Ijen: Ruth Theresia aims for the ATM title
The 4th edition of Ijen Trailrunning takes place this weekend in Bondowoso, close to Banyuwangi in East Java. It has become one of Indonesia’s iconic ultra races with a good share of international participation, yet has very much retained its local east javanese feel. Ijen is still a remote place, and while the newly opened Banyuwangi airstrip hosts flights from Jakarta and Surabaya, participants do need to bring a good sense of adventure when they attend the event. Having said that, Ijen offers cut-off times (e.g. 32 hours for 100k, 4300 hm) according to common international best-practice and that gives many domestic runners also an opportunity to complete their first 100k race. The event offers four race distances in total, of which the 100k and 70k provide ATM Championship points and Grandmaster Quest points.
As last week in Vietnam, most attention will go to the women’s 100k race at Ijen. Indonesia’s leading lady in trail running, Ruth Theresia, will attempt to win her fifth ATM race of the season and lay claim to the 2018 Asia Trail Master title. It has only been two weeks since Theresia won her home race in Bandung. A narrow victory, one should say, as plagued by an ankle injury Theresia was not at her peak level and received a stern challenge by Jocelyn Cheung. However, this week she feels recovered enough to give it a go. Should it not work out this weekend, Theresia has another chance for a 5th win at Plataran X Trail Bali next week.
A fifth race victory would mean she eliminates her off-day at Cordillera Mountain Ultra last March from the ATM total points ranking. The five-best-count system is in place, and with five victories - including two SuperTrails with 50 bonus points each - Ruth Theresia would raise her score from 2388 to a massive 2650 points. Mathematically speaking, that boost her chances of becoming the 2018 Asia Trail Master Champion to over 90%. In sports, however, it is not over until it is over and - even when unlikely - a few other race winners this season could potentially still tie with her… or overtake her on points. There’s still quite a few points races left on the calendar, including the Japan SuperTrail - Izu Trail Journey - and a 100 miles race - HK 168 - both of which offer 50 bonus points on top of the regular 500 for the race winner. Theresia needs to keep an eye out in the next weeks what other race winners this season such as Carole Fuchs, Corinne Williams and Evelyn Lek will still do. Fuchs, who recently moved from Thailand to Japan, won the Philippines SuperTrail and needs 4 more race wins, including at least Izu Trail and HK 168 to jump ahead of the Indonesian. She got injured in Hakuba earlier this month, though. Corinne Williams won the Hong Kong SuperTrail, 9 Dragons, and Borneo TMBT Ultra 100 last month. She needs 3 more race wins, including Izu Trail and HK 168. In Sabah, however, Williams indicated other life priorities may prevent her from racing again this season. Singapore’s newcomer-on-the-scene Evelyn Lek needs 3 more wins, including the two abovementioned key races to tie with Theresia. Bottom line: mathematically-speaking, Ruth Theresia will only be 100% sure of having won the ATM title after the CM 50 Ultra and Compressport Trail Blazer race weekend on 25 November, but the stars look bright for the always smiling trail runner, who - let’s not forget - only became competitive two years ago. Last year, she missed the ATM title only by a small points margin and after putting up a great fight with Kim Matthews at CM 50 Ultra. If she wins this year’s championship, it will be truly well-deserved!
Back to the race-at-hand: Ijen Trailrunning. Ruth Theresia will of course not run by herself, and she also needs to win again if the scenario described above were to unfold. This weekend she may be pushed ahead by Surabaya’s Sri Wahyuni as in Mantra Summits last July. Sri Wahyuni had to forfeit from Bandung Ultra with injury, but feels strong enough to start on the 100k tonight. Also Bali’s Grandmaster Lily Suryani returns to the Asian scene after a long excursion to Europe mid-year. Given the beauty of the Ijen volcano and its famous blue fire, the event every year attracts runners from other parts of the world who may turn out to be podium or even victory contenders as well. Let’s see if that is the case also now on the 100k, but it certainly is for the 70km. On the second Grandmaster distance, Spain’s Salva Rambla will be a serious candidate. Rambla came third in the more technical Bandung Ultra 100 and will find Ijen closer to his characteristics as a trail runner coming from Europe. A lot of international runners like Rambla will be at the starting line for the 70k, including from Japan, Malaysia, China and South Korea. Yohanis Hiareij from East Java was second on the 100k in this home race of his, but will now try to achieve one podium step higher on the 70 km. For all the internationals, Hiareij could be the benchmark. The 100 km is wide open could see the emergence of new names. Surabaya’s Suparmin will be a contender, but Davao’s Rexell Aguirre will be a serious opponent. Aguirre has been preparing very well for this race, which reminds him of his home area and Mount Apo. Let’s not forget: Aguirre finished second in the Mt Apo Sky Race last year.
Stay tuned all weekend for the action from Ijen!