Aleksis Capili is Talking Trail Running

As the new Asia Trail Master series is about to get underway with UTHK in Hong Kong this coming weekend, high time to put the spotlights back on the runners themselves in our "Talking Trail Running" section. Who is a better choice at the beginning of the 2nd year than Aleksis Capili. The Thailand-based Filippino runner already collected four scalps in his Grandmaster Quest and with only two more required,  he could very well become the first Asia Trail Master Grandmaster in the not-so distant future. Capili is keen. He will be at the start in Hong Kong this Friday afternoon, and has already signed up for the Mount Apo Sky Race in April as well. Let's find out more about Aleksis Capili, and his passion for trail running. To get into the mood, let's also tune in to his favourite running song! 

By Kris Van de Velde

Aleksis' favourite running music

Q: You are originally from Philippines (where?) but now residing in Thailand, correct?

AC: Yes, I am originally from Philippines and now working in Thailand as an overseas Filipino worker for 10 years.

Q: When and why did you decide to take part in trail running competitions?

I started my first trail, my first full marathon distance at the first edition of Khao Yai Thailand trail race in Oct 2014. And because of this race, I fell in love with trail running. Then, I went to Philippines to join Mapawa CDO trail marathon race run after 3 weeks.  So, for me, I take part of trail competitions to travel and enjoy to nature.

Q: Where do you come from, and was running part of your upbringing as a child and teenager?

As a kid, I always go hiking in my hometown, Malaybalay City. During summer, me and my friends take a short bus ride, walk to the forest and enjoy swimming. There was no running part except for enjoying the nature trails.

Q: What is your daily occupation (job)?

I work as Product manager in software development for Telecom operators. This job is quite tough that I have to run sometimes to get a sane mind after too much thinking of work.

Q: What is your secret to run so many ultra trails so soon after each other?

I started running ultra trail distance in January 2015, after dreaming of joining the UTMB. I train hard for it. Join races after another. I got a total of 13 UTMB points within 4 months. Joining races can make you stronger. And if some part of my body is aching, I take a rest, do a swim or recovery run. Soon after finishing a race, I do cold compress/bath and eat lots of protein. Last month was crazy, Columbia Thailand 50km, Vibram HK 100km and TNF Thailand 100km in 3 weeks. Days in between those races, I did strength and easy 20-min treadmill uphill workouts.

Q: Do you never feel tired of running? Never suffered an injury?

I don’t get easily tired when running in trails. By looking and enjoying the scenic views, your tiredness and fatigue will be gone. Maybe this is a reason I never ran a road race last year. I never suffered serious injury except for ITB syndrome during the race. I did serious workouts to prevent this from happening like adductor and abductor workouts. It is gone now for the last 4 months.

Q: Do you feel the so-called " runner's high " ? 

Yes and it will take days to subside and that will make me search and join for next races.

Q: Have you ever run a road marathon (42.195km) and what was your time?

My first and last full road marathon is the Standard Chartered Bangkok Marathon 2014 with the time of 4:14

Q: Do you have a specific objective in trail running, or you just wish to run for fun?

Finishing strong in races is a good thing. It will give you more confidence and helps you improve your next race.

Q: Do you have any sports heroes? If yes, who and what is so special about him / her?

Its Manny Pacquiao. Everyone knows what is special about him.

Q: As a born Filipino, where were you when Manny Pacquiao defeated Oscar De La Hoya?

With my Filipino friends in a Thai pub/restaurant.

Q: Is Pacquiao important for you in your life, and why or why not?

Yes, 2 important lessons I learned from him - humility and resilience.

Q: Now in Thailand, where and how do you train?

I usually train at Suvarnabhumi’s Skylane. I do run, bike and run. Run twice for 60 minutes and bike for 1 loop of 24km. I do 5-6 hours trail run at Khao Mai Keao nature park at Chonburi which is 2 hours drive from Bangkok. I also do uphill treadmill workout for 20-30 minutes 3 times a week.

Q: What is your view on trail running in Thailand? Do you see a difference between Thailand and the Philippines?

Trail running in Thailand is very popular that major sponsors are after on it. Number of participants is getting big and because there are many sponsors, organizers are pressured to organize good races and runners always get lots of freebies. Comparing to the type of trails, Thailand is easier than in Philippines. Easy trails to get more people to join and enjoy the race. Thailand’s race trails are well-marked and food/water (and energy gels too!) are well provided in checkpoints. In Philippines, the trail is tough and difficult. When I did TNF Philippines 2015, only hardcore/strong runners finished it.

