VMM: Hung Hai up against Tomohiro Mizukoshi
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One week after Borneo TMBT, we move on to another classic on the Southeast Asian trail calendar, the VIetnam Mountain Marathon. Taking place in the northwestern ethnic mountain area in Sapa, VMM is arguably also the toughest in the country where trail running has seen an incredible boom over the past two years. New local hero Hung Hai will be trying to win the 100km again after his phenomenal run a year ago.

Hung Hai has been training in the Sapa area for quite some time to prepare. It will be needed because Tokyo’s Tomohiro Mizukoshi will be at the start this weekend and he is in better shape than he was in May for the Vietnam Jungle Marathon. On paper these two look like the main guys to watch on the 100k, which this year has a slightly new course with the addition of one more climb. However, Nguyen Duc Quang - who finished together as 2nd with Hung Hai in VJM 70 and has more experience - is another serious contender. The Vietnamese stars are not playing an active role in the Asia Trail Master Championship so far this season, but a second podium this weekend could of course still be a stimulant for more in the remaining races. For injury-prone Tomohiro, VMM presents an opportunity to boost his total points and edge closer to Championship points leaders Hisashi Kitamura, John Ellis and Milton Amat.

VMM is one of those races in a “new market” with lots of unknowns on the start list so there’s potentially a lot of strong contenders. One international runner who is of course very well-known is Francesca Canepa, the Italian Uglow runner who should be the leading lady on the 100 km this weekend. However, trail in Asia is not the same as in continental Europe and there lies the chance for other competitors such as Habiba Benahmed, who is improving race by race and getting closer to her best performance level again.

The 70 km option, which is actually the original VMM race category, seems to have a wider range of podium contenders this year. As 70k is a Grandmaster race distance, the winner here will still go home with 370 ATM Championship poins in the bag. The 100k winners of course collect 500. On the 70 we will find athletes such as Mads Louring, who is in-form and more than solid on the medium distance. Margono from Indonesia is making his occasional start in a trail race again. The national speed walker has a pedigree in fast trails such as Sungai Menyala Forest Trail and Tahura Trail, and it will be interesting to see how he fares on the more technical, mountainous and slightly longer course of VMM. Aaron Ong from Singapore can be expected to challenge for the podium.

In the women’s 70km we have Julia “Sugar” Nguyen Thi Duong who will be trying to please her home crowd. Hong Kong’s Jcy Ho will be in it for sure - but just a week after a strong 3rd place in Borneo TMBT she may not be at her freshest.

Julia Nguyen Thi Duong won VJM 70 last year

Julia Nguyen Thi Duong won VJM 70 last year

Hung Hai: new Vietnamese running ace

Hung Hai: new Vietnamese running ace

Tomohiro Mizukoshi: a prime candidate for the race win in VMM 100

Tomohiro Mizukoshi: a prime candidate for the race win in VMM 100

Third place last week on Borneo: what’s in it this weekend for Jcy Ho?

Third place last week on Borneo: what’s in it this weekend for Jcy Ho?

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We expect several new names to appear on the leaderboard this weekend, and ATM is of course present in Sapa for live coverage on our facebook page.

Borneo TMBT 100: Amazing Amat conquers home race!
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The 9th edition of Borneo TMBT 100 goes into the history books as one of the most exciting, if not the most exciting! In both the men’s and women’s main race the decision fell in the final 10 km of the classic race in Sabah, East Malaysia. The local crowd had a lot to cheer about, as home favourite Milton Amat delivered his best racing performance ever in outbluffing the once again amazing Hisashi Kitamura for a superb victory. The Uglow Malaysia duo fought an amazing battle at the end of the race, after Alessandro Sherpa settled for third place.

Milton Amat was in great shape and he could not hide it for long. He dropped his fellow Sabahan Daved Simpat, who won TMBT a year ago, and the other main contenders already going into WS 4 at km 36. Amat would stay solo in the lead for the rest of the race until the meanwhile inevitable Hisashi KItamura began the chase in earnest. Alessandro Sherpa, adopting a more conservative race strategy this time around, kept himself in the mix as well. Daved Simpat, however, decided to DNF after 60km. His sore ankle began to hurt too much once again.

 Kitamura perfomed his famous ‘Karate Kit’ jump to indicate his intention to attack, but his first attack proved fruitless. Even Sherpa came back to him eventually, and Amat remained out of reach. In fact, at WS 9 the gap had increased again to 20 minutes - the biggest it had ever been!

