Fandhi Achmad beats Jan Nilsen at Mantra

Participants will remember yesterday's Mantra Summits Challenge in Malang, East Java, as one of the toughest races they have ever done. According to highly experienced Malaysian Yim Heng Fatt, the 50km race could even be the hardest in Asia. The ATM Candidate Race certainly left its mark. The male and female winners were top runners, but their finishing times were just under 12 and 15 hours respectively.... 

In fact, the men's race was flooded with talented trail runners. Jan Nilsen, Pablo Diago Gonzales, Razif Yahya and Yim Heng Fatt were just a few big international 'names' at the start, and they were joined by a whole bucket list of Indonesian trail runners, especially those who love it when it gets technical. And technical it was. Many people felt it was more of a hiking event than a running event. 4400m of elevation gain was only part of the story. The downhills were so narrow, rocky and covered by high grass, even running down Mount Welirang and Mount Arjuno was virtually impossible. 

The top runners delivered an exciting battle, though, with changing positions and fortunes. Grandmaster Jan Nilsen, despite persisting foot problems, looked like he had the race in the bag for his first win of the season, until Jakarta's Fandhi Ahmad began his final push in the rocky downhill towards the finish and caught up with the Thailand-based Norwegian with just about 4 k lert to go. Ahmad had more juice left in his tank and took his first major victory in an Asia Trail Master-promoted race. Nilsen settled for second, which is still outstanding given his current lack of training hours due to his injury. Especially if you consider who all finished behind him. Diago Gonzales lost time by missing a marker during the race, but had no issue to admit Nilsen was very strong yesterday. The Singapore-based Spaniard completed the podium. Rizki Saputra, Dzaki Wardana (winner of Ijen 100 last May) and Fauzi were next. 

With the withdrawal of Shindy Patricia (who dediced to rest after a busy racing schedule with a view to being fresh at Merapoh Trail next weekend), Asia Trail Master Championship points leader Ruth Theresia did not have a genuine rival for the race win. She therefore did not push to the limit, because she as well will be aiming for a top result at the upcoming race in Malaysia. 

Mantra Summits Challenge at the beautiful Kaliandra Eco Resort and Organic Farm is not too far from main city Surabaya and is scheduled to return next year at the end of July. While the race courses were indeed very hard and could be lightened up a bit with more runable sections, the overall organisation was well-appreciated by the runners. More to come, for sure!