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How Mayank Vaid Finished HK4TUC Challenge on 3rd Try: Family, Failure, and Life Lessons

Toward the Finish Line: Inside the Mind of HK4TUC 3-time Challenger Mayank Vaid
The Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge (HK4TUC) is known for testing the physical and mental limits of its participants, but Mayank Vaid is no stranger to superhuman experiences. Attempting the 298km trail run for the third consecutive year in 2024, the ultra-athlete from India finally earned his Finisher title with a time of 59:43:40—less than 17 minutes before the 60-hour cutoff.
The father of four chats with us to share the story behind his long journey, the relationship between sports and family, and helpful tips on challenging HK4TUC.(本文將會翻譯成中文版)

HK4TUC

MacLehose Trail (100 km) ➔ Wilson Trail (78 km) ➔ Hong Kong Trail (50km) ➔ Ferry from Central to Mui Wo ➔ Lantau Trail (70km)

No mountain is too high and no trail is too long. At some point you will reach the finish line, as long as you keep putting one step after another.
Mayank Vaid Became an HK4TUC Finisher on 3rd Try
▲Toward the Finish Line: Inside the Mind of HK4TUC 3-time Challenger Mayank Vaid
Getting Started

The Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge is a personal challenge in which participants aim to solo run Hong Kong’s four long-distance trails in reverse direction, with a total distance of 298km and positive elevation gain of 14,500m. Beginning every year on Lunar New Year’s Day, the challenge requires participants to complete within 60 hours to become a Finisher or within 72 hours to become a Survivor.

Like all HK4TUC challengers, Mayank is a seasoned trail runner. In his case, he is also an open water swimmer, cyclist, and triathlete, boasting a wide range of achievements in extreme competitions such as Ironman, Ultraman, and Enduroman. Adding to this diverse portfolio, he juggles his sports ventures with a full-time job in IP law.

Both my career and races need patience and hard work. Long hours. Lots of research. Good planning. And often, both are full of uncontrollable surprises.
Mayank emphasizes the importance of maintaining a positive mindset
▲Mayank emphasizes the importance of maintaining a positive mindset
HK4TUC journey began on a plane

Based in Hong Kong since marriage—he met his wife on a Dragon Air flight—Mayank gained the honor of pioneering the HK360Xtreme Challenge in 2020 (45km swim, 215 km cycling, and 100km running around Hong Kong Island). The following year, he became the first person to swim around Hong Kong twice, and in 2022, he entered the Guinness Book of World Records for the fastest time to complete 10 marathon distances in 10 days on a treadmill.

Like his marriage, Mayank’s HK4TUC journey began on a plane. In 2018, he watched the in-flight feature documentary Breaking 60: Challenging the Impossible and set his eyes on a new goal.

Ever since I saw the film, my goal was to ‘break 60’.
With Mayank tired, irritable, and on the verge of quitting, Theresa and Bono had to think on their feet.
▲With Mayank tired, irritable, and on the verge of quitting, Theresa and Bono had to think on their feet.
Running as an “Ultra4Dad”

Even for Mayank, described as “the fastest Indian alive” by the South China Morning Post in 2017, this goal was a years-long battle. Accepted to join HK4TUC in 2022, he was forced to retire early due to an injury on the Wilson Trail. Returning in 2023, he survived the challenge with a time of 68:04:39. But he still hadn’t met his dream of breaking 60 hours—and so, in 2024, he was back to try for the Finisher title.

While various athletes have attempted HK4TUC multiple times, few have joined three years in a row. Yet by challenging the impossible over and over, Mayank hoped to inspire his four children. As reflected by his social media name “@beyond_ultra4dad”, fatherhood plays a huge role in Mayank’s approach to sports. Joining him on runs, hikes, swims, and workouts, Mayank’s family are his training buddies, cheerleaders, and even competition crew. He instills in his children not only physical skills, but also strategic thinking, team spirit, and a mature mindset for overcoming difficulties.

For HK4TUC 2024, Mayank selected his wife, Theresa, and eldest son, Bono, to serve as his crew. They would prove to be critical sources of strength and support when he needed it most.

I wanted to give a live example to my kids that failure should not discourage us. We should stand up and fight again.
Mayank Vaid eturned to the darkened Mui Po Pier after 13 hours and 33 minutes on the Lantau Trail
▲Mayank Vaid eturned to the darkened Mui Po Pier after 13 hours and 33 minutes on the Lantau Trail
Kids have to be taught to fail and yet feel that they have won. It’s parenting that plays a big role in developing this resilience.
Will Mayank return to HK4TUC again? Not immediately, though he doesn’t rule it out in the future.
▲Will Mayank return to HK4TUC again? Not immediately, though he doesn’t rule it out in the future.
A Positive Mindset

HK4TUC’s difficulty is enhanced by its solo, self-supported nature, with only one crew person and one driver permitted to assist between trails. No pacers, outside companions, crews, mules, or drop bags are allowed while on trail. Music and sound playing devices are not permitted, nor are trekking poles or painkillers that might alleviate physical discomfort. (The rules get notoriously stricter every year.)

