He was the pre-race favourite, and he delivered in style. Xu Xiutao is becoming a force to be reckoned with in Asia' s trail running scene, as the runner from Beijing scored an impressive victory in yesterdays Korea 50k event. It was the fifth race in this year's Asia Trail Master series and already the second one for Xu Xiutao, after he came home second in UTHK 100 last February. His Korean points haul - 500 - lifts him to second place in the current ATMs championship ranking behind Hong Kong's Isaac Yuen Wan Ho.
It was the second edition of Korea 50k, an event marked by a boom in registrations with plenty of international athletes making the trip to the outkirts of Seoul. It was a warm day under a bright blue sky, but the runners had a tough one as the 59km race covered well over 3000 metres of elevation gain, an increase that not everybody felt was necessary, which is similar to comments received in last week's 50 miles race in Linhai, China. Perhaps something for race organisers to reflect upon. Yesterday there were plenty of DNFs as a result. Luckily, the technical organisation by the local RunXRun team was excellent, and runners could enjoy a beer and a tasty local snack after the finish in the sports stadium of Dongducheon.
It was chilly at 4:30 a.m. for the start of the race, but the runners were soon warmed up as outside the stadium was already the first steep climb up. The strongest group of runners immediately opened up a gap. Local stars Simjae Duk, last year's winner, and Nohui Seong had to accept the company of China's Xu Xiutao, who kept the pressure on them. Close behind was Hong Kong-based Frenchman Clement Dumont, whose consistent pace would earn him a third spot on the podium as Seong faded in the last ten kilometers. The victory was contested between Simjae Duk and Xu Xiutao, and eventually the youngest had the edge and even pulled away still by 8 minutes in the final section. Xu Xiutao crossed the finish line in 7:11:02 with the Chinese flag around him. Another Hong Kong-based European, Paul Ridley from Great Britain, completed the top five and of all the top guys looked like he could still do another lap.
In the women's race, Japan's Yukari Fukuda repeated her victory from last year in 8:19:50. She was over an hour ahead of second and third place runners Janet Ng (Hong Kong) and Sung Hee Lee (Korea), who swapped places in the final climb of the race.
The next race in the Asia Trail Master series takes place on 8 May in Tamgaly Tas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in Kazakhstan.