Not for the first time this year, Hisashi Kitamura showed incredible grit and gave it his all. The next two sections to WS 11 were mainly downhill and the Japanese used his natural running advantage. It was here that Sherpa had to let go once and for all. Kitamura was flying and minute by minute he edged closer to Milton Amat - as could be seen on the fantastic Dot Track Asia map, showing each runner’s GPS locations. In the approach to the final aid station WS 11, Kitamura caught Amat and passed him straightaway! The stunned Sabahan had no immediate response. But… and this is the great bit: Milton Amat kept his head cool and did not give up! The last 10km to the finish of TMBT are all gradually uphill and mostly on road. Amat has the advantage over Kitamura on that type of terrain…. and indeed: he crept closer and closer to the struggling leader and caught him again with 8k to go! Now it was the local hero’s turn, catch and pass. Kitamura was dead in the water. Milton Amat stormed to the finish and showed a great deal of emotion , which does not happen often, as he crossed the finish line. A superb performance! Kitamura came in second, exhausted. Sherpa cruised home in third, and Canada’s Jeremy Ritcey came in fourth not too far behind. Ritcey ran a very consistent pace all the way, despite arriving in Kota KInabalu just before the start after a delayed flight. Brunei-based South African Christo Swart made it up to fifth in the race and finished, ahead of Brunei’s Alexander Chung. 

Milton's winning time for the 109 km was 14:22. Kitamura 14:39 and Sherpa 15:24. Milton Amat won his home race for the second time after 2017. Visibly delighted with his second ATM race victory of the season after Mantra Summits Challenge, Amat moves up to third in the Asia Trail Master Championship ranking and remains very much in contention for the title. Kitamura, though, remains the leader.

In the women’s, Japan’s Asuka Nakajima led from the start, but a painful knee slowed her down towards the end. In a situation similar to the men’s race, Guangzhou’s Wen Danyu had never been far away and caught Nakajima on the way to Cp11. Danyu pressed on uphill and took a great first victory in an ATM points race. Despite missing out on her fourth race victory of the season, Nakajima regains the points lead in the Asia Trail Master Championship at the expense of Fredelyn Alberto. It is now obvious that any woman who wants to become ATM Champion this year will need to pass Asuka ‘Bazooka’. Jcy Ho from Hong Kong ran a very consistent race and was third. A result that will push the Oxsitis runner into the top 10 of the ranking, with more to come for sure. Malaysia's Ng Song Hiang was a strong fourth place and first of the home runners.

Wen Danyu's winning time was 17:50. Nakajima came in in 18:04 and Jcy Ho in 18:36. 

Both the men’s and women’s 100k races were pure promotion for the sport of trail running. A trio of runners giving it their best the whole day and creating the kind of excitement that even non-runners can enjoy. TMBT of course has a well-varied course that lends itself to this, with an ideal mixture of runable and technical sections. The races took place in cool, hazy conditions but were dry. Contrary to the days before, when heavy rainshowers put the organisation under a lot of pressure. A re-route due to a swollen river was implemented right after the start. It meant, a.o. things that the total race distance was increased to 109 km.

The 50k race - always well-stocked in talent but not a points race for the ATM Championship - was won by Kim Jisob from South Korea and Lauren Woodhouse from Great Britain.

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Borneo TMBT 100: Sherpa & Amat to chase Kitamura
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Two classic South East Asian trail running races back-to-back now with Borneo TMBT Ultra this Saturday and Vietnam Mountain Marathon next week. TMBT continues to attract a lot of people to Sabah, one of the East Malaysian states on the island of Borneo. It’s an event with a lot of categories, but the 100K remains the flagship and even the most popular one. It is indeed a 100K that many people argue “you can do”. However, this is by no means a walk in the park and besides the tropical humidity, heavy rainfall can cause muddy, slippery trails at all times.

