I had to commit to myself that I’ll give it my best shot no matter what and will not let training or pain or tiredness or injury change my decision unless it was life-threatening – Winnie Khattar

Winnie Khattar
Winnie Khattar

A full-time banker and an avid practitioner of water sports, Winnie Khattar took up the HK100 Ultramarathon challenge to fight her dislike for running. The leap was pretty huge considering the trail length – 100 kilometres! But, our fellow Indian Hong Konger was resolute.

Obviously, we at HKYantoYan.com wouldn’t let you miss out on this baffling journey. Hence, we reached out to the brave with a few questions in the hope of inspiring our community.

1. Tell us about yourself and your background?

I’m a 32-year-old married woman living in Hong Kong for the last 8.5 years. I grew up in India and left home when I was 19 to scale adulthood. Most of studying years didn’t involve many sports (not uncommon in India). I used to dream of being the most successful beach bum. Coming to Hong Kong and on one such beach day I spotted dragon boats caught my interest and I did a good few years of dragon boating and outrigger canoeing. I also had to learn swimming as an adult after I got kicked out of my paddling club temporarily as a non-swimmer was a risk on the boats. My past 5 years since involved trysts with various ocean sports – canoeing, surfing, diving and developing a strong love for outdoors. I subsequently learnt how to ride a bicycle as well at the age of 30 so I could do a biking holiday in Myanmar, snowboarding in Japan and anything I could try to further explore the adventurous side of me.

2. How did your journey into trail running begin? Tell us from the start?

Winnie on the 100kms trail

I started running about 6 months ago before my race, in July 2018 when I decided I needed to conquer my long-standing dislike for running. Never thought of road running given the number of beautiful hills and terrain all around in Hong Kong. In order to commit to running, I had to set myself a goal and destiny brought HK100 my way when a colleague at work mentioned that ballot entries for this race in Hong Kong were open. Two weeks later I got lucky to get a ballot entry and found myself aggressively searching for trail running coaches. Someone to get me ready from zero to 100 in 6 months!

3. This being your very first time, what was your preparation like? Any tips?

The first step in my preparation was mental – I had to commit to myself that I’ll give it my best shot no matter what and will not let training or pain or tiredness or injury change my decision unless it was life-threatening. My husband was fully supportive so it was game on! Finding a coach was the next essential step. After a number of emails and phone calls talking to a number of coaches around the world, I found Casey Morgan who had the most earnest attitude to trail running and didn’t run his coaching like a business. He gave me his time so we could understand each other even before I had decided to go ahead with his coaching. Once the decision was made, I think it was all about sticking to Casey’s plans. Besides running, the plans included strength and core work which were tailored to my schedule and flexed whenever I was travelling etc. His training plans were a perfect balance of getting the right muscle groups activated through strength and core training coupled with both easy, long and hill runs that increased in intensity so gradually that I was already running better in 3 weeks without even realizing. More importantly that I actually started enjoying running.
I also signed up for three preparation races ahead of HK100 which really helped to get my confidence up. I was out for about 3 weeks after my 3rd race in October due to an IT-band injury which was a bit demotivating but with the help of some excellent physiotherapists at Joint Dynamics, massage therapy at Peak Performance and alternate plans that Casey designed for me, I, fortunately, didn’t lose very much in the game and probably came out stronger.
Tips: Get a coach if you haven’t been a runner in past, makes things easier. Stretching is magical, I know it’s boring but it really keeps you injury free and out of pain – I learnt this the hard way.
And lastly believe in yourself, if I can do it, anyone can and I can guarantee that you will not regret this decision.

4. Living in a hectic city like Hong Kong, how do you manage your work/life balance and take out time to prepare and socialize with your friends?

Once you find a passion, it doesn’t actually feel an effort to find the time. There was something every day on my training plan so early mornings before work and after work was usually training times and then finding time on weekends was much easier. It’s funny you mention friends, I think I strengthened a lot of friendships once I started running as different friends would come out to train together, which was awesome because there’s nothing better than going for a run in the hills at dark with a friend to unwind after a busy day at work. I have to also thank my husband again for managing all the mess I left at home in the background for him to manage and he would still come around to meet me after my long weekend trail runs.

5. What was it like to finish the race?

Winnie Khattar at the Finish Line of HK100

It’s a feeling you want to live over and over again. It’s really overwhelming to finish something that you never imagined you could do, there are so many emotions that you want to express but not enough words and tears don’t stop rolling! It’s an amazing feeling! You’re on top of the world, you feel no pain just immense joy and gratitude for having the opportunity, strength, courage and very importantly the support of so many people to have completed the journey (The pain bit changes in the next couple of hours though 😉) I’ll never forget my first 100 finish.

P.S. Out of 1842 runners, 7 Indians participated and only 2 reached the finish line. Winnie Khattar was one of them!


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