Salomon Wettstein attempts to break ‘Four Trails’ marathon record

19 February 2021 3 min. read
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Synpulse partner and Hong Kong head Salomon Wettstein was aiming to break the 50-hour barrier in this year’s ‘Four Trails’ ultra-marathon held over the Lunar New Year.

The consulting industry is notorious for its marathon hours and long distance travel. Yet one senior consultant in Asia has taken that concept to the next level, by attempting to run almost 300 kilometres in under 50 hours. Synpulse partner and Hong Kong managing director Salomon Wettstein was aiming to break the 298 kilometre Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge marathon record of 53 hours – and be the first person to dip below the 50-hour mark.

Born in Switzerland, Wettstein has been with Synpulse in Hong Kong since 2011 – earning partnership in 2019 – and would have surely faced numerous complex business challenges during his decade-long stint with the financial services management consulting firm. But none were likely to have been as gruelling as trying to keep up an average pace of 6 km/ph for more than two full straight days – while covering a distance greater than Hong Kong to Guangzhou and back.

Salomon Wettstein, Partner, Synpulse

Not that the distance itself would pose a problem. The strategic business and tech transformation specialist had in 2018 already completed the circuit – which links four of Hong Kong’s toughest long-distance trails with no support or checkpoints – clocking in in first place at a touch over 56 hours; just three short of the record-holder and as only the fifth runner at the time to be classified as a ‘finisher’. To help keep motivated, this time Wettstein was hoping to go one better.

Preparations spanned an entire year, with Wettstein bringing his analytical consulting wares to the table through meticulous planning. As reported by the South China Morning Post, this included everything from the weight of his running shoes for specific trail sections to differing nutrition depending on the weather, assessed down to the finest detail. Perhaps not surprisingly, the consultant even compiled a vast array of spreadsheets to help meet the challenge.

As the Post put it, Wettstein was in essence “project managing” his body and objectives. Effectively like tapping into an operational improvement mindset, his mission for the 10th anniversary ‘HK4TUC’ race was to be 10 percent more efficient in every manageable respect; e.g. “10 percent more speed training and 10 percent more powerful when climbing.” His training volume was doubled, with Wettstein racking up over 100 kilometres of running most weeks in the build-up.

Held over the Lunar New Year, Wettstein was to ultimately finish agonisingly short of his goal, with fellow ultra distance runner Jacky Leung claiming the race honours and achieving the sub-50 hour grail with a time of 49 hours and 21 minutes. Nevertheless, Wettstein fought through agonising pain to notch the second-fastest time in event history, crossing the line in 51 hours and 53 minutes after falling behind schedule and battling serious doubts over whether he could complete the race.

“My goal was gone. I had already quit,” he said. “But then something happened. My wife Manu came and she played all these messages and I burst into tears. I’m not an emotional person. All different kinds of runners, all different kinds of friends, and I was blown away,” Wettstein recalled to the Post in what was a significant turnaround from his pre-race sentiments, when he stated that he’d likely throw in the towel if he wasn’t on pace to break the 50-hour barrier.

Post-race, Wettstein also demonstrated another highly valuable consulting skill; a team-based mentality. “When I knew breaking 50 was not going to happen, time became irrelevant. But I was so happy that Jacky passed me and looked so strong. I wanted someone to prove it was possible and it didn’t have to be me,” Wettstein concluded. “For me, this is the summary of the Four Trails. Four Trails is way bigger than individual goals, any time, any victory or any achievement.”