Quite some international trail and spartan stars have been invited to the event this weekend, but nearly all of them are running the shorter distances. Good news for the Asia Trail Master Championship contenders and especially defending champion Alessandro Sherpa, as they can go for the prestigious race victory and the full 500 ATM Championship points whack! In fact, it is something the Italian desperately needs now if he wants to keep his ambition to retain the ATM title alive. Top favourite this weekend, though, must be local star Milton Amat. Currently 5th in the Championship, Milton can become third with a strong result and winning would reduce some pressure in that sense. Winning his home race is in any case Milton’s dream. He already did so in 2017, but that was jointly with … Sherpa (who made his debut as a ultra trail runner back then!). Last year, Milton came in fourth and quite far down on his fellow Sabahan Daved Simpat. Even youngster Wilsen Singgin (who runs the 50k this weekend) finished ahead. Milton Amat of course will excel if the terrain gets rough. He is slightly disadvantaged if the faster legs in the starting field can make their speed to work. In any case, for all contenders staying ahead of ATM Championship leader Hisashi Kitamura will be essential to prevent the Japanese Uglow ace from earning too much of an advantage. And there we have Kitamura’s goal of the weekend rightaway. Three weeks after his stellar show in Merapoh, he cannot improve on his total points tally - 2575 - at TMBT. His fifth and “worst” result is 500 points for 2nd place in the SuperTrails Dalat and Mantra. At TMBT 100, the winner scores 500. But it is important for Kitamura to beat his opponents in a straight dual just in case down the line in Taiping and TNF Malaysia runners end up with the same number of total points.

There’s a question mark behind the participation of another Sabahan star, Daved Simpat, winner of this race a year ago. He returned injured from Europe last week and will see how he feels. Simpat has not run any ATM races so far this season and does not seem to be a title challenger, therefore. There’s a few dark horses, too, mostly expats. Jono Woodhouse, from Australia but living in Hong Kong, could be most dangerous. Stephen Dundon is another Ozzie who won Merapoh 70k and also scored third in Ijen Trail 70k over the last few weeks. Jeremy Ritcey is coming back after a break and Scott Pugh is an ultra runner who is likely to appear in the top placings of the leaderboard late in the race.

Also in the women’s 100k, a lot of participants and it is hard to know each one’s background. But those 6 women in the poster below will be close to victory and podium for sure! Asuka Nakajima lost her top spot in the Asia Trail Master Championship to Fredelyn Alberto in Thailand two weeks ago, but the Japanese runner can reclaim it on Saturday. Unless she DNF like in Penang Eco, TMBT will be her 5th result of the season and that means a full whack of points still. Being 317 points behind Alberto in the ranking, a top 9 result will do the trick: definitely within reach! Nakajima already won three ATM races in 2019, there’s a good chance that she will be the target for the other title contenders in the next few months. Adelinah Lintanga, however, is the home runner in Sabah and very keen to win this weekend. Lintanga is racing much less this year, and with great competitive effect: she won Penang Eco 100 miles in style! Adelinah has a weak ankle, which hopefully won’t bother her too much. Hong Kong’s Oxsitis ambassador Jcy Ho is on a roll: she ran the 62K in Chiang Mai two weeks ago and came 4th, now she is on the 100k and next week she is also doing Vietnam Mountain Marathon. Jcy Ho made herself known in the 9 Dragons 50/50 earlier this season by coming second, and backed that up with a solid 5th place on the fast Sungai Menyala Forest Trail. A podium at TMBT is a real possibility. Paulina Svoboda, from Czech Republic but living in Singapore, is always a contender. She won MMTF and Merapoh last year, this year she was 4th in Ultimate Tsaigu 80K. Chong Mei Tze from peninsular Malaysia is a newcomer and as she said herself in Merapoh: a newbie in running even! Her relative inexperience still shows, but the pace is there. If she can get it all together, watch out for an upset victory this weekend! From Philippines comes Melanie Hingpit, another dark horse who on given days rises up to the occasion. Finally, we are also interested to see how Evelyn Lek from Singapore will fare. After winning Merapoh 100 and VMM 100 a year ago she has been struggling a bit competitively, but winning aforementioned races proves the ability is there. Also on the start list, but a DNS is Faherina Mohd Esa, who suffered a badly twisted ankle last week.

As usual we will be reporting live from Sabah starting on Friday afternoon and throughout the race on Saturday, which starts at 6 a.m. local time.

