Race preview - big field for MesaStila Peaks Challenge
It is time for the Indonesia SuperTrail! The 6th edition of the MesaStila Peaks Challenge this weekend in Central Java has record participation numbers and will see a significant battle for points in the 2016 Asia Trail Master championship. Ranking leaders Tahira Najmunisaa and Isaac Yuen Wan Ho are both registered along with a whole list of potential challengers to their thrones. On the agenda for them, of course, is one of the toughest races on the Asian trail calendar. An elevation gain of approx 7500 hm in 100 km, including the ascent of Gunung Merapi, is a big feat. Everyone who finishes this race within 36 hours will be a hero.
MesaStila is the name of a boutique luxury spa and resort in Magelang, between Yogyakarta and Semarang, and close to the legendary temples of Borobudur. Trail running and trekking is inherent to the magnificent area, characterised by volcanic peaks that are scattered all over the place and offer breathtaking views. The race has gradually developed over the years and is proud to be the Indonesia SuperTrail in the Asia Trail Master series. Race director Sri Agus explains: "Indeed, it has been a long journey. In 2011 we started with the Losari Challenge, a 16km run, and one year later the name MesaStila Challenge was born: a Half Marathon following old train tracks. In 2013 the MesaStila Challenge went from rails to trails, and in 2014 we introduced the first Ultra distance of 60k. Last year we then added the 100k category. "
Last year, however, the event was affected by the major forest fires nearby. Gunung Merapi was closed at the time so that runners this weekend will conquer the nearly 3000m high volcano for the first time as part of the MesaStila 5 Peaks Challenge. Only 100k participants will proceed as far as Merapi. The 65k, nicked the 4 Peaks Challenge, reaches until Gunung Merbabu. "Gunung Merapi is one of the most active volcanoes on earth and it is the signature item of our 100k race,"says Sri Agus. "It is a difficult trail to go up Merapi compared to other mountains nearby. It is very steep in parts, and there's loose volcanic rocks. Overall this is technical terrain. All participants on the 100k are advised to focus, pay attention and forget the racing when climbing up to the Pasar Bubrah check point. Once one top you will be rewarded by a view you will never forget. Take your time to take it in, then descend again carefully and only then start thinking of the race again. Safety should always come first."
The champions from last year are back. Arief Wismoyono, who laid the foundation for his successful Asia Trail Master championship here, and Mila Marlina are both on the start list for this weekend's 100k - or 5 Peaks - race. Wismoyono will be aiming to get himself in the mix to defend his ATM title. He already has a victory under his belt this year, at Ijen Trailrunning, but he needs more points after a DNF at Rinjani 100 last July. Wismoyono has home advantage, but faces a stern challenge from the amazing Rinjani champion Jan Nilsen. The 50-year-old Norwegian, who lives in Thailand, was the only finisher on the volcano in Lombok and is still in outstanding form. Last week, Nilsen finished third in MF 42, a preparatory race for the Clark-Myamit Falls Ultra - the Philippines' SuperTrail on 27 November. More importantly, Nilsen was not far behind Manolito Divina and Kristian Joergensen on a trail course that suited him much less. Nilsen and Wismoyono start as big favourites this weekend, but the just mentioned Kristian Joergensen certainly ranks as the dark horse. Joergensen, from Denmark, is a multiple race winner in his resident country the Philippines and is a young runner who can still feature highly in this year's Asia Trail Master championship. The question is: can he keep his fast running pace over a 100k distance?
Someone who can is Isaac Yuen Wan Ho. The Hong Kong runner moved into first place of our rankings last July with a second place in the Magnificent Merapoh Trail in Malaysia. Already completed three races this season, Yuen Wan Ho will aim to score more than 450 points to improve on his total of 1400 ATM points, which means he needs to come second this Sunday to do so.... and Jan Nilsen should not win, otherwise the Norwegian, currently third with 1000 points, will take over the points lead in any case. Technically, also Malaysia's Abdul Rahman can find himself topping the Asia Trail Master ranking after the weekend! Currently ranked fifth with 775 points, Rahman needs a victory, though, and even then it depends on the performances of the others. One thing is for sure: Rahman, a finisher of the Malaysia Eco 100 miles and Merapoh Trail 100, will not have a problem with the long distance. The same can be said of Brunei's Ali Ajis Rasil, number 6 in the ATM ranking today following fine performances at Beach Bunch, Ijen Trailrunning and Vietnam Mountain Marathon.
Finally, remember the tight sprint finish at Ijen Trailrunning this year? Local running star Yohanis Hiareij may have lost that one to Wismoyono, but he's back at MesaStila and might just as well take his revenge.
Moving over to the women's side, Asia Trail Master points leader Tahira Najmunisaa from Malaysia will be aiming to consolidate her lead this weekend. Another race victory would mean Tahira has got the championship basically all wrapped up. Earlier this season, she won the Malaysia SuperTrail, Eco 100, on top of other victories at Beach Bunch and Merapoh. If Tahira wins her second SuperTrail race at MesaStila, only Yuen Kit Shan and Ma Yanxing can still come alongside her in terms of points, but for them that would imply winning two more races, including the Philippines' SuperTrail in November, AND beating Tahira in a straight dual. Quite unlikely. However, there is a second scenario in which Tahira does not win this weekend and sees Pinoy running star Majo Liao crossing the finish line first. Majo Liao has recovered from her ankle injury sustained in the Cordillera Mountain Ultra last June and is making her comeback at high level. Scheduled to run also at UT Mapawa at the end of this month and the Clark-Myamit Falls race, which she won convincingly last year, Liao is probably the biggest threat to Tahira Najmunisaa's championship ambitions.
As such, the experienced Mila Marlina can play a major role in the women's race. As defending champion at MesaStila, Marlina will be keen to please the local Indonesian running community with a back-to-back win. From an Asia Trail Master points' perspective, it would put her back in the mix after difficult races in Hong Kong and Malaysia in the early part of the season, but she can also take away points from the two leading contenders.
Several more well-ranked runners are doing the 4 Peaks Challenge of 65 km at MesaStila, such as Jessica Lintanga (5th) and Jocelyn Cheung (6th). Given the high elevation gain (4800 hm), the Asia Trail Master committee decided that the 65 k distance is also valid for the Grandmaster Quest.
A race on at times dense rainforest terrain like this requires appropriate markings. Runners should pay attention to the following items:
- MesaStila Peaks Challenge flag
- Sticker reflectors
- Plastic lines
- Paint Markers
- Cut coloured paper
We will report on the Indonesia SuperTrail from start to finish via our usual social media channels. Stay tuned for what promises to be an epic trail weekend!