Q: Which event in Thailand would you recommend to join the Asia Trail Master series?

I would recommend the Ultra Trail Koh Chang. I find it unique because it is held at Koh Chang, a very popular island with nice beaches, which is 5 hours drive east of Bangkok. You will run in thick forest, mangrove and beach. The beach is very nice that you want to stop by for swimming. But you have to be careful doing this race, the heat and humidity is crazy.

Q: You could become the first ever Asia Trail Grandmaster this year, completing six +70k races in 2 years. There will be several points-scoring races in the Philippines. Are you planning to join one or more of them?

My last race to get the Grandmaster title will be the 2nd Mt. Apo race on Mindanao Island in April, which is 70km. I did the first edition (42km) last year and finished it beyond the cutoff time. Technically a DNF so it will be my revenge race. I will also join again the Clark-Miyamit 50 miles in November.

Q: How do you select the trail races you run?

In Thailand, I join any trail races. If abroad, it’s the toughness of the race.

Q: What was your best trail running experience so far?

It was my first and only DNF race at TNF Philippines 2015. It was my first attempt to do 100km trail race and find it very tough. Mainly because of the type of the trails you will run. I was one of the runners who got in about 10 minutes late at KM58 checkpoint because I took a long break at KM50. Knowing that the race cutoff is extended by 2 hours and only 8km to go, I (with some other runners) ordered egg noodles at a small store. It was the best learning experience that taught me to be resilient on any obstacles during the race.

Q: What was your craziest experience in a trail running event?

It was the Bromo Tengger Semeru 100km race in Indonesia. First, the race course was modified days before the race because of forest fires and Mt. Bromo is actively spewing ashes, so lots of runners got lost including me. I got lost about 30 minutes. Second, you need strong ankles because the ruts on trail are covered with 6-12 inches dust and I rolled my ankle numerous times. Third, and no matter how you protect yourself with gaiters, dust will get inside your shoes and I have to remove it like 10 times. It was so crazy because of too many obstacles but I managed to get 3rd place overall due to some disqualified runners.

Q: Tell us about your HK 100 experience a few weeks ago

It was really tough because of the cold weather. I started slow during the 1st half to conserve my energy, which I managed to do it in 7 hours. Then, as its getting darker, it became colder. Drizzling starts at around midnight. I used my rain jacket but my pants are wet. I have no rain pants. Approaching 90km, my legs are freezing and I saw many runners scrambling for heat at CP9. It was then the start of the hardest part of the race. Knowing I still have more energy left, I stopped only for few minutes, I covered my face to prepare my final ascent. It was windy, foggy, and freezing at the top of Tai Mo Shan. The ice is forming on the road going downhill. It was slippery that I have to walk at the side and I got slipped hitting my head hard on the pavement. I was covered with ice going down from Tai Mo Shan. I took me more than 3 hours from CP9. I arrived at the finish with time of 22:34.

Q: What does your training look like when you have a specific race goal (e.g. for UTHK, or maybe UTMB?)

I’m training for UTMB race and races will be part of my training. UTHK will be my longest race. Right now, I’m doing a base training 6 times a week. I run for 60 minutes in a sustained pace. Weekend is back to back run-bike-run. Bike for 24km distance which is good for my quads. I also modified my own treadmill to get 25-30% incline to train for uphill at 7kph speed for 20-30 minutes. I will start training in trails after 2 months.

Q: In your opinion, what are the biggest issues facing the sport of trail running in the near future? What is it you would not like to happen?

Lacks of discipline of some runners on the trail. Littering during races are very common problem leaving a trail of trash like gels, etc. Also, as some race organizers looking for new trails, it will disturb the habitat of wild animals.

Q: Is there a race you really NEVER want to do, and why?

No. I’m a competitive person. I will do any race.

Q: What do you think about the Asia Trail Master series?

It is really exciting. It gives me insights on what are incoming races for the next 6 months and prepare for it.

Q: Do you have any tips for race organisers? Things every organiser should pay special attention to?

For race organizers, they should focus on giving detailed information at least 6 months before the race to give time for runners to prepare.

Aleksis at the Bromo Tengger Semeru event last November

Aleksis at the Bromo Tengger Semeru event last November