Asuka Nakajima can regain the points lead in the ATM Championship at TMBT 100

Asuka Nakajima can regain the points lead in the ATM Championship at TMBT 100

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Candidate Race in Labuan: Wilsen Singgin gets it right!
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Sabah’s Wilsen Singgin has finally got it all nicely together in an ATM-promoted race as he grabbed a very convincing victory in the Labuan Bird Park Ultra, a 2020 Candidate Race. As temperatures reached scorching digits, Singgin from Team Uglow Malaysia, ran away from his experienced fellow Sabahan Safrey Sumping and reached the finish in 7:47. Singgin ran UT Chiang Mai barely a week ago (but got lost, preventing a strong result). and was the runner who collapsed with a heatstroke in Moon 100 just before the end when a 1-2 with Milton Amat was nearly a given. He is known to be a raw diamond who will only get more consistent as he gains experience in trail running. In any case, the pace is already there. Sumping crossed the line 35 minutes (!) later. Guianus Salagan was a solid third in 8:37.

Kona Liau took the victory in the women’s 70k race, finishing ahead of Mailungin Salungin in 10:21:58.

On the 50k, Malaysian Vilbon Madilan finished ahead of Bruneian Muhammad Nor Ali Fullah Haji I. Early race leader Sapirin Sumping missed a marking halfway and lost a lot of time. Zulkarnain Masuyuk and Grandmaster Amirul Tuah from Brunei were next.

First woman was local hero Jessica Binti Suip. She passed early leader Ina Budiyarni from Indonesia, the first ever female Grandmaster in ATM back in 2016. Just passed halfway Budiyarni missed a marking (as several others did) and fell back in the ranking order. Nevertheless, Binti Suip just had too much speed left for anyone to take a well-deserved victory with a big margin at the finish. Budiyarni was second 53 minutes, just ahead of Ti Tijuan Tan.

Labuan is a new destination in the world of ultra and trail running. As this weekend’s event showed, the length of available trails is still on the limited side, but will be extended in the near future. Victoria Sports, as technical organiser of most events on the island, is keen on turning Labuan into a prime venue for distance runners.

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The numbers 1 and 2 on the men’s 50K:

The numbers 1 and 2 on the men’s 50K:

Local Labuan runner Jessica Binti was too fast for anyone else on the 50k for women

Local Labuan runner Jessica Binti was too fast for anyone else on the 50k for women

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UTCM: Christine Loh wins, but Fredelyn Alberto takes points lead
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Japan’s Yuta Matsuyama Matsuyama has won the inaugural edition of Ultra Trail Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. He reached the finish line after a very wet race with a few section shortcuts due to flooding between CP6 and CP9 ahead of Sabah’s Milton Amat, for whom the course was probably a tick too runable, despite the foul conditions. Matsuyama this season already scored a 7th place in Echigo Country Trail in Niigata last June. Japanese runners are doing very well in Asia Trail Master races this season, and we are looking forward to seeing more from Matsuyama as well! For Sabahan Milton Amat, that’s another 450 points for his championship ambitions, but he will be looking to win his next few races to stay within range of Kitamura and Ellis. His Uglow teammate Wilsen Singgin started the rain race very well, but then missed a marking and lost terrain to the front runners.

Sukrit Kaewyoun ran a superb race and stayed ahead of his teammate and race favourite Job Tanapong. Sukrit Kaewyoun is third in the finish and boosts his ATM Championship total points tally. Job Tanapong had to be content with a fourth place today and probably had hoped for more. Much to his credit, he was not looking for excuses and just stated “it was not my day today, I will be back stronger”. His Thai compatriot Yotchai Chaipromma came in closely behind him in fifth. 

As stated above, just like last week in Merapoh in Malaysia, pouring rain caused havoc on the trails around Chiang Mai. Just like then, the organiser in Thailand did very well in quickly setting up a re-route halfway through the 100k race when running conditions became too risky. However, yesterday in Chiang Mai a lot more runners had already passed CP 6, where the shortcut got implemented, and including the first six women of the race...

It is unfortunate that no immediate action was undertaken to correct or at least clearly establish the ranking order of the women’s race at that point in time. This caused a lot of unnecessary confusion and even anger at the finish.

What we know from the checkpoint e-data is that six women passed CP 6 and all six also arrived in the finish in Chiang Mai later on. Christine Loh was first and logically therefore the real winner of the women’s race. Early leader Fredelyn Alberto was second and acknowledged that Christine passed her in the late stage of the race. Alberto, who has previously said to run ‘only’ the 62 km race category, is the new Asia Trail Master Championship leader as a result of this second place in her fifth points result of the season. She takes over from Asuka Nakajima, who has four results so far. Hong Kong-based French woman Habiba Benahmed completed the podium ahead of Siokhar Lim and Natthanan Matthanang. Jassica Lintanga was running third halfway through the race, but eventually came into the finish as number six.

