Below is the video summary of the live broadcasts on the Asia Trail Master facebook page during the Tahura Trail 42K race.
It’s 2019 and it’s tabula rasa! A clean sheet for all runners at the start of the 5th Asia Trail Master Championship series, which kicks off tomorrow in Indonesia with the 7th Tahura Trail in Bandung, West Java. Who will rise to the top in the next 11 months to compete with the established guard on the challenging trails of Asia? The five-best-count rule remains in effect, and runners can score championship points in 30 races across at least 13 countries before the big new final in Taiping, the Malaysia Mountain Trail Festival on 14/15 December! By then we know who the successors are of 2018 ATM Champions Alessandro Sherpa and Ruth Theresia.
The two defending champions will be honoured at the beautiful Tahura Hutan Raya on Sunday morning, as has become custom. Tahura Trail has indeed been the opening event of the Asia Trail Master series since three years and we love it. The 42k trail marathon is a concise summary of everything what trail running is about, and given the moderate race distance the ideal start of anyone’s campaign after the new year’s break. Sherpa and Theresia will not be eyeing the victory on Saturday, however. The Singapore-based Italian underwent long-postponed surgery two weeks ago and is currently unable to race, let alone on the potentially wet and slippery trails of Tahura Trail’s mid-section. Homerunner Theresia opts for the 21K non-ATM distance, as she did last season. Her focus is on the 9 Dragons Ultra in Hong Kong in two weeks’ time, the first SuperTrail in the 2019 ATM Championship, for which she wants to be in top form.
The trail marathon in and around the park in Bandung has a wide open competition, at least on paper. Six to eight runners have a logical chance to emerge victorious in the men’s. Without Jeff Campbell (winner last year) and Abdullah Mitiche (winner 2016, 2017), it could be the big day of Ari Masrudi. The fast Indonesian has been second and fifth in this race and therefore has the experience to time his efforts perhaps better than his rivals. Masrudi has been knocking on the ATM door for some time, and a big win in the season opener would be the protagonist entry he has been looking for. The same applies to BDG youngster Yusuf Aprian. A raw talent who has notched up wins already, but not yet at the level of ATM’s A races. His second place behind Salva Rambla at Ijen 70 just a few months ago does indicate that it is only a matter of time. Aprian making that final step forward in his development would be fantastic. Last year he was 8th in this race. What can we expect from Jakarta’s Christovik Simatupang? A specialist of the shorter trail races, Simatupang is arguably the dark horse of the weekend. If he can keep his pace over the full distance of 42 km, he won’t be far off the podium, which means top 5 in Tahura. Aiming for that will also be Rudy Iskandar. A strong competitor who crossed the finish line in 6th place a year ago. Japan’s Akihede Ando was behind him in 7th, and is also returning on Saturday. But Ando will not be the only Japanese runner with ambition at the starting line: ATM’s Trailmate of the Year, Tomohiro Mizukoshi is making the journey from Tokyo to Tahura to launch his 2019 campaign in the best possible way: a win. Not taking a long rest after a heavy 2018 season in which he took 3rd place in the Championship, Mizukoshi has tasted victory before in Indonesia, winning the Plataran X Trail in Bali last October. His running speed is quick and he knows how to cope with mud and technical sections, yet is 42 km long enough for Mizukoshi to make the difference? For Malaysia’s Mohammad Affindi the marathon distance may be just right. Always quick out of the blocks, Affindi may find a trail course made for his characteristics and yes, he is motivated to launch his new ATM campaign with a bang. Finally, what can Spaniard Pablo Diago Gonzales do at Tahura? Everyone knows who strong he is on the most technical and toughest of races - see Mantra Summits Challenge - but he is actually also a fast road runner on a good day. Diago Gonzales won three ATM races over 70 km in 2017, two of them in Indonesia, and finished 4th and 5th in the Championship in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Never underestimate him! Another born European who will feature up front is Wilhelmus Van Vliet, winner of the 21K race last year and now moving up to the A-race of 42 km.
