June 20, 2023

Athlete Spotlight: Mandy Pao's Trail Running Journey


Ever gone on a hike and seen runners blaze past you and thought, That will never be me? Don't discount your athletic ability so quickly! Hong Kong is full of weekend warriors who started somewhere! Check out our interview with Mandy Pao who even surprised herself with her trail running journey.

What race did you sign up for and why did you sign up for that one?

Hysan Hike and Run. To be honest we didn’t know anything so we thought, let’s do something fun and the timing works. 

You’re one of the people that inspired me to take care of my health. Last year I couldn’t run because I had really bad knees. I considered myself really active but I wasn’t paying as much attention as I should have. Me and my partner Ben just got into running 2 months ago so we winged it. Ben started a running program and I started to look into it. I never imagined myself to be a runner and he said, why don’t we join a race. I looked up races through Action Asia and signed up for one 2 months from then. 

How and when did running first enter your fitness routine?

I wasn’t athletic at all when I was young. This was the first proper running I’ve done. I wouldn’t count anything before this as running.

Why was signing up for a race important to you, rather than just running on your own?

It was more creating something fun between me and my partner, Ben. We always make fun of one another and we’re a bit competitive because it’s funny. We’re both goal oriented and like learning something together.

What was it like training with your partner? Would you recommend that approach to others? 

We never trained together before and the biggest takeaway is that we’re so different. In saying that, we always joke around trying to beat each other but not in serious competition. I would recommend others train together and learn something new together. Having all these new things is a healthy way to learn about your partner.

Were you surprised by your result in the race (5th place for women) or were you very confident from the start?

No, I was completely surprised! I’ve never entered a race before. It was 200-300 people competing and I thought I’m just going to enjoy myself. We didn’t have a tactic or strategy. If I got another opportunity, I would start closer to the start. When I trained by myself there were 2 strategies: monitor heart rate or pace. When I started the race, I was lost. On the trail there are a lot of different obstacles I didn’t anticipate. So I threw out the whole race and wasn’t tracking. I was running like a wild woman. It was completely unexpected when the woman at the finish asked my Chinese name for the trophy. 

What training or self-care did you use leading up to and following the race? What do you think was most effective? Anything you would not do next time?

Definitely eating healthy. My Garmin helped me a lot and kept me accountable. I like having a few glasses of wine but Garmin brought to my awareness how long it takes to recover. Eating, sleeping, and recovery are important. I’ve been training with my PT from The Gym. Obviously chiropractic adjustments gave me more natural ways to approach health. Before it was all about push, push, push, and I didn’t consider slowing down. But after learning about health I readjusted my concept of having a conscious lifestyle. I never thought about racing to win. I was telling everyone I got it by accident but they said it’s not by accident. It’s all the input I’ve done over time. 

That weekend I didn’t see anyone. I stayed home and stretched. I think we didn’t think about going in to win. I was eating healthy and waking up early to get the sun and get a good breakfast and carbs. I went to a float after the race for recovery. Also I’m really into breath work. The app Othership for breath work is great. It has all types of breath work depending on what mood you want to end with. 

Running is almost more mental than physical. What mindset did you have and did you have any struggles along the way? 

I was so relaxed and chill about it. That’s probably why I did it so well. When you run or exercise and you focus on suffering, you want to chill. 

We have signed up for three more races. The next one is in two weeks: the Lantau 50 and then in February we'll run in Sai Kung. We are adding distance with each, building up to 19km. 

Would you do an ultramarathon? 

I wouldn’t say no. I think it’s a bit extreme for the body but we’ll see. I went to see a running coach yesterday and I did a test and I’m going to have my strength training coach me weekly and then this running program as well. 

If you're inspired to get your health and running on track, contact Atlas for a complimentary Zoom consultation to discuss how our chiropractors can help you. Call +852 2110 3901 to book your consultation.


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