A group with lots of Thai runners actually were the first women to reach the finish, among whom Montha Suntornwit. But these all ran the shorter course after the re-route.

Let’s emphasise that no woman made any error or mistake. It is just an unfortunate circumstance.

The same applies for some men such as Nikom Tongjai. A very solid runner himself, he ran the original non-shortcut course but for some reason finds himself down in 26th place in the race result. Guillaume Degoulet is another one suffering the same fait. Please note that while the top six for women was quite easily for us to assess, ATM is not responsible for the race result. Runners who feel they deserve or should have a better race result should get in touch with the local organiser. We thank you for your understanding.

Yuta Matsuyama is yet another Japanese runner scoring headlines in ATM this season

Yuta Matsuyama is yet another Japanese runner scoring headlines in ATM this season

Sukrit Kaewyoun felt like a fish in the water in Chiang Mai; third place and ahead of Job Tanapong!

Sukrit Kaewyoun felt like a fish in the water in Chiang Mai; third place and ahead of Job Tanapong!

Local hero Cartoon Wipawee is struggling with an injury, yet comfortably won the 62k category

Local hero Cartoon Wipawee is struggling with an injury, yet comfortably won the 62k category

UT Chiang Mai: Amat & Singgin vs Tanapong, part 2
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Ultra Trail Chiang Mai is the second of the 4 Trails Thailand this year and promises a continuation of the battle between the Thai Siangpure Team and Team Uglow Malaysia from Sabah. Over two months ago, Milton Amat and Wilsen Singgin controlled The Moon 100 seemingly easily, until the lights went out for SInggin with less than 3km to go before the finish on the beach of Koh Phangan. Milton showed his sportsmanship in that race to protect and take care of his struggling buddy, but had to accept that Job Tanapong still managed to catch and pass them to take the win. In the context of the Asia Trail Master Championship, we will still need to see how that may or may not affect the eventual outcome in December, yet there is no doubt that Milton Amat did the right thing that day. In any case, Amat already rebounded by dominating Mantra Summits Challenge 116 in Indonesia last month. Moreover, Milton Amat has never looked stronger than this year and some already call him the ‘real’ ATM Championship favourite. He still has some catching up to do on points compared to Hisashi Kitamura or John Ellis, but remember in the end only the best five results count anyway. For the young and upcoming talent Job Tanapong the unexpected victory at Moon 100 seemed to have also provided a boost of confidence. Whereas he was happy to stick with his Siangpure teammates for almost 80km during Moon, Tanapong did not wait for anybody during the Ijen 100 race four weeks ago. It was an impressive and interesting win because Moon 100 and Ijen 100 are completely different kinds of trail races: the former is extremely technical, the other almost entirely runable. This weekend, Sukrit Kaewyoun is also at the start in Chiang Mai. Best-placed Thai in the ATM Championship so far -4th- he will for sure his experience to try and score another podium. More contenders for that are Wasin Monghkolmalee, Mads Louring, and Guillaume Degoulet. There’s also several Japanese runners as yet unfamiliar to ATM - so let’s wait and see!

Wipawee ‘Cartoon’ is the woman to beat this weekend. Also for her it’s a real home race and unless there is someone we don’t know it is hard to see who can keep her away from victory. But of course, to finish first you first need to finish and that is something she failed to do in Moon 100, despite being in the lead after 80 km. Fredelyn Alberto went home with the honours that day and the Filipino is also competing in Chiang Mai, albeit on the 60 km distance. Remember Alberto suffered an ankle injury at Ijen 100 a month ago and she does not want to jeopardise the rest of her season. Uglow’s Jassica Lintanga is a podium candidate wherever she starts, but the Sabahan has always been more competitive on the medium than on the long distances. Montha Suntornwit is exactly the opposite: it cannot be long enough for her - winner of UTCR 230 last year and already two third places in ATM races this season. Two more Malaysians certainly also will be in the mix for the podium: Christine Loh, who should find Chiang Mai better suited to her running characteristics than Koh Phangan, and Siokhar ‘Steel’ Lim - currently fifth in the ATM Championship. Last but not least, we shoudld certainly mention Habiba Benahmed. Originally from France and now residing in Hong Kong, Benahmed has been getting back to her best form throughout the past months and it will be interesting to see what she can do in Chiang Mai. Another Hong Kong ace, Jcy Ho, will stick to the 60km as well this weekend.