The participation of Margono, the Indonesian speed-walker who was second behind Campbell and ahead of Sherpa last year, is still in doubt. If he turns up, Margono of course becomes a top contender for the race win as well. What is certain, however, is that Bandung’s number one Arief Wismoyono won’t be competing this weekend as work duties prevent him from doing so.
In the women’s race all eyes will be cast on Sri Wahyuni, the number 3 of the 2018 ATM Championship and of this race as well. The Surabayan runner often made races a bit harder than anticipated for Ruth Theresia last year, and could grab her first career ATM race win. Already a Grandmaster as well, Wahyuni has incredible grit and always gives it her all. Of course, a maiden victory won’t be given to her on a silver platter. On paper, she may receive the sternest challenge from a Japanese runner who has a 3:20 pace on the road marathon: Asuka Nakajima. Based in Indonesia, Nakajima is making her debut in ATM and it will be fascinating to see how she fares in Tahura Trail. Others eyeing a podium result will be Mila Marlina, Novita Wulandari, Ping Yanti and Siti Nuraini.
Asia Trail Master will be covering the opening race of the new season extensively via social media as usual. As of 6 am on Saturday, Jakarta time, we will start with our multimedia coverage, including live video broadcasts. Just go to our Facebook ATM page to follow the event.
A great deal awaits trail runners who wish to compete in the Thailand events organised by teelakow of the 2019 Asia Trail Master Championship series. Get four entries when paying for three! This is a limited offer valid for just two weeks online and at the official press conference in Bangkok on 19 January.
Four Trails Thailand connects four ultra trail races together: The Moon 100 on Kho Phangan (June), Ultra Trail Chiang Mai (August), Ultra Trail Chiang Rai (October) and Ultra Trail Panoramic (December). The latter two are established events already, of which Chiang Rai also receives the Asia Trail Master SuperTrail label for Thailand. All four events have points races for the ATM Championship.
Check the poster and plan your Thai races!
We are grateful to so many of you who took part in our end-of-season poll a few weeks ago and provided us also with useful feedback on Asia Trail Master. Some of you raised interesting points we had never though of before, others confirmed our own hunches on the current state of Asian trail running and the direction we would like to go next. Once again, thank you so much.
Now to the ‘fun’ aspect of the end-of-season poll and the announcement of the winners in the various categories we set up. The winners will receive an award at the beginning of the 2019 season.
Similarly, of all people who contributed to the poll non-anonymously we will elect a winner who gets a free race entry to his ATM event of choice in 2019.
ATM Runner of the Year
Women beat men. Our female champion Ruth Theresia from Indonesia gets the top honour with a clear margin over her Filipino runner-up, Aggy Sabanal, and even male champion Alessandro Sherpa. Perhaps not so surprising, after all, given that Ruth won 6 ATM races during the 2018 season, double as many as Sherpa. Ruth also became the first 3-star Grandmaster in ATM history with 15 finishes.
Ruth Theresia - 43%
Aggy Sabanal - 22%
Alessandro Sherpa - 15%
2. Most exciting New Kid on the Block (young talent male)
Many voters chose different runners for this category, but we do have a winner with 16% of total votes: Davao youngster Elias Tabac, who burst onto the ATM scene in February with a superb win at Pilipinas Akyathlon. However, it was his Mantra Summits Challenge victory in Indonesia, his first ever race abroad, that was stuff of legends. Coming from far behind after breaking his headlamp at night time, he sprinted passed the shocked Pablo Diago Gonzales in the final kilometre with bleeding feet in completely destroyed shoes. Tabac sank to the ground immediately after the line and had to empty his stomach to boot. Elias had an unfortunate DNF at Plataran X Trail Bali later in October, but nevertheless he is officially ‘the most exciting NKOTB’ of 2018.
Behind Tabac, other runners such as Milton Amat, John Ray Onifa, Carlo Chiong and Rhenaldi Firdaus received quite a number of votes.
