TMMT- Tahira reigns supreme and Sefli nails it

Tahira Najmunisaa Muhammad Zaid once again dotted the i last weekend with a strong second consecutive victory in the 100k Magnificent Merapoh Trail. The 2016 ATM champion not only re-ignites her 2017 Championship campaign and remains unbeaten in 10 ATM races, but she also crowned herself as the third female Asia Trail Grandmaster. After Bromo Tengger Semeru Ultra 100 at the end of 2015, the Malaysian mother-of-three completed five more ultra distances of 100k or more: Penang Eco 100 miles, MesaStila 5 Peaks Challenge, UT Koh Chang 100 and twice the Merapoh Trail 100. 

Last weekend, Tahira had an easier-than-expected race following the dropping out of Ruth Theresia. The Indonesian had decided to stay home due to a family situation. It has to be emphasized, though, that Tahira has never looked stronger than this year. Already at Tahura Trail and UTKC early this year she ran around with an aura of invincibility, and this got even more reinforced at Merapoh as she crossed the finish line just a coupleof minutes behind third-placed male Rexell Aguirre from Philippines and 25 minutes ahead of Isaac Yuen Wan Ho! Her finishing time was 12:13:10. Her new win propels her to third place in the current ATM Championship ranking, in what was her fourth points race of the season. Ruth Theresia is still 25 points ahead of her, thanks to her second place and the bonus points for the 100 miles at the Malaysia SuperTrail in Penang last May. But we do have a new points leader going into the summer break! Indonesia's ultra trail lover Lily Suryani finished her fifth points race of the season in fourth place, which is enough to jump ahead of her younger compatriot Theresia by 125 points. 

At the end of the year, each runner's best five results count. As such, Cheryl Bihag managed to eliminate her poorest result of the season - 33rd at Korea 50k - with 9th place at Merapoh last weekend, boosting her total points slightly higher still. 

Sabah's Adelinah Lintanga, team mate of Tahira at Malatra, finished the 100k in a superb second place, staying ahead of Malang Runner Shindy Patricia by almost 20 minutes in a splendid 14:28.   Lintanga moves up to fifth place in the ATM Championship, just behind Bihag, with Patricia in sixth. 

The men's race turned out to be more hotly contested than perhaps anticipated. Brunei's road runner turned trail runner Sefli Ahar got it all together and won the race in an incredible time of 11:26:18. It's Sefli's third career ATM win, but his first outside his home country. The former winner of the Hong Kong Half Marathon is eyeing more ATM points races in the second half of the season and could become a genuine dangerman for the likes of Steven Ong, Manolito Divina and Arief Wismoyono. 

Ahar ran a seemingly smart race, although Malaysian newcomer Mohamed Affindi Bin Nudin was giving him a serious fight in the early stages of the race. Affindi, as he is commonly known, ran his first 100k after doing his first 50k a mere two weeks ago. The Malaysian army man led the race ahead of Ahar at the first number of checkpoints! It is certainly not a shame, nor a surprise, that he faded somewhat in the second half of the race, but he still finished second in 11:57:46! A new kid on the block, Mohamed Affindi! 

Philippines' Riezel Cabanig looked like the strongest final podium runner for quite a while. Unfortunately, Cabanig missed the markings twice or three times, which dropped him back to sixth place at the finish. Yet, Cabanig is another runner to remember after this race! It was his compatriot from Mindanao Island in the south of the Philippines, Rexell Aguirre, who secured the final podium place for his country in the end. Steady-paced, Aguirre was second behind Pablo Diago Gonzales at the Mount Apo Skyrace in April and thus scored his second ATM podium of the season. Will he be the man to watch on 29 October at the upcoming UT Mapawa on... Mindanao? 

More than twenty minutes behind the Pinoy runner, Isaac Yuen Wan Ho reached the finish in fourth place. Second last year, Yuen Wan Ho had hoped to win it this time around, but moving appartments in the days before a fast-paced 100k race in tropical weather was not the best preparation. He even slept for a while at checkpoint 3. Still, the Hong Kong Grandmaster took it in style and moves up to fourth place in the ATM Championship behind Ong, Yim Heng Fatt and Arief Wismoyono. Yimster was also in the race and proved his grit again after the grueling Mantra Summits Challenge a week earlier. Yim was eighth. Indonesia's experienced Hendra Siswanto ran an excellent Merapoh Trail to come in as number five. Siswanto was in the mix the entire race and his second top 5 finish of the season is well-earned. He also moves up to sixth place in the ATM Championship with four points races completed in 2017. 

The 3rd edition of the Magnificent Merapoh Trail saw a record number of almost 900 runners. Running Project, the organising team of the event, has announced already that 1000 will be the upper limit next year, and that the race course will change considerably for 2018. We are all looking forward already! 

We now enter a period of welcome rest in the Asia Trail Master Championship series. The next points races will be the Vietnam Mountain Marathon in Sapa, which will be preceeded by the Bandung Ultra and a possible other event as 2018 Candidate Races. 

Sefli Ahar scored his first trail race victory outside of his native Brunei. Here with his son. 

Sefli Ahar scored his first trail race victory outside of his native Brunei. Here with his son. 

The female 100K podium with Tahira, Adelinah and Shindy

The female 100K podium with Tahira, Adelinah and Shindy