – it’s very convenient to reach a trail.

While she holds a demanding job as a legal counselor for a major sports brand, the outdoors is within easy reach. The Peak loop, for example, is within walking distance from her apartment, so she is always able to fit in a morning 8 to 10km before heading into the office. The beginner-friendly Dragon’s Back in Shek O is also a bus ride away from an MTR station and offers undulating slopes and incredible views of the outlying islands. Buses also reach the more challenging Wilson Trail – a rigorous hike that passes through a historical reservoir, flower-studded mountains, and the “Twins Peaks” overlooking Stanley, a coastal town in the south of Hong Kong Island. 

View over the Stanley town from the Wilson hiking trail in the hills in the south of Hong Kong island.

“This is why Hong Kong is so amazing – it’s very convenient to reach a trail. You’ll get a sense that the city is so quiet, but it’s just 15-20 minutes from where you live and where you work,” she says.

To those looking to visit or move to Hong Kong, Taquet’s parting advice: “Go outside, and you will see that there are so many things to do. Don’t be afraid of being lost on the trails because you will find a beautiful place.”

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