3. Most exciting New Girl on the Block (young talent female)
It was much easier apparently to choose a female winner in this category. The 21-year-old student from Mindanao, now living in Manila, got a massive 41% winning score! Sabanal is hailed as a strong mountain and technical runner, which she also proved by winning Rizal Mountain Run and Mt Apo Sky Race, but late in December she proved she can also run a good pace during the Izu Trail Journey.
The bulk of other votes went to Sri Wahyuni, Izzah Hazirah, Erin Aziz, Novena Manacnes and Siokhar Lim
4. Best Event in ATM
Cordillera Mountain Ultra
It was quite tight between two so-called Baguio races, the mountain area of Luzon in Philippines called Cordillera is clearly a favourite playground for many of you. With 18% of total votes, Cordillera Mountain Ultra defeats Pilipinas Akyathlon (16%)! Interestingly perhaps, both events had a 50k - even a bit less - as main race distance, so not a 100k.
Many votes were also cast for Borneo TMBT Ultra, Magnificent Merapoh Trail, Izu Trail Journey, 9 Dragons Ultra and Bandung Ultra.
5. Best Race Director (in ATM)
The race director of the best event of 2018 also gets the thumbs up of 25% of voters, a bigger winning margin even. Kian Vicera of Akyathlon takes third place in this category with Heru Prabowo of Mantra Summits Challenge taking second place. Just off the podium in this category we see the names of Tatsuo Chiba (Izu Trail Journey) and Dian Sukmara (BDG 100).
6. Best Runner's Coach (in ATM)
The Bandung Explorer Team from West Java in Indonesia has been a source of well-trained and technically proficient trail runners since the beginning of Asia Trail Master. Arief Wismoyono was our male champion in 2015 and has been consistently in the top six ever since. Ruth Theresia has just won the female ATM title. Their coach is Rudy Dimyana, who seems a logical choice as winner of this category with 23% of total votes (a lot of people left this category blank). Rudy is currently also preparing for the transition of Margono from speed walking to trail running, and has an exciting newcomer in his ranks for the 2019 season: Yusuf Aprian.
Other coaches who received a fair share of votes were Majell Backhausen, Jon Fong and Andy Debois.
7. Favourite Trail Section of the Year
Nishina Pass @ Izu Trail Journey Pineapple Ridge @ Borneo TMBT Ultra
This was of course a very open category and runners also voted for wide range of trail sections that featured in one of the ATM points races in 2018. Still, two sections came up multiple times and are a joint-winner: the Nishina Pass halfway through the Izu Trail Journey in Japan, with its fantastic views of Mt Fuji and the bay, and the Pineapple Ridge during the Borneo TMBT Ultra 100.
Both trails scored exactly 1 vote more than the caves of The Magnificent Merapoh Trail.
8. Apparel Brand of the Year
Still the best trail clothes for most of you: Salomon. The traditional brand from France outscores COMPRESSPORT by a comfortable margin. Exciting to see start-up brand T8 from Hong Kong equalling third place with The North Face!
Salomon - 21%
Compressport - 12%
T8 - 8%
North Face - 8%
9. Trail footwear of the Year
HOKA One One
It has become nearly impossible not to notice Hoka One One at trail events across Asia. The brand is seemingly everywhere and their investments pay off as they beat Salomon hands-down in this category. Altra is third with a few votes more than Columbia.
Hoka One One - 36%
Salomon - 19%
Altra - 14%
10. Nutrition Brand of the Year
A tie in this category: the French and the American brands score 25% of total votes. Quite impressive debut in Asia for Overstim’s as it hasn’t been around for much more than a year! GU is not so far behind in third place with 11% of votes.
11. Best Trail Blog/Mag (in Asia)
Asia Trail Master
Actually we did not include this category with having ourselves in mind at all but 43% of you voted for Asia Trail Master :-). For which many thanks, of course! Other blogs and magazines that received votes were Peaks & Penguins, Runhood Magazine, Armchair Jogger and Inspired Trail Runners.
