Henry Yang is Talking Trail Running

Singapore is not really synonymous with trail running, even though there are quite a few events in the city state every year, and some very strong runners live there, too. Henry Yang is one of them. A keen ultra runner since five years who has continued to build up his strengths over time to become a podium candidate in every regional race he starts. In the Asia Trail Master series, Henry entered people's consciousness last May during the Malaysia Eco 100 miles race in Penang.  He was running towards a fantastic second place when disaster struck. This weekend, Henry returns to our series as he aims for a high placing in the Magnificent Merapoh Trail. An excellent opportunity to get to know him, and life as a trail runner in Singapore, a bit better. Henry Yang is Talking Trail Running.


Henry Yang's favourite running music

Q: Henry Yang, are you a born & raised Singaporean?
HY: Yes, I am born and raised in Singapore

Q: Was running part of your upbringing as a child and teenager
HY: No, but I was given the freedom to enjoy outdoor activities at a young age of 6 years old

Q: How do you become a trail runner in a city state like Singapore?
After completing a number of ultra distance road marathons, I felt the need to progress to something more challenging and I tried out trail running in 2011.   Trail running offers me new challenges I craved for, the distance and elevation gain, technical downhill running, etc.

Q: Is there a big Singaporean trail community? 
It’s a small trail community but it is growing fast

Q: Other than yourself, who are the trail " stars "  in Singapore? 
I would say Singapore runners like Jeri Chua, Chris Yeo, Ong Kai Wei.  They have extensive race experience and have some really impressive results to back them up

Q: Did you or do you other sports as well?
Soccer, cycling and swimming]

Q: What is your best time on the road marathon?
For the 42km road marathon, my personal best is 3hrs 30mins. In the Penang Ultra road marathon in 2015, I did the 100km in 12hrs 01min. 

Q: Do you feel the so-called " runner's high " ? 
Yes of course.  This “runner’s high” is like the feeling of an orgasm. The body and mind are both highly stimulated and seem to elevate a person's senses

Q: What kind of trail races do you prefer? The more runnable courses, such as Merapoh, or the high mountain races?
I like both because they offer different challenges and rewards.  Low grounds you get to cross streams and pass through interesting landscapes, while at high ground you can get to see magnificent views

Q: How do you prepare for mountainous trails in Singapore?
In Singapore, we have limited places to train. There’s a small hill known as Bukit Timah Hill in Singapore standing at 163m above sea level, i do hill repeats there.  Sometimes I also do stairs climbing repeats at a 40 store apartment block.   Most of the time about a month before my races, I will head over to Malaysia to train at places like Penang Hill, Maxwell Hill, Gunung Nuang,

Q: Next weekend you are one of the favourites for the Magnificent Merapoh Trail.  How do you see your chances personally? 
The race director has invited the champions of other Asia Trail Master races and I foresee a tough challenge ahead. I have done some quality training leading to this race and hope to secure a top 3 position!

Q: Last May, you were on the verge of a second place finish in the Malaysia Eco 100 miles, but then something happened to you. Can you describe what caused you to drop out of the race? 
I was descending Tokun Hill in heavy rain. Many trees had fallen down blocking the path and I had to take some detours.  I was trying to get past 2 big rocks at knee level when I slipped and hit my left knee onto a rough rock surface.  I lost a lot of blood and had to use my jacket and tie it tightly around my open wound to stop the bleeding, and tried to get to the next checkpoint to seek medical attention.    After cleaning up and bandage my wound at the checkpoint, I continued on but 3km later I felt a sharp pain at my left knee area.  I tried to walk a bit and even rest a while, but the sharp pain remained. As the following week (about
5 days later) was my maiden 100 miles race – H1 Hardcore in Philippines, I decided to DNF rather then risk further injury. 

Q: What did you think of Manolito Divina's victory in the 100 miles. How long were you able to keep up with him? 
Manolito fully deserved his victory in the ECO 100 miles races.  His timings at the check points were amazing, he managed to clear the tough elevations in the 2nd half of the course at a constant pace, a strong display from him!  Before I got injured, Manolito was about 2 hours ahead of me.  I was confident I could have given him a good fight in the last 40 km of the race, though. 

Q: Do you have any sports heroes? If yes, who and what is so special about him / her?
I was inspired by the feat of Marshall Ulrich.  He ran the Badwater route in the US unsupported in the toughest conditions.  Kilian Jornet is also one of my idols, the races he won and the running projects he accomplished are an inspiration for me

Q: Do you often travel to other countries to take part in trail running events? How do you select the races? 
Yes I do.  My selection of races is based on the distance, elevation gain/loss as well as the overall event organisation.   

Q: Do you have a specific objective in trail running, or you just wish to run for fun? 
Yes I have a specific objective as well as having an informal factor.   Firstly, I want to gain more 100 miles race experience as my stepping stone towards the big races such as Hardrock 100, UTMB and maybe the PTC (Pacific Crest Trail)

Q: What was your best trail running experience so far? 
I would say the H1 Hardcore 100 miles in Philippines.  You get the combination of a tough course, 100 miles mountain trail with challenging elevation of almost 11 000m gain, as well as the beautiful mountain views and mossy forest

Q: Trail running in Asia has developed very fast in the last few years, how did you experience that in your country?
 More local runners are aware of trail running and there have been more trail races being organized, such as MSIG50, TNF100, MR25 Ultra.  I look forward to more development of trail running in Singapore

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?
I would not like to see trail running becoming commercialised.  For road marathon, you can already see this is happening and it is losing its identity.   I hope to see more sponsors supporting trail running but allow the respective Race Directors the administrative freedom and not be tied down to the sponsors' requirements

Q: Would it help if trail running became an olympic sport? 
In my personal view, this would be great and really raise the profile and status of trail running.  At the moment, I feel that trail running is under-rated and overlooked

Q: What do you think about the Asia Trail Master series? Wouldn't the Grandmaster Quest (6 races of +70km in 2 calendar years) be a nice additional challenge for a runner such as yourself? 
The Asia Trail Master Series is a good platform for trail runners and I am very supportive of it.  The Grandmaster Quest is in my bucket list of things to accomplish!

Q: Have you planned any other ATM races already for later this year?
In fact I am considering the Bromo Tengger Semeru Ultra 170 in Indonesia, as well as the CM 50 Ultra in Philippines in November

Q: Which race in Singapore would be a nice addition to the Asia Trail Master series?
 In my personal view, there are no races which are worthy of being part of the Asia Trail Master Series, part of the reason being the lack of elevation in our pancake flat Singapore

Q: Do you have any tips for race organisers? Things every organiser should pay special attention to?
There is n
o need for a fancy set-up of a race site, checkpoints and finisher medals or T-shirts.  On the other hand, important are the race markings, the design of the race course and elevation profile,  and a GPX file should be made available to all runners

Good luck to Henry Yang in the Magnificent Merapoh Trail this weekend!