Malaysia's The Most Beautiful Thing for trail runners this weekend
It's UTMB time in France, but a top weekend is coming up for trail runners and the Asia Trail Master series in Malaysia as well. The country's most renowned race is on in Sabah - the Borneo 100 - The Most Beautiful Thing (TMBT) - and in western Malaysia the inaugural Epic Valley Ecotrail 100 looks set for a great start. What's more, we may get a change in leadership in the women's Asia Trail Master ranking as a few starters are ready to challenge Yuen Kit Shan's 575 points tally!
The Borneo TMBT Ultra Trail Marathon, organised by the Sabah Adventure Challenge crew, is having its 5th edition already on Saturday and will celebrate a new participation record of over 1300 runners spread over 4 distances. As per our regulations, only the two longest distances, 100km and 55km, qualify for scoring Asia Trail Master ranking points. All finishers on the 100km also get 1 point for their quest to become an Asia Trail Grandmaster (6 points in 2 calendar years).
In Asia, this is certainly one of those epic races and arguably among the genuine classics already. TMBT takes runners from Lingkubang to Kundasang on the western and southern slopes of Mount Kinabalu, via paths in and around native dusun villages few people ever get to experience. The route does not include a summit climb, but is more than tough enough. Not only is there a 5305m elevation gain to be conquered, runners also need to deal with tropical humidity, dense vegetation and even keep an eye on the clock as there is a 30-hour cut off time. A physical and mental challenge with clearly a high appeal factor for people in the still very young Malaysian trail running scene. 318 athletes will attempt the 100km run this weekend.
Among them also Tan Seow Ping, third in the women's Ultra Trail Hong Kong earlier this year and therefore 8th in the current Asia Trail Master ranking with 500 points, 75 points less than Hong Kong's Yuen Kit Shan. The local Malaysian runner has a great opportunity to claim the lead in the ranking: she only needs to finish the race to score 100 distance points. However, Tan Seow Ping should also keep an eye out for Indonesia's Ina Budiyarni, recently winner of the Rinjani Altitude Run on Lombok. Budiyarni herself can move ahead of Yuen Kit Shan if she crosses the finish line in the top five this weekend.
Xie Zhangrong's lead in the men's ranking is theoretically also threatened this weekend, but it would take a victory for Belgium's Gaspard Dessy to remove him from the top spot. Dessy was third in the Gede Pangrango Marathon last May and can certainly make a big leap forward, just like France's Regis Cabaret and Great Britain's Fintan West, all of whom have already scored top five spots in Asia Trail Master races in the course of the year.
On the other side of the country, in peninsular Malaysia and Penang, Endurance Nature is organising the first edition of the Malaysia Epic Valley Eco 100, also an official 2016 Asia Trail Master Candidate Race. A course that presents its own elevation difficulties but that is certainly quite suited for pure distance runners with several long flattish sections. As described very nicely on the event website:
The route will start from the eco village of Sungai Lembu, taking runners through oil palm plantations, rubber plantations, pineapple plantations, several Malay kampungs, Chinese new villages and Indian temples, paddy fields and of course the challenging hills of Tokun. This is a race which will showcase the typical Malaysian geographical, social and cultural heritage (...). During the race, the runners will be sampling the local cuisines in the food and drinks provided at the aid stations along the course of the race.