12. Trailmate of the Year (male)
And now the two categories you have all been waiting for: who are the ‘trailmates’ of the year: the sexiest, most attractive and inspiring posterboys and girls of the past season. We received so many different names, even of runners we had never heard of, but at the top of the voting ranking we do have familiar faces. Tokyo’s Roppongi runner Tomohiro Mizukoshi received most votes of all with 14% of the total, marginally more than Indonesia’s Arief Wismoyono and Singapore-based Italian Alessandro Sherpa who both got 11%. The 43-year-old Mizukoshi, wearing his trademark headband, made a name for himself in no fewer than 11 ATM points races this year, winning one in Bali on the way to finishing third in the ATM Championship. Clearly, his journey and style has appealed to many among you.
13. Trailmate of the Year (female)
My goodness she wins absolutely everything: Ruth Theresia is also your favourite female Trailmate of the Year’! Maybe not the biggest surprise as every organiser in ATM wants to see Ruth coming to their events. Her never-ending smile and out-going personality seem to infect a lot of people: 31% of voters chose for our champion in this category. Aggy Sabanal again comes second with 17% and Shindy Patricia from East Java was chosen by 14% of you.
14. Most Watched Video
Elias Tabac’s finish at Mantra Summits Challenge
Finally, our most watched video on facebook with over 18.500 viewers (so far) was the arrival of Elias Tabac as sudden winner of the Mantra Summits Challenge in Malang, East Java, last July. It was a live video during which we were caught by surprise as everyone was waiting for Pablo Diago Gonzales to come in first. Still, the initial shaking footage contributed to the drama of Tabac’s mixture of joy and agony. See it again here:
Finally it is here: the first release of the 2019 Asia Trail Master event calendar. On top of that, we have changed outfit for the upcoming year: hope you all like our new website design and features.
Having said that, please note that the event calendar is of course not yet 100% complete. A number of events are still under discussion, especially those in the second semester of the year. In addition, December 2019 has not been included yet in the current presentation. Three events are scheduled with the championship final planned for the weekend of 14/15 December. These events will be revealed mid-January. What we present today are the events that are confirmed, and we are thrilled to see those events on our list, indeed!
The 2019 season begins with Tahura Trail in Bandung, Indonesia, home base of our 2018 female champion Ruth Theresia. The event on Saturday, 19 January is the ideal season opener with a moderately difficult 42k trail marathon to open the accounts. In total, our objective is to limit the 2019 calendar to maximum 30 events. That’s at least six events less than the past two seasons. Too much of a good thing does not necessarily create extra value and both runners and ATM management need to stay fresh throughout the year to perform. Incidentally, this was also one of the takeaways of our end-of-year poll last week. Many thanks to everyone who took part in the poll.
Events that are interested to join the 2019 Asia Trail Master Championship series therefore need to hurry up. We accept application for Q1 and Q2 until 31 December 2018, and until 31 March for Q3 and Q4. Organisers are kindly invited to contact us via email and attach this application form. Before you apply, please check the current race calendar here on the website. If your event is planned for the same weekend as an event on our calendar, you know what our first question will be.
On the new website, we have created PDF versions of the ATM race calendar, divided by quarter to maintain a decent download speed. Each event also has a cover page containing the ‘Tale of the Trail’, the basic details of the event and tips on how to get there. At all times, we recommend runners to link through the event’s official website as well to read the fine print, especially regarding mandatory gear that can be extensive for some of the longer and more technical races.
Facebook has become increasingly used as a main source of event information. We at ATM make use of our Facebook page a lot and will continue to do so. However, we kindly request everybody not to forget our website. It has all the background on ATM and ATM-promoted events, and most of the questions we receive can be easily answered if you just click to our website page for a minute. In 2019, as you can see, we aim to have several key pages translated into a series of Asian languages.