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Cartoon Wipawee won the 70km at Ijen Trail last month

Cartoon Wipawee won the 70km at Ijen Trail last month

Team Uglow Malaysia with Milton, Jess and Wilsen

Team Uglow Malaysia with Milton, Jess and Wilsen

Jcy Ho from Hong Kong will be one of the favourites on the 62km this weekend

Jcy Ho from Hong Kong will be one of the favourites on the 62km this weekend




TMMT: "Karate Kit" wins dramatic final edition!
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Malaysia-based Japanese Uglow runner Hisashi Kitamura has become a very serious contender for the Asia Trail Master Championship by winning the Magnificent Merapoh Trail in Malaysia in breathtaking style. After “getting lost” just after CP1 and losing 15 minutes to race leader Alessandro Sherpa, he did not hesitate to start a ferocious chase in pouring rain and caught the Italian by km 41 at CP 4. Knowing he needed nothing else but a win to boost his ATM points total, Kitamura left CP 4 before Sherpa and never looked back. It was astonishing bravery. A year ago, Kitamura was beaten by the same Alessandro Sherpa in this race by one-and-a-half hours.

The weather deteriorated in the middle of the night and caused flash floods. What was already very tricky in river one early in the race became outright dangerous for the next big river crossing between CP4 and CP5. Kitamura was on such a “runner’s high” that he did not care about anything but pushing forward. He entered the river when Sherpa and Ong decided two-three minutes later that it was '‘too dangerous”. Kitamura later admitted he had to swim across against a strong current that “even pushed him back 50 metres” at some point. There was no question that his chasers made the right decision to stop and turn back. The race organisers, who were very reactive to the sudden circumstances and deserve a lot of credit for that, agreed that it had become too dangerous for runners to cross that river and re-routed the course back to a road that also led to the next checkpoint (7). The only alternative would have been to stop the race. For a brief moment, people got concerned about Kitamura’s well-being as he was the only one who had gone in … and through the river. The flamboyant Uglow runner emerged on the original trail and was in good spirits. Still in the lead, the adrenaline pushed him forward on the road diversion and he increased his advantage to safe margins. “I am faster than the marking!” he shouted when the ATM reporter drove by him in a car. The course markers, who had an excellent response time to the crisis as well, were indeed pushed to the limit by the speed of the race leader. Meanwhile, Steven Ong, the 2017 ATM Champion who suffered from injuries for over a year, was having the best trail race in a very long time and kept on pushing himself. He dropped a fading Sherpa and Chris Koelma and looked set for a great second place.

However, one side effect of the sudden re-route was that the organisers did not have enough time to move the CP 6 aid station from the original location to a new location. At least not for those front runners. As such, they went without aid station for 20 km. Poor Steven Ong, who had accidentally lost one of his bottles early on, began to dehydrate and got very dizzy. Experienced as he is, he decided it was medically unsafe to continue running. Alessandro Sherpa’s blister had also gotten worse, and without a chance to still get a podium, he also decided to DNF at CP 8 (km 80). By that time, Tomohiro Mizukoshi and Seiji Morofuji had already overtaken him and would contest the podium between themselves. Kitamura was far ahead.

When he approached the finish line back in Merapoh town, he even made time to wait until the cameras were in place for his meanwhile trademark ‘flying karate kick’. It was the apotheosis of what was for sure the trail race of his life so far. The progress - through hard work AND analysis - he has made in just 18 months is astonishing.

For Hisashi ‘Karate Kit’ Kitamura it is his 2nd ATM points race victory of the season after Vietnam Jungle Marathon in May, but surely this one is most important. Kitamura earns 50 points today to boost his total to 2575 points and claims the championship lead for himself at the expense of John Ellis (2525 points).  The pressure is now on the Hong Kong-based Australian star… and of course also on others such as Milton Amat, Job Tanapong, Mohamed Affindi, Alessandro Sherpa and so on.

Steven Ong, who was running in a superb second place till CP8, retired from dehydration. Due to the reroute, one checkpoint (6) was left out for the front runners as there was no time to put up a new aid station so quickly. As such, they ran 20k without aid. Alessandro Sherpa repeated this explanation also for his own DNF at the same checkpoint 8 at km 80. Sherpa had led the race until km 40 when Kitamura caught him back quite surprisingly. Already then, Sherpa was struggling with a blister (see our video footage on facebook). That blister got worse and with podium eventually out of the question, he decided to save energy for Borneo TMBT in 3 weeks. Of course, another DNF means he still only has the 550 points from Penang Eco in the 2019 bag… It’s not over yet, and Sherpa proved last year how resilient he can be when the going gets tough but it is high time for him to put in another result.

