- Antonia Li starts trail running when all the gyms are shut and quickly finds a way to practice mental strength for everyday life
- The newcomer to the sport wants to show others that you do not have to be a serious, full-time athlete to take part in long distance mountain running
Antonia Li was forced to look for new activities when all the gyms were shut due to Covid-19. Now, the Hongkonger has found a new passion in trail running and wants to show that you do not have to be a professional to run ultramarathons.
“The ups and downs, it’s applicable to daily life. Everything is so much better once you’ve earned it,” she said.
“Just bite the bullet and do it. Even at night, when the temperature drops, your body hurts. Night changes my mentality. Visibility is low, you’re relying on your touch. Everything changes, that’s the way life is too. Not everything is a smooth sail. That night prepares you for the day. I feel more committed to the pain, I like to learn from it.”
And she has learned quickly – just a few months after taking up the sport, she completed a 56km virtual race. She also became an ambassador for Pressio, a new compression wear brand.
“The wellness trend is booming and I want to show trail running isn’t intimidating. It’s not just for professional, full time athletes. Brands now want ambassadors who can show that in everyday life, doing sports doesn’t just help the way you look but the way you feel,” she said.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been full of uncertainties and trail running has helped ride out the difficult months.
“Sports strengthen your character and your mental strength, you become OK with failing. Life can’t be smooth sailing, it’s how you react afterwards. You can always learn from hardship, that’s how you evolve.
“Happiness is relative, it depends on the moments before. If you endure some hardship, then you’re more likely to feel like it’s easier afterwards,” said Li, who also boxes and does weight training.
Before Covid-19, Li was into back country skiing. Many of the aspects of skiing have been replaced by trail running. Not just the adrenaline but also planning “the line”. Li takes great care to plan her runs and races, particularly now that all events are virtual so there are no checkpoints.
“Naturally, I am an impatient person, but trail running taught me when to preserve your energy and when to push,” Li said. “I also love the planning. It helps me in my daily life too, knowing how to plan and what to prioritise, when to give all and when to preserve, when to pull back.”
With a 56km race under her belt, Li is already eyeing a 100km. It will require all she has learned so far – mental resilience, planning and patience.
“After 75 or 80km, you just don’t know how your body will react. I’m interested to know how I’ll react when your body wants to give up,” Li said.
SCMP (2021, May) Taking up trail running in Covid-19 has taught this HongKonger resilience, planning and dealing with uncertainly, https://www.scmp.com/sport/outdoor/trail-running/article/3133192/taking-trail-running-covid-19-has-taught-hongkonger