As every year, some events have left ATM either because they have different priorities or simply because they cease to exist. We feel that the new entries, though, more than make up for those who have left and we welcome them with open arms. Asia Trail Master keeps on maturing and so do the events and their management. Trail running remains a niche in the running industry, but it’s an exciting niche with so many enthusiastic people doing their best to develop the sport here in Asia. Runners might sometimes forget how hard it is to set up a trail running event. Runners deserve all the applause they get, but we kindly appeal to everyone to always keep that in mind when something is not going to your liking in a race. We’ll be having a little break over the new year’s period first, yet we are already looking forward to the fifth season of the Asia Trail Master Championship series beginning with Tahura Trail in Indonesia on 19 January. It’s going to be more exciting and bigger than ever with several new innovations in the pipeline, just waiting to be announced in January. Stay tuned!
2019 - The First Quarter (Q1)
Asia Trail Master End-of-Year Poll: Choose the 'Runner of the Year', 'Event of the Year' , 'Race Director of the Year', 'Favourite trail section of the Year' and more!
As we have come to the end of another season, the fourth in ATM history, we like to get your feedback on all aspects of Asia Trail Master and Asian trail running. And of course, we like to hear from you as well who you see as the best runner or ATM event of the 2018 season. We are also interested in the most popular brands in Asian trail running, and who are the most popular - not necessarily the fastest - runners on the tour.
Participants in the poll who share their email address with us make a chance of winning a free race entry of choice for an ATM-promoted event in 2019.
If instead you like to stay anonymous, no problem, because anonymous is the default setting.
Thank you very much for your time.
Singapore-based Italian Alessandro Sherpa has crowned himself as the new Asia Trail Master champion after beating his main challenger Salva Rambla in a straight dual during the Izu Trail Journey in Japan. Sherpa succeeds Malaysian Steven Ong as ATM champion. In the final 2018 ranking, Rambla is second and Japan’s Tomohiro Mizukoshi third. The iconic 72km long Izu Trail Journey itself was won surprisingly by Fuji-homeboy Ko Ito and the returning Yumiko Oichi in the women’s category.
After the Compressport Trail Blazer in Singapore, Salva Rambla had a psychological advantage over a still-injured Sherpa going into the big Japan final. In addition, Tomohiro Mizukoshi was running in the area he grew up in, and not for the first time. As Rambla more or less had to win the race of the ATM championship contenders (only runners who did two ATM races in 2018 are eligible for points in the season’s final), Mizukoshi was announced as the King Maker, who could make life even harder for Sherpa to retain his 130-points-lead in the championship. As last year, Izu Trail Journey was a brilliant ending to our championship, and six runners ranked in the top ten were present at the start line: Sherpa, Rambla and Mizukoshi, but also Diago Gonzales, Kitamura and Sungsik Joh.
It was cold again on race day, yet nowhere near the arctic conditions of last year when runners even found snow and ice on the way. Alessandro Sherpa had had a good night of sleep apparently, as rather than sitting back and following Salva Rambla he crossed the first checkpoint after km 10 as leader in the race together with former Izu winner Tomohiro Tsuji. Rambla was two minutes back in the main group of favourites. As the terrain became hillier, the local lightweight Japanese runners moved up the leaderboard. Four runners went ahead, with Sherpa and Rambla just behind and Hong Kong-based Frenchman Pierre-Andrew Ferriere gradually edging closer as well. Ferriere is on the Gone Running Team and had been announced as being in top shape for Izu Trail Journey, leading the Hong Kong Strava board in November in terms of elevation gain conquered. His first appearance in an ATM points race will be remembered, as he passed the two championship contenders half-way and continued to push through to eventually find himself as third on the race podium!
Meanwhile, Ko Ito had taken command of the race going up to Nishina Pass at the km 42 mark. Also Ito had made a relaxed start, and overtook everyone ahead of him uphill. However, even the Japanese race directors did not really know who Ko Ito was. Later in the interviews he would explain he hails from the Mount Fuji area and usually finishes races around the top ten rank. However, he had prepared himself meticulously for Izu Trail Journey, an A-goal, with many weeks of speed training, proving again how important that aspect of training is for trail as well. Ko Ito would not run away from the better known runners such as Katsuhiro Matsubara, Nobuya Tani and Tsuji (who clearly was too ambitious trying to follow Sherpa in the beginning), but four minutes was enough to take a unprecedented win.
