Martin Cai is a Race Director at The Green Race (TGR), an organisation working towards the creation of sustainable trail running events in Hong Kong. They provide finishers with sustainable options for medals, vouchers from sponsors and additional racepack items. Vision and collaboration with other like-minded organisations is enabling them to build a loyal community of GreenRace runners across Hong Kong. They are also expanding to other countries in Asia, including Japan and Singapore.
We caught Martin on a ferry ride to Mui Wo, with the entire team and runners heading for a training run on a Sunday morning.
Native to Canada, Martin has been running since he was a teenager. But as many other expats, he switched to trail running as soon as he moved to Hong Kong nearly 7 years ago. Working in corporate finance with an education in Resource Management from The University of British Columbia, his new passion has always been the outdoors. Starting up the GreenRace was an opportunity to get back out to the green side of things once again.
LOOPUNITE. So how did you start TGR? And why Green?
Martin. The more I was running, the more I was feeling guilty about the waste generated at running events. At the same time I started looking for a personal trainer and met Vlad Ixel and Etienne Rodriguez just over 2 years ago. Through a few attempts and learns, The GreenRace was born and the rest has quickly become history!
LU. How challenging was it to convince people to join your races? A green agenda may not have been at the forefront of runners minds as much as it is today.
Martin. We are focusing on creating a greater benefit than all those medals and goodies’ bags. People think you need to give up so much for a green lifestyle. It’s not true. You can have almost everything and be closer to wasteless than you may think. We are working to create more value for the runners without necessarily telling them what they should or should not do to ‘save the earth’. There is a very thin line between urging people to go green and schooling them.
LU. Was it easy to find the sustainable solutions in Hong Kong? How did you manage the logistical side of your races? Does it include more costs?
Martin. There is nothing that can’t be done in Hong Kong with a bit of will – Where there is a market there is a way. Once we started exploring the opportunities, we felt connected to the entire community. Financially, it’s been challenging in the beginning as better quality can mean higher costs, be it a compostable bag or high quality T-shirt that lasts longer or is made from natural fibres. In just over two years, we have managed to become profitable and help change perceptions around how these sorts of events can be just as fun without the trail of waste. It’s great to see Hong Kong in action – Keep your friend close, keep you direct competition even closer! Hong Kong business thrives with direct competition ‘setting up shop’ right up alongside you. We’re all learning from each other – and making trail running better for everyone, including Mother Nature.
LU. What are your future plans? Do you see your community growing?
Martin. Heading into 2018, we find ourselves within our 3rd financial year already! I can think of no other place on the face of the earth, where time moves as quickly as it does in Hong Kong and we still have a very long list of work items. This is a very big year for us – we feel we have invested our time, passion, and capital into creating brand and loyal following. Our definite focus is on quality. We now have a great responsibility to continue innovating and surprising with new green focused ideas that can help make life better for all of us in Hong Kong, one sustainably sourced bamboo fork at a time #noplasticforks! We are especially grateful to Loop Unite for partnering with GreenRace to jointly create what we hope will be some of the cleanest and greenest top end trail running events in Hong Kong.