Campbell outstanding & Matthews cruising to victory
A Hong Kong trail superstar came to Indonesia and conquered the Tahura Trail Marathon in Bandung, the opening race of the 2018 Asia Trail Master Championship series. Jeff Campbell was the hot favourite before the start, and he delivered on his credentials in exquisite style, completing the muddy course in 4 hours and 5 minutes ahead of the strongest field ever in this great race. In the women’s race, 2017 Asia Trail Master champion Kim Matthews started her season’s campaign with a comfortable victory as well. Although the event weekend was significantly drier than last year, many parts of the course proved too be extremely treacherous and slippery for the over 420 runners on the longest 42k marathon distance of the event.
The 35-year-old Campbell is a specialist of the medium distance trail and renowned for his velocity. While he admitted that Tahura Trail was muddier and therefore tricky and technical more than he has been used to in Hong Kong, Campbell felt in command of the race. It wasn’t a start-to-finish solo run, though. Until past the halfway mark, he was still accompanied by Italy’s Alessandro Sherpa and the surprisingly strong Margono Ono, a local speed walker who finished fifth in this race last year. In fact, Margono received praise from both westerners for his sheer speed in the first half of the marathon. While he had no response to the acceleration of Campbell and Sherpa after 20 km, the Indonesian did maintain a high pace and caught Sherpa still at the end to snatch second place away from him. A bit further back was local Bandung hero Arief Wismoyono, who equaled his fourth place from last year. Perhaps more at ease on the ultra distances, Wismoyono nevertheless looked good in this short and rather fast race and stayed ahead of Ari Masrudi, who still beat him at Tahura last season. The 2017 runner-up in the championship will be a top favourite for UTKC in Thailand next month, along with Sherpa - who will also be competing in the first SuperTrail of the year. The solid performances of Margono and Wismoyono were further accentuated by the fact that Gaspard Dessy - third in 2017 - “only” came in ninth yesterday, and the Tahura king of 2016 and 2017 - Abdoullah Mitiche - barely made the top 15 this time around! Triathlete Mitiche was in shape and focused to go for the hattrick, but a direction error early on put him in a chasing group where he never really got out of. Also Fandhi Achmad - winner of Bandung Ultra 100 last September - and Asia Trail Master champion Steven Ong were the whole day condemned to the chase. In the case of Ong that was not entirely unexpected, as the 41-year-old Malaysian is at his best on the ultra distances. The champion started his 2018 ATM season with a 12th place.
Jeff Campbell is supported by a.o. Gone Running - also a sponsor of the 2018 ATM Championship - and will likely be seen more often on the tour this year. Born in Canada, he only discovered his running talent about four years ago and since then he has made a remarkable rise to the very top of the Hong Kong trail community. While 50K is his standard race distance, Campbell pointed out after the race that eventually he will try and move up to longer distances as well.
Kim Matthews took a relatively easy start before overtaking Ninie Hausschildt and then pulling away from the Indonesian, who has a subscription on second place at Tahura. Ninie Hausschildt, also more a triathlete than a trail runner, finished runner-up for the third consecutive year! In third place was Sri Wahyuni, who has become a regular podium visitor in Indonesian trail races lately.
Matthews looks increasingly confident and strong in Asian trail races, which is bad news for her challengers to the throne. Last season, the Australian speech therapist suffered more than once from heat exhaustion, but seems to have overcome this problem since moving to Ho Chi Minh City.
Bandung’s own Ruth Theresia opted to run the 21K half marathon at Tahura Trail. Theresia is in full training programme for the SuperTrails in Thailand and Philippines in February and March with the 2018 ATM championship title as top goal. It was nice to see that Matthews and Theresia ran side by side during the 10K race at Tahura the day after as well. There is competition, but trail running is mostly about fun and friendship!