Meanwhile, Rambla had managed to overtake Sherpa at some point downhill, raising the pressure on the Italian, who did not know where any of the other ATM runners were. If Rambla came first, and someone else placed himself between him and Sherpa, the ATM championship would go to the Spaniard. However, Rambla’s ‘attack’ did not last very long. Tired of all the traveling over the past weeks, he had to admit not having the best of legs for the final race of the season. Sherpa caught him back uphill and saw the moment. He pressed ahead by himself and opened a gap that later would never be more than a handful of minutes. But it proved enough. As he crossed the finish line as 13th, but first of the ATM championship contenders, he had the title in the bag. Salva Rambla eventually let go at the end and arrived just ahead of Tomohiro Mizukoshi, whose second part of the race was significantly better than his first. While Sherpa enjoyed his title victory after months of hardship (he kept on postponing necessary surgery), Rambla could not hide his disappointment, although in fair sportsmanship.
Behind them, Pablo Diago Gonzales and Hisashi Kitamura had their own fantastic battle going on for fourth place in this year’s championship. Both started the race on equal points, so Izu would decide their final ranking, too. The two runners exchanged positions continuously throughout the race. And just when Diago Gonzales appeared to have got it in the bag, Kitamura sprinted past him again in the last main downhill towards the finish! Caught off-guard, similar to Mantra Summits where he lost the race lead in the final kilometre to Elias Tabac, Diago Gonzales had no response left to the final burst of energy of the amazing Kitamura. Based in Kuala Kumpur, the Japanese runner has only begun to run trails exactly a year ago and has seen his performances grow steadily ever since.
The women’s race was won for the third time by Yumiko Oichi. The local athlete had just returned from a very long injury pause, and was delighted to have come out on top of a great battle with two other runners. Hakuba Trails winner Maki Tanaka was dominating proceedings until two-thirds into the race, when suddenly Oichi and Kaori Asahara returned to the front. Yumiko Oichi had the best final dash. A great run was also delivered by the now-Japan-based Carole Fuchs. After a modest early phase, diesel Fuchs managed to race herself in the top five of the race. She was also first of the runners eligible for ATM points, which puts her in the top ten of the final ranking. Aggy Sabanal from Mindanao, Philippines, was the second woman of her country to finish Izu Trail Journey. A mountain climber and specialist of technical trails, Sabanal can be very happy with her result on the hilly but runable Izu Trail. Her performance also resulted in second place in the ATM Championship ranking, splitting the Indonesians Ruth Theresia and Sri Wahyuni. Not bad for a 22-year-old university student!
For the second consecutive season Izu Trail Journey across Japan’s Izu Peninsula south of Tokyo will decide the outcome of the Asia Trail Master men’s championship. After 35 points races in 15 Asian countries, Alessandro Sherpa and Salva Rambla will battle for the title in a straight dual on the fantastic but challenging 72km course from Matzuzaki to Shuzenji.
