Spotlight on the champions

The first Asia Trail Masters in trail running history are Arief Wismoyono from Indonesia, and Ma Yanxing from China. Both were confirmed as the champions two weeks ago, having accumulated most points in races on the Asia Trail Master series' calendar in 2015. Their titles were obtained with panache, as both athletes scored two race victories and places of honour throughout the year. Let's chat with Arief Wismoyono and Ma Yanxing and find out more about who they are and where their hobby - both are non-professional runners - is leading them in the near future. 

Ma Yanxing:
"All people around me who love sports are my idols"

By Xiaozhao Zhao/Kris Van de Velde

Q: Congratulations with your Asia Trail Master title, how does this title make you feel?
MY: I am surprised with this honor, and I feel so happy and excited I became the first women's Asia Trail Master!

Q: You won the Dalian 100 and the Dali 100, which one was the most difficult for you?
I think 2015 Dalian 100km was more difficult than Dali 100. Perhaps because it was my first attempt to race in Dalian.

Q: You also finished second in the Grassland Marathon in Inner Mongolia in summer, are you disappointed you did not win that race as well?
No. I never just focus on my ranking in any races. I am not a professional living on running. For me, attending races is just a great excuse for travelling to some astonishing places, and for socializing there with so many friends who like running as well.

Q: Since when have you been trail running? Do you like it more than road running? Why?
I started trail running in a race in Linhai, Zhejiang Province, in October 2014 and I liked it very much. The reason is very simple, I used to do some mountaineering, so there was a link. 

Q: Do you have a sports idol?
All the people around me who love sports are my idols

Q: What is your best time on the road marathon?
I ran 2 hours and 50 minutes in the 2015 Beijing Marathon last September. 

Q: You live in Shanghai, where do you go training for long distance running in such a big city?
I do treadmill workouts and swimming. 20km is about the longest distance during my road running training.

Q: Have you done any races outside of China?
I have finished marathons in Bangkok and Prague (Czech Republic).

Q: Which races are you dreaming of?
I am eager to try UTMB in France one day in the future.

Q: What is the hardest part of an ultra trail race in your opinion? Did you ever feel like giving up during a race?
I tend to consider aborting the race just before the start...., but actually I just think about this and have never quit once underway. 

Q: By winning the Asia Trail Master championship, you will get quite some attention in 2016 and also be invited to take part in the 1st race of next year's series, Ultra Trail Hong Kong. Are you looking forward to that?
 It is my great honor to be invited to the UTHK as the female champion of 2015 Asia Trail Master series, but unfortunately I cannot go to Hong Kong at that time due to my working schedule and arrangements. In fact, mainly it is my friends who plan my races as they have all the information and know what is possible and what is not. I am registered for the Tsaigu Tangsi Plus race in Linhai in April [China's SuperTrail event in 2016, kvdv]. 

Q: What do you think about the development of trail running in China?
Much like the trend in western countries, I think trail running will continue to boom in China. The number of runners will keep increasing. But the runners will choose and select races based on the assessment from others, so the demands on organisers will increase, too. 

Q: Last week you finished 2nd female in The North Face Hong Kong, how was your experience in one of the oldest and most critically acclaimed trail races in Asia?
The course is well-maintained with good views, challenging terrain and appropriate weather for racing, which means not too hot.  Plus, participants were polite and environment-friendly. The race is recommended, but as for any 100km race, basic knowledge and trail running experience is definitely required. 

Ma Yanxing won the Dalian 100 Ultra in April and the Dali 100 Ultra in October. In between she also scored second place in the Grassland Marathon in Inner Mongolia, TNF Hong Kong in December and ran a 2:50 road marathon in Beijing. She accumulated 1005 points for the Asia Trail Master ranking, 63 points more than Indonesia's Mila Marlina and 105 more than Malaysia's Tan Seow Ping. 

