Ultrarunner and occasion director Andre Blumberg first began working in response to a midlife disaster. At 39 years outdated, the hardworking marketing consultant was immersed in a work-hard, play-hard way of life in Singapore that didn’t embody train or the outside. His weeks entailed lengthy hours on the desk, late-night heavy meals, and partying — a tempo that he had sustained for practically 14 years.
Then his annual medical examination confirmed extraordinarily excessive ldl cholesterol readings and an obese-level physique mass index. “I used to be about to show 40 years outdated and was nicely over 100 kilograms (220 kilos) in weight. The physician mentioned he wanted to place me on cholesterol-lowering remedy,” mentioned Blumberg, who’s now 52 years outdated.
In a single day, Blumberg stopped ingesting alcohol, radically modified his food regimen, and booked a weeklong cleanse retreat in Northern Thailand to have a good time getting into his fifth decade.
“You drink numerous teas, and provides your intestines and colon a break from needing to work on a regular basis. I used to be simply amazed. It was very tough initially, as a result of I’m additionally an enormous espresso addict and had complications from the withdrawal. Popping out of the cleanse, I felt reborn after having misplaced some weight but in addition having psychological readability that I hadn’t skilled in a very long time,” mentioned Blumberg, who registered for a number of extra cleanses over the subsequent six months after which determined he would begin to train in 2010.
“I used to be too heavy to do something weight bearing, so I didn’t run, as a result of it’d be too painful on my knees. I began stationary biking for 10 minutes, then as much as 20 minutes, then half-hour, then 60 minutes. Then I moved to a treadmill and labored myself up,” mentioned Blumberg, who had lived in Hong Kong for 9 years at that time.
Born and raised in a 500-person village within the countryside of Germany, close to Cologne, Blumberg dabbled in sports activities however didn’t have “massive sporting ambitions,” hadn’t tried observe and area, and an energetic way of life wasn’t part of his household life.
In faculty, he ran a bit whereas attending the College of Cologne, the place he studied enterprise administration, enterprise informatics, and laptop science. In 1995, he graduated and landed an internship in Singapore as a marketing consultant implementing massive data expertise software program options. He additionally had shoppers in neighboring international locations like Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand.
At this time, he’s lived in Asia and the Asia Pacific Area for 27 years, together with 21 years in Hong Kong. Now, Blumberg is the chief data officer of CLP Energy Hong Kong, an electrical utility firm.
A Sturdy Hong Kong Path System
However again when Blumberg was going by his midlife shift, he’d been in Hong Kong for practically a decade and had by no means set foot on any trails. “Most individuals see Hong Kong as a metropolis stuffed with concrete and metal skyscrapers and as a dense metropolis, which it’s. However most individuals who haven’t been right here don’t notice that 70% of Hong Kong is nation parks, a hilly panorama, and an in depth path system,” mentioned Blumberg, who acquired bored with understanding on the gymnasium and had a revelation when he discovered a path system existed. Nonetheless comparatively unfit, he mentioned, he began by climbing.
“I may run for hours with out seeing anybody, and the paths are so shut. I reside on the 59th ground of a high-rise constructing, and I can see one in every of our peaks at 3,000 toes. I can see a whole lot of the path system, and also you don’t should drive. I can run 20 minutes and I’m on two completely different trails, or I can soar in a taxi,” defined Blumberg.
After these first six months, he misplaced 60 kilos, and the continued weight reduction made it simpler for him to maneuver. His health and coaching continued to enhance each week.
In April 2010, he signed up for his first race: the Around the Island Time Trial, a neighborhood, small-scale occasion. “I completed and I used to be instantly hooked. I went to run The North Face 100k – Singapore in September 2010 and got here in third. I by no means anticipated to podium. So, I went from a work-hard, play-hard way of life to an ultrarunning habit. For a beginner who was grossly overweight and a borderline alcohol addict 10 months prior, it was outstanding for me,” mentioned Blumberg.
A Knack for ‘Slams’
Subsequent, he ran the 2011 Vibram Hong Kong 100k, ending in tenth place. Blumberg rapidly “developed a knack for slams.” He tackled all 5 The North Face 100-kilometer occasions within the Asia Pacific together with in China, Australia, Taiwan, Singapore, and the Philippines inside a 16-day interval.
“I’d journey and do a race on the weekend, then fly again to Hong Kong to work. I mainly did three 100ks over three successive weekends in several international locations. Australia is an effective nine-hour flight away, so it’s not simply leaping on a flight. That’s once I mentioned, ‘Ah, I appear I get well fairly nicely,’” mentioned Blumberg, who then experimented with a vegetarian food regimen for 18 months, which helped to cut back the irritation in his physique and enhanced his restoration. There have been restricted vegetarian meals choices the place he lived on the time, so he didn’t preserve the food regimen.
