Sandi Menchi ready to rock in Sungai Menyala

One of the protagonists this weekend in the inaugural Sungai Menyala Forest Trail in Port Dickson, Malaysia, is the young and talented Filippino runner Sandi Menchi. While not exactly a new face in the Asian running world, Sandi has recently been moving up to longer distance endurance racing. With success: she won the Clark-Miyamit Falls Ultra last November, and a few weeks ago she crossed the finish line of the Cordillera Mountain Ultra together with Grandmaster Jan Nilsen! Sungai Menyala is a fast and different type of trail race, but Sandi will be a major challenger for unbeaten Asia Trail Master champion Tahira Najmunisaa on Sunday. In fact, Sandi has had the better of Tahira already in a climbing race on Sabah last year. Sandi, however, remains modest and highly respectful: " I honestly never expect to "defeat" others, cos i know that everyone has their own pains, weaknesses and past injuries, including myself. I always aim to beat myself, not others."

Sandi Menchi was born and raised in Baguio City, a famous place for adventurous travellers, trekkers and recently trail runners. Baguio is the gateway to the Cordillera Mountains and the perfect playground for any aspiring trail runner. "I was always an active or even hyperactive child, and my first race was when i was 15. I've been running since then," says the new star. "Actually, as of 2013 I wanted to explore and experience other sports so i tried triathlons and duathlons as well, and am still doing those now."

Day-to-day, she teaches tutorials to kids with special needs. She has also begun to organise and direct her own races in her local area. Sports is in Sandi's DNA, and her training plan also reflects that: "·  I try to make sure that every week i get to do speed endurance, cardio endurance, hill reps, stairs, running drills, stretching drills and a swim,  but I don't always get to follow it because of unpredictable circumstances at times :-). Previously, I was advised by my track-and-field coach to do things step by step, so I made sure to take care of myself and slowly increase the distance in the races i joined/am joining ". In the mean time, Sandi Menchi has a personal best time on the road marathon of 3:03. 

Running and trail running have become popular leisure activities in the Philippines, as in the rest of Asia. Sandi acknowledges: "I remember in the summer of 2014 when i joined a race and there were less than 20 participants.  Since then I've noticed that more and more people join trail races,  so it's good that we all somehow find peace in exercise. Yet,  i think that there's still a lot of room for improvement. Definitely, I hope trail running can become an Olympic sport one day!"

She considers Killian Jornet, Anna Frost and Sage Kennedy as very inspiring, and UTMB probably as the main ambition of her trail running career. "But ultimately, my goal is to inspire others to love the trails and mountains as i do," she emphasizes. 

After winning the Cordillera Mountain Ultra, and another great result expected in Port Dickson this Sunday, Sandi Menchi seems on track to be one of the leading contenders for the women's Asia Trail Master championship this year, following in the footsteps of her compatriot and male champion Manolito Divina. "The ATM championship would be a great achievement, but it is long way to go and I don't exactly have the rest of the year planned out yet.  Let's see!"