Hong Kong’s hills are a challenge for runners, so a flat run high above the city provides a welcome respite. Just beware the doggie serial killer…
About the author: Hello! I’m Laura Mannering and I’m the editor of World Out There. I try to run wherever I am and love getting out for a jog to explore somewhere new. WOT’s global running route series is a guide to some of my favourite trails and those of my guest writers. These routes are a great way to get to a know a place and connect with local daily life.
Running in Hong Kong usually involves hills. Not the rolling gentle type. The almost-vertical, possibly-going-to-ping-a-calf variety. Which is why so many runners head to Bowen Road fitness trail.
Hong Kong Island’s most famous running route cuts along a hill side, high above the skyscrapers, is lined with greenery and, more importantly, is flat. The 4km path connects the Mid-Levels neighbourhood, just off Magazine Gap Road, to the junction with Stubbs Road further east.
Car-free most of the way, it overlooks Hong Kong’s spikey concrete-and-glass skyline – the views across the buildings are best in the evening, when zig-zag lights illuminate the Bank of China, the cylindrical Hopewell Centre bears multi-coloured stripes and the domineering spire of Central Plaza stands out against a dark, often cloud-misted sky.
On an evening run, nocturnal wildlife chirrups, tweets and calls, and the looming shadows of trees fall across the fairly well-lit path – the latest I’ve run up there is around 9pm, but I have been told the route stays lit until 10pm.
Morning runs on Bowen Road are the ones I enjoy most – incense sticks seep smoke at the small shrines that line the route and elderly Hong Kongers pace along slowly, passing the time of day as they cross each others’ paths.
In what looks like a masochistic morning ritual, these spry older Hongkongers ball up their fists and hit their own legs and armpits to get the blood flowing; others hoik their legs up over railings with youthful suppleness to stretch their muscles; some practise tai chi.
If you make it to Bowen Road by around 7am, the route is still quiet and there’s a sense of calm before the storm of another busy day. On a perfect November morning, when the heat and humidity of summer have blown away, breezes move gently between the banyan trees, and banks of dense foliage leading up the hill away from the city look cool and green.
The best-known landmark on Bowen Road is Lover’s Rock, not far after you cross Wan Chai Gap Road, heading east. Steps lead up past a sheltered shrine to this phallic tower of stone reaching out over the city, believed to have the power to grant a happy marriage. Whether or not you want to send up a prayer for your love life, the views across the city are beautiful.
A more sinister legend attached to Bowen Road is that of its infamous dog poisoner – the serial doggie killer is said to have operated along the route for the past 20 years and is so feared that warnings are posted along the path.
Whoever the killer is, he or she has the pick of the city’s most pampered pups here – all shapes and sizes, coiffed beyond belief, their fur scraped up into hair-bands and paws protected by rubber-soled ankle socks, they are paraded along Bowen Road from dawn until dusk, usually being walked by their owners’ maids.
For optimum people- and dog-watching head up to Bowen Road in the middle of the day, especially at weekends, when the track is at its busiest.
Whenever you go, Bowen Road offers a welcome respite from the hustle of the city below, a window onto life beyond the skyscrapers and an easy alternative to Hong Kong’s hillier running trails.