Creating the Hong Kong 4 Trails Extremely Problem
Additionally in 2011, Blumberg was deciding what to do over the Chinese language New 12 months, a four-day nationwide vacation. Often, he and his spouse, Paper, would journey, however they determined to remain dwelling in Hong Kong that 12 months.
He began finding out 4 long-distance trails that encompass Hong Kong and an concept percolated to mix the 4 right into a single goal.
The 4 trails had been the 70k Lantau Path, the 78k Wilson Path, 50k Hong Kong Path, and the 100k MacLehose Path.
“I requested round if anybody had ever run these 4 trails in 4 days. Individuals mentioned, ‘No, after all not, it’s inconceivable and can’t be finished.’ I mentioned, ‘Let’s strive.’ The overall is 298 kilometers roughly, and 14,500 meters of elevation achieve. To my shock, I managed to complete them: one a day. I used to be joyful I completed however I used to be additionally disillusioned, as a result of it was too straightforward,” mentioned Blumberg.
The unique grassroots four-trail occasion grew to become often known as the Hong Kong 4in4 Problem, which has grown in reputation and is held yearly throughout Christmas.
The next 12 months, in 2012, Blumberg tinkered with the format, mixed the 2 shortest trails, and completed all 4 trails in three days. Six runners began and three completed.
Blumberg additionally accomplished his first 100 miler in 2012, the Northburn Station 100 Mile in New Zealand adopted by the Extremely-Path Mt. Fuji in Japan, which can also be 100 miles lengthy. “I felt that the longer distances suited me higher, as a result of I’m not very quick however I appear to compensate by being cussed and never quitting and making an attempt to hold in there,” he mentioned.
In 2013, he modified the format of the four-trails problem once more, rearranging the sequence to make it logistically wise for a nonstop format, which made it much more tough.
“I didn’t run it, as a result of in that third 12 months, it grew to become common, and I wished to direct it and I’ve finished that ever since. I haven’t been capable of run it once more, but. It’s a totally self-supported occasion, there are not any extra course markings, and 0 help is allowed. It’s on path, and there are path indicators. You’ll be able to have help between the 4 trails, that are distinct and noncontinuous. You’ll be able to have a crew decide you up and drive you to the subsequent path, however the commute is included within the total time,” defined Blumberg.
At this time, this nonstop occasion is called the Hong Kong 4 Trails Extremely Problem, with all 4 long-distance trails coated in a self-supported format in 60 hours, held yearly every January. The format takes runners within the reverse course of the unique format: the 100k Maclehose Path, 78k Wilson Path, 50k Hong Kong Path, and the 70k Lantau Path.
“Lantau is the final path and it’s a loop round Lantau Island. The beginning and end is at Ferry Pier. In entrance of the pier is a inexperienced colonial publish field that it’s important to kiss to designate the end of the problem,” mentioned Blumberg.
For the Hong Kong 4 Trails Extremely Problem and the Hong Kong 4in4 Problem, a course map and GPX file will not be offered. Impressed by the Barkley Marathons, Blumberg additionally throws in variations annually, including a bit extra issue. One 12 months, no trekking poles had been allowed and one other 12 months, no audio gadgets had been allowed.
General, Blumberg sees internet hosting the occasions as a solution to give again to the ultrarunning neighborhood.
“I don’t need these to be elite occasions. I would like all kinds and variety of individuals,” mentioned Blumberg, and added, “I’ve been eager to get extra ladies to take part and tried numerous makes an attempt like selling the occasion to ladies and researching feminine ultrarunners and alluring them or asking them to think about taking part. One 12 months, I had a rule, if a male participant could make two profitable referrals to ladies, then he can get a spot. I’m happy to say, on this 12 months’s Hong Kong 4 Trails Extremely Problem we had eight ladies take part and eight males, so it was 50/50 gender participation,” mentioned Blumberg.
Blumberg additionally enjoys sponsoring athletes to journey, masking their flights and resort, and race in high-profile occasion. “For different occasions, I’ve supported much less privileged athletes within the area together with from Thailand and the Philippines to return to Hong Kong to compete within the Vibram Hong Kong 100k and The North Face 100k – Hong Kong. Having the ability to afford it, it’s my solution to give again and to assist in giving publicity to individuals which are athletically gifted and do nicely domestically however don’t have monetary means to journey internationally,” he mentioned.