Izu Trail Journey is rapidly gaining prestige and fame in the Asian trail circuit since it joined our championship series in 2017. Last year’s edition was of course also historical for its frosty and even snowy conditions. It won’t get that cold tomorrow but for sure wind jackets will be worn by most runners as they line up for the start at 6 a.m. by the ocean. Five of the top six male runners in the Asia Trail Master Championship will be competing against some local Japanese elite and international elites. An important novelty for the season’s final, though, is that ATM points will only be awarded to runners who have done minimum two ATM races this year. This means there will be a race within the race for the ATM protagonists. In the fight for the ATM title, it comes down to this: Sherpa leads Rambla by 130 points, but Rambla can still up his total score by 180 points. It means that no matter what anyone else does tomorrow, Salva Rambla needs to be first (+180 points) or second (+130 points) of the ATM protagonists to have a chance of winning the ATM championship. And then it of course still depends on Sherpa’s own performance. If Salva wins Izu and Sherpa is second, Sherpa wins the championship (2550 points vs 2525 points). If Salva wins and Sherpa finishes third in the race, they both end up with a total of 2525 points: a tie and then we look at the last direct confrontation of the two runners in question, which means Salva would be the new champion. That is of course the beauty of tomorrow’s race: Salva Rambla beat Alessandro Sherpa in Singapore’s Trail Blazer only two weeks go, and if fast-legged Salva were to go ahead solo on the Izu Trail, Sherpa must make sure nobody else of the ATM protagonists runs passed him tomorrow. Enter runners Pablo Diago Gonzales, home runner Tomohiro Mizukoshi, Hisashi Kitamura and Daisuke Kobayashi, to name the most likely ‘spoilers’ for Sherpa in this scenario. Tomohiro Mizukoshi has already been labelled the King Maker, because not only is he at home in Izu and did he run this race last year already, but most importantly, he beat both Rambla and Sherpa on a runable 70k course in Bali in October! Moreover, Mizukoshi needs to watch his rear mirror, too. Hisashi Kitamura is not too far down on ATM points and seems keen to finish the championship season as number one Japanese! Pablo Diago Gonzales ran Izu also last year and is back in Japan to do better. Diago Gonzales hails from Spain just like Salva Rambla: will there be a Spanish alliance? Finally, there is Daisuke Kobayashi: little known outside Japan, but a strong runner with Echigo and Hakuba Trails on his ATM record in 2018: he is in the mix for points tomorrow. Kobayashi finished just eight minutes behind Mizukoshi in Hakuba Trails proving his advanced level. In ultra trail running, it is a cliche that anything can happen and there’s too many scenarios to write down here. Let’s conclude with one that sees Salva Rambla finish as second tomorrow: then Sherpa can allow himself to be fourth only.
We could not have hoped for a better finish of the 2018 season, although it is of course a pity that the injured Milton Amat from Malaysia could not join the final in Japan. Amat would have been another candidate for the ATM title thanks to his great performances this season in four big races, three of which were SuperTrails.
In the battle for the race victory tomorrow, Japan’s elites Kei Kikushima (winner Hakuba Trails, but did not compete in another ATM race this season), Tomohiro Tsuji (winner Izu Trail Journey 2016) and Yuichi Miura rank among the top favourites.
The women’s Asia Trail Master Championship already reached a conclusion two weeks ago with Indonesia’s Ruth Theresia crowned as the new champion. However, Izu Trail Journey still has significance for the places of honour. Philippines’ newcomer Aggy Sabanal will be trying to snatch second place in the ATM championship ranking away from Sri Wahyuni. Sabanal, still just 22 years young and university student, is running her first race outside of her home country. She will try to follow into the footsteps of her compatriot Patricia Ann Morota, who completed the freezing edition of last year as first Filipino in great fashion. A strong runner who will try to finish a remarkable year inside the ATM top 10 is Carole Fuchs. Previously based in Bangkok, the French former IronMan professional and winner of Cordillera Mountain Ultra has recently moved to Japan and has been back in training after her successful but physically draining Mount Everest expedition in May. On a good day, Fuchs might as well aim for the top three in tomorrow’s race and a good race result would in any case propel her into the ATM championship top ten. Yukako Takashima, the winner of Echigo Country Trail this year, will be one of the Japanese elite to beat.
As usual we will be reporting live from the race via our social media channels. The race starts at 6 am local time.
The last 100 miler of the ATM season in Hong Kong was won by local ultra runner Wong Wai Lun, but only narrowly so. At the very end, he had an advantage of only 20 seconds on Lau Chun Man and Jiang Liangjun. Of the ATM protagonists, Japan’s Hisashi Kitamura was running with the front pack until km 90, when nasty stomach cramps sealed his fate. Kitamura had to DNF and therefore stays sixth in the ATM Championship ranking. A remarkable finisher in ATM context was Brunei’s Ali Ajis Rasil. He completed his 10th Grandmaster distance and is therefore now a 2-star Grandmaster!