To keep up his motivation on the trails, Mayank emphasizes the importance of maintaining a positive mindset: as he ran, he would analyze distances, think about his family, keep track of his nutrition, and mentally plan for upcoming races.

From time to time, I do a ‘reality check’. I ask myself if I am hurting in any way, and if the hurt is something that would put me at risk. If there is no risk, then I have to push on.
Mayank is a seasoned trail runner. In his case, he is also an open water swimmer, cyclist, and triathlete
▲Mayank is a seasoned trail runner. In his case, he is also an open water swimmer, cyclist, and triathlete

Furthermore, the journey comes with a meticulous plan involving Mayank, his coach, and his crew. His Instagram post reveals eight pages of notes detailing nutrition and transition strategy at each step.

The Bumps in the Trail

Even the most thorough of preparations couldn’t prevent injury and exhaustion. After completing the 100km-long MacLehose Trail in 15 hours 39 minutes, Mayank began experiencing swelling in his right foot while on the Wilson Trail. As often happens with the majority of HK4TUC participants, he spent more time on the Wilson than the longer MacLehose, with a time of 16 hours 23 minutes.

It was the following Hong Kong Trail that ate away at Mayank’s resolve, as he fought sleep deprivation, one of the most grueling aspects of HK4TUC, for the second night in a row. At just 50km, the Hong Kong Trail is technically the shortest and easiest of the four trails, but HKT4UC participants tend to struggle after tackling the MacLehose and the Wilson.

Completing the trail with a time of 10 hours 37 minutes, Mayank found himself running late on his schedule. He missed his goal of catching the 3AM ferry from Central to Mui Wo, which would have promised more time on the Lantau Trail. Upon arriving at Pier 6 at 5AM, his foot and ankle had swollen so much he couldn’t bend them.

I was certain this was the end of HK4UTC. But my wife and son didn’t give up on me.
HK4TUC begins every year on Lunar New Year’s Day, the challenge requires participants to complete within 60 hours to become a Finisher or within 72 hours to become a Survivor
▲HK4TUC begins every year on Lunar New Year’s Day, the challenge requires participants to complete within 60 hours to become a Finisher or within 72 hours to become a Survivor

With Mayank tired, irritable, and on the verge of quitting, Theresa and Bono had to think on their feet. As her husband rested on the benches, Theresa smartly decided to swap places with Bono as the sole crew member permitted for the ferry ride, believing the presence of their 13-year-old son would motivate Mayank to continue. And so Mayank awoke to his son tending to him.

Bono stepped up to the task with professionalism, staying calm and patient even as Mayank complained he couldn’t run on his injured foot. He knew his father well enough to understand that he was too close to the finish line to give up without regretting it, that all he needed was a little recovery before the home stretch.

HK4TUC廖科樂心境決定境界 「四徑辛苦所以更難得」

HK4TUC begins every year on Lunar New Year’s Day, the challenge requires participants to complete within 60 hours to become a Finisher or within 72 hours to become a Survivor
▲HK4TUC begins every year on Lunar New Year’s Day, the challenge requires participants to complete within 60 hours to become a Finisher or within 72 hours to become a Survivor
My son kept saying positive things to me. He told me that he would apply running tape around my foot, which he did almost like a medic.

Hearing the call for the 7AM ferry, father and son planned their next step: they would decide whether or not to continue after sailing to Mui Wo. On the ferry, Bono gave his father more food, while preparing his running gear and nutrition. To Mayank’s surprise, by the time he disembarked, his drive had indeed returned. Despite his still-swollen foot, he surged onward for another 72km, eager to make up for lost time. He returned to the darkened Mui Po Pier after 13 hours and 33 minutes on the Lantau Trail, barely in time to claim his title.

He had done it. Waiting at the Mui Wo Pier Postbox, beside HK4TUC founder André Blumberg, was his family. He was the last of five Finishers in the 2024 cohort of 19, with five Survivors to follow in the next 12 hours.

I had told my family I was grateful that they are spending their Lunar New Year crewing for me and I would make it up to them. Their reply was ‘Just Finish.’ This became my motto.
Mayank Vaid earned his HK4TUC Finisher,interviewed by Indian newspaper
▲Mayank featured in an Indian newspaper
The Next Step Forward

Will Mayank return to HK4TUC again? Not immediately, though he doesn’t rule it out in the future. For now, he already has his next adventures lined up, including swimming races and triathlons—and, of course, there would be moments to spend with his family.

3 years in a row is a very long time to dedicate to becoming a Finisher. Maybe when I’m 50, I may want to have another go, but that’s still a few years away.

Mayank’s HK4TUC Tips

  1. Try to start the challenge with no injuries (so train accordingly!).
  2. Have a crew who understands your psychology.
  3. Focus on patience, pacing, and nutrition.
  4. Accumulate your endurance over a long period of training. Trail running is an aerobic effort.
  5. Learn to manage sleep deprivation (or plan how to manage it).
  6. Many things won’t go according to plan. Accept it and move on.
  7. Be prepared to fail.

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