Aldean Lim is Talking Trail Running

Aldean Philip Lim is one of the better known faces in the trail running community of the Philippines. To a large extent that is because Aldean Lim is wearing several different hats. First of all, he is a great trail runner with pedigree. His current tenth place in the 2016 Asia Trail Master championship is even more testimony to that. Secondly, he is the co-organiser of the Rizal Mountain Run, the new points race to the east of Manila in next year's Asia Trail Master series on 29 January. Thirdly, Aldean Lim is co-founder of the rising trail running accessories brand Ahon, producing stylish and quality technical items such as gaiters and running socks. And if you thought Aldean Lim is spending 100% of his time on our beloved sport? Nope, on a daily basis he earns his living as a lawyer. A busy man, and we are happy to have had a few moments this week to talk trail running with Aldean Lim in advance of this weekend's Clark-Miyamit Falls (CM50) race. 

By Kris Van de Velde

Q: Where were you born and did you grow up in the Philippines?
AL: I was born in Iloilo, Panay Island, Visayas. I spent my younger years (elementary to college) in Iloilo and spent lots of summer in the farm of my grandparents until I moved in Manila for law school. 

Was running something you have always done, or is it a recent hobby?
Running has always been a part of my life since I grew up in my grandparents farm. Plus, I was a member of my HS, College and Law School Soccer Team which requires a lot of running. As a singular sport, running started only in 2009 when i need some physical activity while reviewing for the bar exam. 

Are you member of a running club? 
Yes. I am part of the Salomon Team here in the Philippines and part of Suunto Philippines. But my regular training group is the Baboy Ramo and Co. which is composed of mostly top trail and ultra runners here in the Philippines.

Do you have any sports idols, athletes you look up to?
Yes. For trail running, I look up to Kilian Jornet, Ryan Sandes, Hal Koerner, Tofol Castanyer and Scott Jurek for inspiration. Recently, I've been reading the life and career of Mike Kloser, a north american adventure racing legend.

When did you discover your talent as a runner? Did you do other sports before?
Around 2012 when I joined my first ultra trail race (CM50), that's when I discovered that I have a knack and talent on racing trail and trail ultras. I was a soccer player since HS, College and Law School days. I have been an avid mountainbiker and mountaineer since college days.

What does your training plan look like? Do you have a coach?
It really depends on the type of race that i am preparing. If it is a 100 miles race, I usually log around 100-180km per week with significant elevation gain. I do some strength conditioning and speed workouts if I can fit it in my schedule. I do not have a coach currently but planning to have one soon, but i love to read books and research on my own. I love the experimentation during the training stage.

Do you pay attention to your food before a race? Are there any special products you take in preparation for your race?
Yes. I always make sure that I get a lot of good nutrition a week before leading to an important race. No strict diets and nothing specific, just good and nutritious food. I do take multivitamins, supplements and recovery drinks in preparation for the race. 

What is your best time on the road marathon?

What is your favourite type of trail race?
100 km with lots of vertical and technical trails. 

What do you do for a living?
I am a lawyer and a businessman.

How did AHON come about? 
Ahon is a two-man company, with a little help from close friends in the trail running community. My partner (Ronald Declarador) and I started it back in 2015. At that time, we knew that the big brands of trail running came from North America and Europe, and we want to develop a trail company born in Asia, particularly in the Philippines.

What is the philosophy behind the brand AHON? Does the word 'AHON' have a meaning?
Ahon is a Filipino word which means ascent or climb. We are a proud Filipino company. We take pride in hands-on product development and testing. The products we make were adapted for the Philippine trails (as may well be the same across Asia) which are tough, wild and raw. We want to develop products which are at par, if better than the world standards. 

Hong Kong is known as the Asian centre of trail running, but actually there are an enormous number of races in the Philippines as well. How did you experience this sudden boom of events in your area? Who were the pioneers in your country?
It all started in 2008 when TNF Philippines started the TNF 100k Philippines. It was the first ultra trail run in the Philippines. Back then what was booming was the road running events and culture. With the boom of social media and mountaineering plus the people's need for new challenges after 2010 that's when trail running skyrocketed in the Philippines. Right now, we have trail races almost every week for the whole year and the community is getting bigger. Back when i started in 2012, i could recognize all the people who were joining the trail races. Now, there are a lot of new faces. I love it because trail running is not limited to one area only (before), now there are already lots of races in the Visayas and Mindanao region as well. The Philippines is already starting to show the world how beautiful (and raw) the Philippine trails and mountains (and people too) are. 

How do you see the future of trail running?
It will be bigger and a lot of people will get into trail running. We barely scratched the surface.

Do we need more rules and guidance coming from above, i.e. the IAAF and/or ITRA or IAU? 

Many athletics federations in Asia do not recognise trail running as a genuine discipline. Is this holding the sport back? For example, it makes it very difficult for Asian runners to compete in the official world trail championships held every year. 
Yes. Trailrunning is still quite young in the Asian setting. As of now it will be a hard and we will experience lots of setbacks but give it time and they will have no choice but to recognize trailrunning as a genuine discipline. Just like any other sport during its younger years.

Should trail running become recognised as an olympic sport?
Yes. We'll get there.

From a legal point of view, which advice would you give to trail race organisers?
Medical Certificate attesting for the fitness of runners should be made mandatory on all trail races. Waivers should be mandatory. Organisers should always partner with the Local Government Units, and partner with a search and rescue team

What is your dream as a trail runner?
Short term: To run Hardrock, Western States, and Tor des Geants. Long term: To see trail running become an olympic sport. To travel, explore and see the whole world thru trail running. To join a trail running event in all 7 continents.

What do you think about the Asia Trail Master series?
For race organizers: It is a good movement to set a certain degree of standard of races in the whole of Asia. It is one way to learn from one another. For runners: A way to record and keep track of your trail running career and races. It is one way to compare your standings to the rest of the field in Asia.

You are also co-organiser of the Rizal Mountain Run, which enters the 2017 Asia Trail Master series as a points race. What can you tell us about the event? 
Rizal Mountain Run is an internationally acclaimed, challenging race, back dropped in a beautiful and brutal course in the mountains of Rizal Province which is readily accessible from Metro Manila. It would be one of the best trail running destinations in the Philippines. 

Thank you very much for this Q&A, and good luck in your defence of a top 10 spot in the 2016 ATM championship ranking!