Tokyo’s Tomohiro Mizukoshi scored his second consecutive podium in TMMT: second again in 11:45 approx. Mizukoshi had an unpleasant experience in one of the early river crossings at nighttime and even thanked Steven Ong for saving his life. Tomohiro apparently got swept away by a strong current in the first river crossing early on. That water level had also risen much higher than normal. One more testimony that the race organisers did the right thing by redirecting the route away from the rivers as of CP4, even if that meant one checkpoint less (for front runners) and more road sections. 

Third place was also for a Japanese runner: Seiji Morofuji, who managed to stay ahead of Malaysian Tan Chong Jen and Ong Wei Keong from Singapore. 

Estzer Csillag is an impressive winner of the women’s race in 12:07 no less. The Hong Kong-based Hungarian made her debut in an Asia Trail Master points race, and crossed the finish line as third overall! Malaysia’s Izzah Hazirah scored a great second place by virtue of a strong second part of the race. Not far behind was Chong Mei Tze, a newbie in trail running and also from Malaysia. Lynil Martinez is experienced enough to handle tough situations and fourth place did not come as a big surprise, but it is nevertheless a great personal result given that she left behind runners such as Carrie Jane Stander and Been Lee.

Live video of Kitamura’s arrival at the finish

Summary of first part of the race till CP 4 (km 41)

Even at km 64, Hisashi Kitamura, by no means certain of his gap over the rest, was unafraid to do his kick!

Even at km 64, Hisashi Kitamura, by no means certain of his gap over the rest, was unafraid to do his kick!

The men’s top five podium of the final edition of TMMT 100

The men’s top five podium of the final edition of TMMT 100

Podium of the women’s 100km minus race winner Eszter Csillag who had to leave earlier

Podium of the women’s 100km minus race winner Eszter Csillag who had to leave earlier

TMMT: Sherpa returns to the Merapoh caves
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This weekend the Asia Trail Master Championship series continues in Malaysia with the fifth and final edition of the Magnificent Merapoh Trail, also known as TMMT. Event organiser Ten Senses announced it would be the last time the event will be held under its ‘Running Project’ umbrella before its team moves to Baling, another venue in the north of the country where there is a need to protect the local environment from logging and mining industries. Since the beginning of TMMT, Merapoh has witnessed a blossoming eco tourism scene that has benefited the local villages’ economy and stalled the deforestation and destruction of the many natural caves in the area, which is on the fringes of the vast and famous Taman Negara National Park. After five years and objectives reached, the management of the annual trail running event and all the expertise it entails is now ‘given’ to the local people. So, while TMMT will cease to exist, there will still be trail running in Merapoh next year!

The overarching meaning of the event has apparently not gone missing. Many runners this weekend are returning to the Merapoh trails and caves, including last year’s entire men’s podium: Alessandro Sherpa, Tomohiro Mizukoshi and Hisashi Kitamura. All three will once again be favourites for the 100km race that starts 3 hours later than usual, though, at midnight. A year ago, exactly those top runners - and others - were argueing that it was a pity they ran for 9 hours through the night and therefore hardly saw anthing at all during the entire race. TMMT is a fast course, namely. Sherpa’s winning time was 11:26 last year. The course is flattish and has a few spicy and technical sections, yet there has always been ’tempo’ in this one. Even despite the 3 km long river crossing, which aside from the four cave crossings is another main feature of this race. The Italian will be looking to win again and collect another 500 championship points. After a quiet start of the year, recovering from surgery, Sherpa returned convincingly in Penang Eco 100k two months ago. He is counting on a strong second part of the season to bring him in a position to retain his ATM title, a battle that is likely to go all the way to the last race: TNF Malaysia Mountain Trail Festival in Taiping on 14/15 December.