Arief Wismoyono, pain in knees, ankles and toes:
"Ullas was a true challenger"

By K. Van de Velde

Q: Congratulations with your Asia Trail Master title, how does this title make you feel?
AW: Amazing! I feel happy for sure, also to be able to be competitive with foreign trail runners, especially in the Mount Rinjani Ultra.

Q: You won the Mount Rinjani Ultra and the MesaStila Challenge, which one was the most difficult for you?
Mount Rinjani Ultra is more difficult, although the distance is only 52km. The elevation gain of nearly 6000m is similar with the Mesastila Challenge 100k.  It takes a huge effort  to reach the very summit of Rinjani (3700m above sea level, kvdv)

Q: You had a very tough race on Bromo, how did you suffer the injury?
At kilometer 30, my knees began to ache. When that happened, I began to rely a lot more on my ankles, especially when running downhill. This then made my ankles hurt, too. So, I spent half of the race with pain in the knees, ankle and toes.

Q: Were you afraid that Ullas Narayana would take away the lead in the Asia Trail Master ranking? Did you think of giving up?
It never crossed my mind to give up. With Ullas being in the Bromo Tengger Semeru 100 Ultra it made me even excited, he was a true challenger. Whatever happens, I will still compete and give as much effort as possible.

Q: What is your biggest strength in trail running?
My Mental state of mind. I will finish what I started.

Q: Since when have you started trail running? Do you like it more than road running? Why?
Since two years I do this sport. When I first ran to the mountain, I immediately liked it. Running in the forest at midnight, alone, made me feel brave. During a trail run, my mind and body become more calm and fresh.

Q: Do you have a sports idol?
Muhammad Ali. It takes hard work and discipline to be able to be in the ring for 15 rounds.

Q: What do you do as a job every day?
I work as an elementary school teacher in Bandung, a city in West Java and the third biggest in Indonesia

Q: Have you done any races outside of Indonesia? 
Not yet. Vibram HK 100 which is held in January 2016 will be the first race abroad for me.

Q: Which races are you dreaming of?
UTMB. I want to feel a different atmosphere running with world trail runners.

Q: Next year there will again be several races in Indonesia where runners can score points the championship. Which race are you looking forward to most?
Mount Rinjani Ultra. That race makes me want to come back. Of course, also with a view to score a better time record. Also, Bromo Tengger Semeru 100 Ultra, it would be wonderful if we can do the route toKalimati in 2016.  I hope to get many points in Asia Trail Master competition again.

Ijen Trail is a new event on the ATM calendar next year, what was your experience in that race this year? 
Blue fire, there are only two in the world and I saw one of them in the Ijen race. Running in the mountains of beautiful Ijen, passing through coffee plantations, meeting friendly locals, it makes me have to go back there.

Q: What do you think about the development of trail running in Indonesia?
Although it’s not as popular as road running yet, trail running has now begun to develop and is followedby many runners bothfrom Indonesia and from foreign countries. This can be seen from numbers of participants in trail running events, and the emergence of various trail running communities, one of them, BDG Explorer,  is in my city in Bandung. Together with them, I am able to do many events throughout the year. 

Why should foreign runners come to Indonesia and do races in your country?
If they want more challenge, then they should come to Indonesia. Complete terrain characteristics, beautiful scenery, friendly locals and holds customs. In addition, they will find a lot of climbs.

Finally, what is your favourite piece of music when running? Do you have it on mp3?
I never listen to music when I run. The sound of nature makes me more focused and excited.

Thank you and good luck in 2016!

Arief Wismoyono burst onto the Asia Trail Master scene in August when he became the first Indonesian runner to win the brutal Mount Rinjani Ultra on Lombok Island. Later in October he also put the MesaStila Peaks Challenge on his record, and scored places of honour in a.o. Ijen Trail Running. Despite injuries, he finished sixth in the Bromo Tengger Semeru Ultra 170, securing his Asia Trail Master title ahead of India's Ullas Narayana with 1362 points against 1302. Patrick Singh from Guyanan accumulated enough points in stage races to get third place.