The U.S. Grand Slam of Ultrarunning
In 2013, he acquired into the Western States 100 and determined to do the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, which entails working 4 of the 5 oldest century-distance races in the USA all in the identical summer season: the Western States 100, Outdated Dominion 100 Mile, Vermont 100 Mile, Leadville 100 Mile, and the Wasatch Entrance 100 Mile.
“I employed at the moment Karl Meltzer as my coach. I felt like, that is actually subsequent stage and I wish to get higher and never let that once-in-a-lifetime alternative go with out good preparation. Karl is thought for his wins and experiences. He coached me for a 12 months in the course of the Grand Slam. I flew to the U.S. after which flew again to work: 4 flights over there and again, so a major funding in money and time. I spent nearly all of my annual depart on working the Grand Slam, and it was a extremely nice expertise. I like the 100-mile distance, and I like the U.S. tradition and vibe round 100 milers,” mentioned Blumberg, who acquired “hooked on the 100-mile distance and U.S. ultrarunning scene.”
He saved growing his distance, registering the next 12 months for the 2014 Badwater 135 Mile and the inaugural Tahoe 200 Mile.
After his expertise on the Tahoe 200 Mile, “I used to be pondering to do a triple crown or slam of 200 milers within the U.S., however it’s a bit an excessive amount of when it’s important to fly forwards and backwards from Asia, as a result of that’s one other stage of dedication. You are able to do a 100 miler in a weekend however with 200 milers, it’s at the least every week plus the commute. I haven’t made the dedication of the time.
“If I may spend two to 3 months in the summertime within the U.S. that may be good and possibly you would fly twice the entire summer season. I’d get pleasure from renting a truck, driving round, coaching, and discovering completely different states and residing that way of life. However it could be tough to mix with my job, so possibly after retirement or between jobs,” mentioned Blumberg.
Subsequent, he did the 2015 Angeles Crest 100 Mile in California. “It’s a tremendous occasion. Paper, my spouse, has all the time been very supportive, and she or he would all the time take up crewing duties. We might have these vacation spot races and plan a vacation across the race, so possibly 10 days in Los Angeles, California, earlier than or after. It’s a very good mixture. She likes to journey and I like working,” shared Blumberg.
The German Grand Slam
In 2016, Blumberg did the German equal of the U.S.’s Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, comprised of 4 long-distance occasions: three on path, one on street, and a complete of greater than 1,000 kilometers, so one other notch up in distance. The occasions had been the Jurasteig Nonstop Ultratrail 239km, the 200k Hexenstieg Extremely, the TorTour de Ruhr – 230km Nonstop, and the WiBoLT 320 km Nonstop-Ultralauf, and so they all happened in April and Might of that 12 months.
“Every of these Germany races are nicely over 100 miles, the final one is 200 miles, and so they’re very compressed. The Grand Slam within the U.S. was in 10 weeks. The German Grand Slam was in a span of seven weeks. I coated them over three flights, forwards and backwards, which is a 12-hour flight one-way from Hong Kong. One journey I did two of them collectively,” mentioned Blumberg.
“I just like the logistical facet of ultrarunning and these slams with my timing splits and charts, my provides, and the planning. I just like the logistics of plotting out my journey and annual depart and optimizing and maximizing the profit I get out of it, which is a pleasant facet impact in these targets,” mentioned Blumberg.
Up to now, Blumberg has accomplished practically 30 ultrarunning occasions. By 2018, he felt like he’d reached his “greatest 12 months ever” for health and coaching. He gained and set a course report on the TorTour de Ruhr – 230km Nonstop, a street race, completed the Hardrock 100, and one other street race in Greece, the Spartathlon.
The following 12 months, he was overcoming an harm adopted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to trigger strict journey necessities into Hong Kong, making touring for races extra sophisticated, costly, and dangerous.
“I actually struggled with not having a race on my calendar, and I nonetheless want to return again from that now. I hope that [freedom] will come again at some stage, quickly. I don’t have concrete working plans, however I hope to get again to the Hardrock 100 sooner or later. I’ve bucket-list runs now however nothing concrete simply but,” mentioned Blumberg, who gave up his spot in Hardrock for 2022 because of the tight journey restrictions.
For the rapid and long-term future, he’ll proceed to host the native Hong Kong 4 Trails Extremely Problem and the Hong Kong 4in4 Problem.
“It’s fascinating to see how former individuals collaborate and share suggestions and tips, much like different ultras, and the instances get higher 12 months after 12 months. The runners turn out to be smarter at their methods and logistics. I like that in regards to the sport that it’s each collaborative and aggressive,” mentioned Blumberg.
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