Luc Hapers is Talking Trail Running

This weekend the 3rd edition of the Tengri Ultra Trail in Kazakhstan is on the Asia Trail Master agenda. A 70km relatively fast race through grasslands and rocky canyons of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Tamgaly Tas, roughly 120 km from major city Almaty in the East of this big country. TUT is a genuine outdoor experience with camping along the Ili River included before the race. Increasingly more international runners with an adventurous spirit are travelling to Kazakhstan for the race. Belgium's Luc Hapers is one of those trail running globetrotters and has been since many years. This weekend he will be among the top favourites for the victory in the Tengri Ultra Trail, as his pace is still quick, too. Formerly living in Bali, Indonesia, Hapers is also familiar with trail running in Asia and that makes for an interesting talk. 

By K. Van de Velde

Q: Luc Haepers, born in Belgium but quite familiar with Asia and in particular Indonesia. How's that?
LH: My first introduction to Asia was Bali. I was 18 back then. I fell in love with Bali immediately and I went back nearly every year since. Year after year I explored more and more countries in Asia. 

Q: When did you start running?
I started running when I was 30. That's when my older brother convinced me to join him in a 5 km race.

Q: Did you have any running or sports idols as a youngster?
I practice sports a lot, but don't really like to watch it. And if I do I am neutral so I never have to be disappointed after a game or race. 

Q: You're known as an ultra runner, doing several races a year. How do you recover between races? 
I guess I can say that I usually recover very well after an ultrarace. In some cases I only needed a day or 2. But when my body needs more time to recover I listen to my body. I'm asking a lot of my body but sometimes you have to give something back. It works both me  it's just like a relationship...give and take. I treat my body well and I get strength and performance in return.

Q: Do you keep a training and nutrition plan? 
I do not stick to any nutrition or training programme. I don't want to get a sense of pressure. I eat healthy all the has become a habit...a lifestyle to me. I strongly believe that it helps me to perform better. I'm always experimenting with my nutrition intake and way of training. Nobody knows your body better than yourself.

Q: What's the toughest race you have done so far?
That must have been either 'la diagonale des fous' in Reunion last year or 'la echappe belle' in France.

Q: What's your ambition still in trail running after all these years? 
My plan was to compete in the Asia Trail Master series but I'm not sure I will be able to join enough races to do that. I would love to do a multiple stage race like Transpyrenean or Atacama crossing. A few more podiums would also be lovely. 

Q: How do you select races on your programme? 
I always combine my races with a holiday. I try to pick at least 1 country I haven't been to every year. 

Q: How do you see your chances of reaching the podium in Kazakhstan this weekend?
Looking at last year's results I would be able to win...but every year is different. Podium should be feasible...if everything goes well!!

Q: Having done plenty of races in Indonesia and Asia in general, would you say there is a difference in the organisation of Asian and European trail events?
I think that Europe has some benefits in terms of sponsors, expertise, status of some races...etc but me personally I prefer the smaller races. 

Q: Do you have a recommendation perhaps for organisers in Indonesia based on your experience? 
In general, trailrunning in Asia is still in its infancy compared to Europe. Communication can be an issue in some cases and lack of information before as well as during the race. more important thing...keep the trails free from rubbish. Disqualify the ones who litter!

Q: How should people in Asia imagine racing in Belgium?
You would think that trailrunning in a rather flat country as Belgium is nearly non-existent...but it's not like that at all. In fact we do have some hard races in here. A self-navigating 250km race with around 9000m of altitude gain for example. The biggest difference is probably the fact that we don't have this long, never ending ascents and descents. 

Q: Would you like to see trail running become an olympic sport and why or why not?
I'm not waiting for it to become an olympic sport. I prefer to keep it low key. 

Q: Do you feel trail running merits more institutional oversight, e.g. in the field of safety? 
I would say it's the job of the organizer to determine the safety of the course. He also has to make it clear on the website and during the briefing.

Q: What do you think of the Asia Trail Master championship series? 
The Asia Trail Master series is still new to me. But I definitely like the concept. 

Q: Do you like running with music? if yes, what's your favourite tune? 
As I mostly run in nature I hardly listen to music while running because I don't want to exclude myself from nature. but if I had to choose I would go for Sigur ros' music because their music is one with nature!  'Ik loop' from Belgian band  Halve Neuro is one of my favorite roadrunning songs.