Amputee never quits as Camel Fung heads to the Gobi

When Camel Fung -- the first-ever amputee competitor to complete the Atacama Crossing -- crossed the finish line in 2015, the Hong Kong runner not only completed the race, but won the team competition with his wife Icero Fung and friend Raymond Chak. Fung had joined the Atacama Crossing 2015 as a way to inspire others to never give up, even through life’s most difficult challenges.

The team called themselves “Five Legs Never Quit” and not only did they not quit, they’ve decided to return for June’s Gobi March 2017, while raising money for the Regeneration Charity Fund. Following the Gobi March 2017, Fung and his wife (who will have a different third teammate for June’s race) are planning on competing in The Last Desert 2018.

Calling China’s Gobi Desert “one of the most famous places,” Fung said that he had long wanted to pay the area a visit. “Competing in the Atacama Crossing 2015 was a way for me to overcome my limitations and now I’m looking to take up even greater challenges – the Gobi March 2017 and The Last Desert 2018.  It’s also a good opportunity to encourage others to take on various challenges and to raise awareness about amputees. Of course, the Gobi Desert is beautiful and I would love to explore the Silk Road by foot.”

Fung’s first 4 Deserts race saw him push through a great challenge – made all the more challenging after he noticed a crack between his prothesis and the sole of his hiking boots following the first stage of the Atacama Crossing 2015.

“My performance wasn’t that good to carry on, but I was given a can of Coke and I felt much better after that,” Fung said.

The bonus soft drink made all the difference, and with glue and tape holding his leg together, Fung and his team made it through the next stage. The race had its peaks and lows, the journey being just as important as the destination. Mid-way through the race, Fung’s health took a turn for the worse, but the 4 Deserts medical team was able to get Fung back into race shape. A positive attitude helped keep the team upbeat and Fung would later reflect on the ideas of fear and determination.

“It’s not about how afraid you are, but rather how determined you are,” Fung said at the time. “This is beyond our expectations.”

Fung lost his lower left leg in a traffic accident more than 30 years ago and although he always loved to exercise, the retired administrator only began to pursue running about 14 years ago, after being inspired by his wife, who had been taking part in the Hong Kong Oxfam Trailwalker for more than a decade. In addition to the 4 Deserts, Fung has also competed in Trailwalker, as well as in both the Hong Kong half and full marathon.

An experienced competitor, Fung trains regularly on Hong Kong’s many trails, making sure that he tackles a variety of different terrains and challenging weather conditions to ensure he’s prepared for some of the many different situations that could arise during the race. Like many other veteran 4 Deserts competitors, Fung stresses the importance of preparation and three months from the race’s start line, Fung takes a measured approach. “You can imagine how hard my training is,” Fung wrote on his blog. “Knowledge is also crucial -- you need to get yourself familiar with the information that 4 Deserts provides. It gives you an idea of what you are going to face so you won’t panic.”

Like many competitors, Fung is concerned about the humidity he’ll encounter during the race, but unlike his fellow competitors and tentmates, he also has his own unique challenges, including how to best take care of his prosthetic leg during the race.

“At the Atacama Crossing, my prosthetic leg often got trapped in the sand dunes so I will need to have more protection on that leg,” Fung said.

While Fung offers other sage advice, including the importance of hydration and how to best pack a backpack for the seven-day race, it’s is his advice on the mental preparation that most bears repeating.

“Just be relaxed and long-sighted,” Fung wrote. “Go your own pace and remember to pay attention to your physical condition. Never push yourself too hard or else your body will burn out. It will be a shame if you are not able to recover.”

By Melanie Ho