But incidentally, Hisashi Kitamura is the one who can claim the points lead in Merapoh. Currently on equal footing with John Ellis (2525 total points each in five races), the Japanese Uglow runner requires a win to boost his total, though. His fifth and “worst result” is 450 points for Sungai Menyala - where he finished second. He has not exactly been resting a lot since his fantastic second place in Mantra Summits Challenge, a technical mountain race that normally does not suit his characteristics as a runner. How much is left in the tank after what has already been a very long and tough campaign for him? His compatriot from Tokyo, Tomohiro Mizukoshi, was faster than him in Merapoh last year and also in the recent 100 miles race of Penang Eco. For Mizukoshi, TMMT is indeed the kind of race that he excels in. Now in fifth of the ATM Championship, Mizukoshi can become third as it will be his fifth result of the season.

What can 2017 Asia Trail Master champion Steven Ong do in Merapoh? It is a race he has not yet done, and Steven is still working his way back to the top after prolonged injury in 2018. If he is in good shape, Uglow Malaysia’s Steven is of course a dangerman for anyone on a 100k distance.

Other podium candidates we know are Thibault Bertrand, third in Ijen 70k three weeks ago, and Grandmaster Yim Heng Fatt, who is always doing well in this race.

In the women’s 100k, it seems quite an open race with Carrie Jane Stander once more toeing the start line this season. The Canadian is third in the ATM championship and only needs 56 points to overtake Veronika Vadovicova for second place again. One of her competitors for the win in Merapoh is likely to be Been Lee, also known as Bikini Been since Moon 100. The South Korean finished second in that very tough race in Thailand and especially showed a lot of grit in that one. There’s several Koreans on the start list, in fact, so we may get to find out some new faces as well. The same applies for the many Malaysians with little to no previous track record in ATM. From Philippines comes Lynil Martinez and she was 6th in Sungai Menyala and 7th in Penang Eco 100k.

Connectivity can be challenging in Merapoh, but our team will be reporting live from the event throughout Saturday on our social media channels.

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ATM Champion Alessandro Sherpa is aiming for a second victory in Merapoh

ATM Champion Alessandro Sherpa is aiming for a second victory in Merapoh

2017 Champion Steven Ong is on the way back. He will be in Merapoh.

2017 Champion Steven Ong is on the way back. He will be in Merapoh.

The Great Malaya Trail is a 2020 Candidate
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The Great Malaya Trail across three states in peninsular Malaysia is the latest new Candidate Race for our 2020 Championship series, scheduled for 19/20 October. Organised by the experienced crew of Team Pacat, the Great Malaya Trail will be a technical race with over 6600 hm elevation gain on the 100 km, making it rather unique for the country - known for its rainforest but unlike Indonesia without the abundance of high mountains. The centre of the event, which also offers 50km, 30km and 16km options, is Taman Negeri Kenaboi, Negeri Sembilan, as finish location for all four race categories.

The event will cross 3 state lines on both the 100k and 50k options: Pahang, Selangor and Negeri Sembilan, and offer 95% of pure trail. Along the way runners will climb several hills, cross streams and rivers and enjoy local hospitality. The event will also offer convenient hotel stay in the Kuala Lumpur Sentral area, from where shuttle bus services can take runners to their relevant starting point ( Kem Ghafar Baba, Kampung Kemensah, Selangor for 100k runners, Pangson Trail Head, Selangor, for 50k runners).

Registration is open via the quality service provided by Checkpoint Asia.

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Milestone: official headlight partner of ATM!

We are proud to present our latest partner in the 2019 Asia Trail Master Championship series: Milestone. Experts in lighting, the Milestone compay produces headlamps that please every trail runner who uses them.

Milestone is indeed a lighting company based in Osaka, Japan. The founder, Shuhei Nishioka, was born in a family that has specialised in lighting business since as far back as 1920. Milestone has mainly focused on headlamps using a Warm White LED (natural warm color) to get better visibility when snowing or getting foggy. Its uniqueness distinguishes Milestone from other brands in the sector.

New in the line of head lamps is the Trailmaster. A very fitting name! The company spent 3 years to produce Trailmaster and is strictly made for serious trail runners. It also matches with a running cap, especially designed to go along with the headlamp and its strap. Milestone proudly produces the Trailmaster in Japan. Every single piece is tested by their professional engineers before packaging.

Below you can checkout the lookbook on Milestone products and deliverables, and you can even order the trail master and other goodies directly online.

Milestone aims to be present at selected ATM promoted events still in the course of the 2019 ATM Championship, including the Final in Taiping. For further inquiries please contact info@asiatrailmaster.com .

Milestone lookbook online

Milestone products for purchase online

Milestone Promo Song:

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