Meanwhile in Malaysia, the inaugural Malaysia Mountain Trail Festival took place in Taiping, Perak. A 2019 ATM Candidate Race organised by Ewegene Tan, a renowned ultra trail runner himself. The 70km main race - and all the others - were characteristed by very wet, muddy and slippery conditions that made the trails hardly runable. In addition, many rope sections up or down steep hills were a test of upper body strength for many participants. According to many, the weather of the previous days had made MMTF arguably the toughest ultra race in the country. Plenty of talented runners at the starting line, too. Including Alessandro Sherpa, ATM championship points leader. The Italian has suddenly come under pressure after being beaten in a straight dual by Spain’s Salva Rambla in the Singapore Trail Blazer last week. Rambla announced he was going to Izu Trail Journey and decided to DNS in Taiping to save his energy. Rambla can still become ATM champion now, leaving Sherpa hardly a choice but to travel to Japan as well next weekend. Perhaps with that in mind, Sherpa did not protest to loudly when race officials disqualified him after six hours of racing for officially missing a checkpoint (CP3), which appeared to be the result of a misunderstanding. At that point, Sherpa was trailing the two Sabahan brothers-in-law Daved Simpat and Saffery Sumping. Just behind was Filipino Koi Grey, making his comeback on the ATM circuit after a two-year-absence. Grey later missed a marker, which put him out of contention for the victory. Still, it was a remarkable return for the fashionable and popular pinoy runner, and his fourth place was well-deserved. Australia’s Christopher Koelma was a happy but tired third place, but nobody could touch the two runners from Kota Kinabalu. It was no surprise that Simpat arrived first, with Sumping some minutes down in second. Together with Milton Amat, the Sabahan trail runners could become a major force on the 2019 ATM Championship tour.
In the women’s 70k race we saw the emergence of a new local Malaysian talent, Izzah Hazirah. The 29-year-old from Kuala Lumpur ran to victory in only her second major trail race ever, and her first over an ultra distance. She finished half an hour ahead of Ng Song Hiang and more than an hour ahead of Norzaimee and Grandmaster Adelinah Lintanga. Izzah Hazirah loves mountain hiking, but has no real history as a runner. She has joined Team Malatra and we are looking forward to seeing more of her in the next season.
The fact that MMTF was a very specific trail race was proven by the results of Evelyn Lek and Siokhar Lim as well. Both are solid race winners in this year’s ATM championship series, but both struggled to come to terms with the slippery course in Taiping.
One woman who felt it was fun, though, was Tahira Najmunisaa. Barely six weeks after the birth of her fourth child, Tahira returned to competition and won the short distance race of 15km. She is already looking forward to getting back into to top shape for 2019.
The last 100 miler of the season takes place in Hong Kong this year with HK 168. A big run through the New Territories with start and finish in Tai Mei Tuk. This one is very tough as it has almost 12.000 meters of elevation gain. The cut-off time is 46 hours and the race starts already on Friday at 6 pm.
One of the runners to watch out for is Japan’s Hisashi Kitamura, currently sixth in the Asia Trail Master Championship. Kitamura has been improving steadily throughout the year to the extent he has become a podium candidate in every race he starts. For Kitamura there’s more on the line this weekend as well. Should he win HK 168, he would jump ahead of his compatriot Tomohiro Mizukoshi in the Asia Trail Master ranking and become the first Japanese.
HK 168 typically features a strong field of mainland Chinese runners as well, along with some of Hong Kong’s best ultrarunners. Thanks to Race Timing Solutions and Dot track Asia, it will be possible to follow the race live online. Several runners, including Kitamura, have a GPS tracking device on them to follow their positions.
Trackers by Dottrack Asia: