Race preview - Yuen Wan Ho & Tahira Najmunisaa back in action!
The 2nd Magnificent Merapoh Trail on the outskirts of the famous Taman Negara National Park in Malaysia starts on Friday night. The sold-out event, organised by the people of Running Project and to the benefit of the preservation of the Merapoh Cave complex, has a mouth-watering course for the speedies among the trail runners. An elevation gain of 1200 metres over 100 km is the lowest in the entire 2016 Asia Trail Master series and contrasts heavily with the 9100 altitude metres that participants will have to conquer on the Rinjani volcano in Indonesia also this weekend. Primarily, fast runners will be in action in Malaysia and mountain goats in Indonesia, but both are as pure a trail running event can be!
The Magnificent Merapoh Trail offers three race distances of 100km, 60km and 30km, and can be proud of its list of participants. Home favourite and current leader in the female Asia Trail Master championship ranking Tahira Najmunisaa Muhammad Zaid returns to action this weekend on, of course, the 100 km race distance. Tahira has already collected race wins in the Beach Bunch Trail Challenge in Brunei and Malaysia Eco 100 miles this season, and a new victory would make her very hard to beat in this year's championship, indeed. She will face some stern competition in Merapoh, though. Her compatriot and winner of the 100km race in Eco 100, Adelinah Lintanga, cannot be underestimated. Tan Seow Ping will be there as well, the number three of last year's Asia Trail Master championship. Furthermore, Indonesia's Ina Budiyarni decided that Merapoh Trail suits her characteristics and ambitions better than Rinjani 100 and will toe the starting line. Budiyarni, fourth in the 2015 championship and a multiple race winner in her own country. There are also a few runners with loads of international trail running experience: Teresa Aranalde (Mexico) and Cheryl j. Bihag (Philippines), for example. And in the context of the 2016 ATM series' championship, we should also keep an eye out for Gretchen Felipe, the young woman from the Philippines who won the Cordillera Mountain Ultra last June and who is competing on the 60km race distance this weekend.
It will not all be about the women. The men's race will be just as exciting and will see Hong Kong's Isaac Yuen Wan Ho trying to regain the lead in the 2016 Asia Trail Master championship ranking! Yuen Wan Ho, fourth in UTHK and second in Brunei earlier this year, can overtake Manolito Divina if he finishes inside the top 70 on Saturday, as he just needs 150 points (100 finisher points, 51 performance points for rank 70). As he showed in Brunei, Yuen Wan Ho is actually a very fast runner, so he may as well go for the race win or at least the podium. However, also for him, there are other strong contenders. Henry Yang from Singapore, or Allan Toh from Malaysia for sure will give him a run for his money. There's a solid team of Japanese athletes as well, and let's not forget Abdul Rahman, who was third in Malaysia Eco 100 miles, after all.
As in the female 60km race, the recently crowned winner of the men's Cordillera Mountain Ultra, Marcelino Sano-Oy, will be the one to watch. Sano-Oy is actually making his first ever trip abroad, and is gradually building up trail running experience.
While the elevation gain is limited, the Magnificent Merapoh Trail does have technical sections, and combined with the traditional heat and humidity should not be considered an easy trail run. Let's not forget that the DNF rate of Malaysia Eco 100 in Penang was much higher than anybody expected, and so it was in the much shorter Brunei race last February. During Merapoh, runners will need to cross a few water streams, but also run through some caves, obviously a very special item of this event.
We will be reporting live from the event on our social media channels, and this starting at 21:30 on Friday night.