At the beginning of the year, over 1,800 athletes from 57 countries set out from the Sai Kung coastline to take part in one of Asia’s premier races, the Vibram Hong Kong 100. Just seven runners were repping for India, of which Winnie Khattar was the only female. Khattar went on to successfully complete the internationally-renowned long distance trail running race, the first Indian woman ever to do so. Khattar’s achievement is notable, given that in her home country of India, running as sport is for the most part discouraged for women and globally, diversity across sports is still lacking on many fronts.
Looking for an adventurous challenge, the ocean-loving finance professional (who had no experience in running prior to this contest) decided to enter the HK100 ballet on a whim. After securing her entry, the Delhi-native spent six months training, participating in three shorter distance trail races to prepare for this Ultra-Trail World Tour series.
“Since running is something I had never liked, I thought to give it an honest try,” says the longtime Hong Kong resident. “When you are truly committed to something there is an inner drive, a true passion that no matter what, you will find time to follow the plan.”
Established in 2010, the HK100 is an ultra endurance race that takes competitors across 103 kilometers from Sai Kung to New Territories. Finishing at the base of Tai Mo Shan, the highest peak in Hong Kong, the course features single track, paved footpaths, gravel, dirt, beaches, 5,000 meters of climbing, mountain and coastal views that follows Hong Kong’s longest hiking route, the prominent MacLehose Trail.
A traditionally popular race for mainland Chinese runners, Winnie became the first Indian women to successfully compete in the Vibram Hong Kong 100 Ultramarathon, finishing in a little over 25 hours. Crediting the unwavering support of her husband, friends and coach, this achievement marks a deeper fundamental aspect: gender and cultural diversity in sport and exercise.
While female ultra-marathoners and winners aren’t a new thing, separate gender divisions are still prominent around the world. In Winnie’s home country of India, women are still discouraged from running for sport, though the field is growing in great strides – in April 2018, Assam’s Hima Das became the first Indian woman to run in the finals of women’s 400m at the Commonwealth Games. Despite all the dangers they face on their runs, the push for gender equality is building momentum. Organisations like The Pinkathon – India’s largest female racing circuit – continues to advocate the importance of self-care, growing a community of empowered women across the country, and providing a safe place to run.
Powerful media messages like the recent Nike ‘Dream Crazier’ ad featuring Serena Williams and other trailblazing female athletes confront gender politics, encouraging women to continue to break barriers, depicting all the “crazy” feats females have faced in adversity but have gone on to be landmarks of empowerment and achievement.
With a long established South Asian population in Hong Kong, we hope Winnie’s story can light a path for minorities and girls in the city to pursue their dreams and #embraceyourcrazy ✊
The next Vibram HK100 Ultra Trail Race is tentatively scheduled for January 11, 2020. See here for more information.
Want to start training? Find Hong Kong’s Best Running Trails here.