Huzairi Shah is Talking Trail Running

One of the new names on the Malaysian trail running scene is Huzairi Shah Mohd Hussin. A member of Razif Yahya's Team Malatra, Huzairi Shah was 11th in the 2016 ATM Championship and is a young runner with a clear focus on the Asia Trail Grandmaster Quest. So far, he has managed to finish three races already, all of them last season: the Magnificent Merapoh Trail 100, MesaStila 5 Peaks Challenge 100 and Clark-Miyamit Falls Ultra 50 miles. Last February, an upset stomach forced him to retire at the UTKC race in Thailand, but Huzairi is not discouraged. Via this weekend's Sungai Menyala Forest Trail - a home race for Team Malatra - he returns to action to prepare for the continuation of his Grandmaster Quest later this season. Mind you, a tenth place in last year's Merapoh Trail also indicates Huzairi is fast on his day.  Let's get to know Huzairi Shah Mohd Hussin a bit more, and find out what his ambitions are for Sunday's Sungai Menyala race. 

By K. Van de Velde

ATM: Where were you born and did you grow up?

HS: I was born in Lumut, Perak and I spent most of my childhood at Kampung Koh, a very small town in Sitiawan, Perak. I was raised as a normal child and not active in sports until I started running that changed my lifestyle almost entirely.

Was running something you have always done, or is it a recent hobby?

I started running during my university life. I still remember it was in 2011 when I joined my friend for the first time. We jog together round the college, and after that I just fall in love with running. I started to run seriously and sign up for running events. My first event was the Standard Chartered 5KM Fun Run 2011. During early time, I always train with a motivation to finish a marathon. My dreams came true when I crossed the Finishing Line at Penang Bridge International Marathon 2014.

What do you do for a living?

I work full time as a Quality Control Engineer for TC Subaru Sdn Bhd.

How do you combine that with endurance sports like running?

My training time is very limited. Mostly I will train after office hours. And I am very lucky to have my own running family here in Malaysia, such as Kyserun Krew, Shah Alam Running Club and Mont Kiara Running Club. I spent most of my time to train with them. Also, I will go the gym to join RPM class and on weekends, I will go for trail running.

What does your training plan look like?

I don't have a specific training program. My weekly mileage usually averages around 60-70km per week. And I believe, training program is very different for each person and how you approach it. But I suggest that you do cross training to minimize the risks of injury plus it is one of the way to kill running boredom.

What is your ambition as a trail runner?

I have a big dreams to finish UTMF for now. Well I believe most of us holds the same dream like me. At the same time I want to bring our Malaysia flag higher, and I am proud to carry it running around Asia under the Asia Trail Master Series.

Do you have any sports idols, athletes you look up to?

My idols have always been Kilian Jornet and Haile Gebrselassie. Both of them are very humble in person and successful in their own running careers. I love to watch their videos on Youtube, and it gives me such inspiration when I feel down.

When did you discover your talent as a runner?

I enjoy running and cycling, but due to budget constraints, I have to focus on one sport, and I picked running. To be honest, I don't know if I have the talent to run, but I can say I really enjoy running.

Do you pay attention to your food before a race? Are there any special products you take in preparation for your race?

A week before a race, I will take care of my hydration level. I will drink a lot of mineral water and coconut water. For carbs intake, I will do carbo loading around 3 days before race. It’s just that I still have problems with food intake during long races.

What is your best time on the road marathon?

I completed my first and the only full Marathon at Penang Bridge International Marathon 2014 with a timing of 5:53:53. Up until now, that was my Personal Best for road marathon.

In Thailand you mentioned that the Grandmaster Quest is one of your goals. How has it been going so far for you?

Yes. It is my dream to become an Asia Trail Grandmaster. For now, I have collected 3 points, and I have another 3 points to go. I hope I can achieve it soon.

What does your schedule look like to achieve that first star on the Grandmaster Quest?

I am eyeing to participate in The Magnificent Merapoh Trail, Mesastila Peaks Challenge in Indonesia, and CM50 in Philippines. The latter is the same event I entered last year. I will go back because l really enjoyed running there. It’s a very challenging course but that’s what makes it more fun.

What is your favourite type of trail race?

I prefer mountain races as my favourite part is climbing uphill. But always I love trail, it’s just that my strength is climbing.

You are part of Team Malatra, how's that been going for you?

I would like to say thanks to Mr Razif Yahya, our team manager for giving me the opportunity to be part of the team. Team Malatra is created with an objective to develop and polish young potential trail runners in Malaysia. He always encourage us to fully explore our potential and provide us with the supports needed. It’s almost four months with them, and I can say that it’s a good team and we are like a family member.

How do you see the future development of trail running in Malaysia?

I am so happy to see the development of trail running here. With so many events organized and yet they receive quite a big number of participants, I can say trail running in Malaysia is getting exciting. With more people to join trail running, and ultra-trail running gets into attention now, I just love the atmosphere when most of us trail runners gathered together in a race.

Many athletics federations in Asia do not recognize trail running as a genuine discipline. Is this holding the sport back?

I don’t think so. I believe this sport has their own fans and getting attention with world class trail events being held every year involving many elites around the world.

Should trail running become recognized as an Olympic sport?

Yes, why not? I am very excited to see elite trail runners from all around the world gather under one roof to compete for Olympic's gold medal. But of course it will take a lot of time and effort for the sport to be recognized and I believe we are on the right track to achieve that.

What do you expect of this weekend's Sungai Menyala race?

It is surely an exciting race as many elites are coming here. It is a fast course and I am pretty sure that many runners will clock fast time, but please don't forget about the heat. It is very challenging to run under the scorching hot sun. Well for me, I am looking forward to enjoy myself running the beautiful course and meeting my friends here in Sungai Menyala. For those who missed the registration this year, you are more than welcome to join us next year.

What is your favourite piece of running music?

I love to listen to Gemuruh, sang by Faizal Tahir. The lyrics are so meaningful that it motivates me to outshine myself in everything I do.

Razif Yahya (left) and Huzairi Shah (right)

Razif Yahya (left) and Huzairi Shah (right)