Posts in Race report
VMM - Triumph for Quang Tran & Kim Matthews
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The Vietnam Mountain Marathon in Sapa saw quite an upset on the main 100K race as local runner Quang Tran had the better of current Asia Trail Master champion Manolito Divina. In the women's, Kim Matthews delivered on her role as favourite to take her third ATM race victory of the season. 

After finishing second in the Vietnam Jungle Marathon last May, Quang Tran had only one focus in the last months and that was to prepare himself for the Sapa race. While everyone was  pointing to Cao Ngoc Ha as Vietnam's best bet to compete against the pinoy tandem of Divina and Arnold Lozano, Quang Tran was at the front early on. Manolito Divina was able to resist for a long time, but eventually had to admit the Vietnamese runner was simply too fast last weekend. In the end, the gap at the finish had even built up to 1 hour and 15 minutes, which is impressive. Finish time: 13 hours and 17 minutes. Cao Ngoc Ha completed the podium in third place another full hour back. It illustrates the dominance displayed by Quang Tran. SIngapore's Chua Ying Zhi came very close to the podium in fourth place only a few minutes behind Cao Ngoc Ha. Arnold Lozano - winner of this year's Cordillera Mountain Ultra - came home in fifth place. 

While Quang Tran collects 500 ATM championship points and now totals 950 in two races, Manolito Divina moves up into the ranking's top 10 with this third points score of the season. Cao Ngoc Ha improves to 4th place, equalling the total score of Isaac Yuen Wan Ho, who will be in action next at the Mesastila Peaks Challenge. Steven Ong still heads the championship ranking.

Kim Matthews was not really under pressure last weekend and ran a solid 17 hours 52 to claim the victory. The Australian, who recently moved to Ho Chi Minh City,  is becoming a real challenger now for the Asia Trail Master women's title. Her VMM victory propels her to second place in the ranking with four races, just five points behind Ruth Theresia but also 20 ahead of Tahira Najmunisaa! Lily Suryani continues to lead the championship ranking with five results in the bank. In fact, after completing the tough Bandung Ultra 100 last week, the Indonesian finished sixth on the 100K of VMM as well! However, her points total does not increase further as VMM was her sixth race and only the best five results count. Lily needs to do better than 4th place in a regular trail race, as that was her placing in both Tahura Trail and Merapoh Trail. 

On the podium beside Matthews was Hoa Banh, running with Australian nationality as well, and Nguyen Thi Duong from Vietnam, who will move up to the top 20 of the championship ranking with her third result of the season. 

There was also a 70K in Sapa, and that race was won by Britain's Graham Knight ahead of Hanoi's Quang Nguyen after a good battle. In the women's France's Nadia Koucha took a strong victory ahead of Malaysia's Penang Eco 100 winner Christine Loh. 

 

 

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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

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! 

Race report: Steven Ong takes option on championship


Steven Soonseng Ong and Kim Matthews are the celebrated winners of the Tam Dao Mountain Trail in Vietnam, one hour northwest of capital city Hanoi. Malaysian Ong already took his third Asia Trail Master race victory of the season and jumps ahead of Indonesia's Arief Wismoyono in the championship ranking. After last weekend, it has become obvious that anyone with ambition should get passed the sympathetic ULTRON runner from Malacca, yet there are still plenty of races on the programme this year, including three SuperTrails with bonus points, as well as a few 100 milers, also with bonus points. 

Tam Dao is the name of the old French mountaintop retreat, now popular with tourists and cyclists keen on a genuine long and hard climb. Trail runners probably have mixed feelings, as the climb - on tarmac - makes up the final 9 km of the races. Participants scored championship points on the 70 and 42 km distances. Finishers of the 70 also collected a point on their individual Grandmaster Quests. In general the course was a mixture of fast runable sections and technical single trail jungle sections. A number of hills tired the legs out, but as in an alpine stage in the Tour de France that ends on top of the mountain, nothing is decided until you cross that finish line. 

Unfortunately, for the local Vietnamese fans that is what hero Cao Ngoc Ha discovered as well. The always-smiling new face on the Asia Trail Master circuit this year was running as strong as ever and was leading the race solo at the halfway point. That was no mean feat, given the strong line up of this race. However, things did not go as smoothly for some of the other favourites and ATM Championship contenders. Singapore-based Spaniard Pablo Diago Gonzales set a solid pace in the early stages and was still running with the leaders at km 35, when he twisted his knee in a descent. In his post-race interview (see facebook), Diago Gonzales said he was feeling unwell after a long and tough working week, and twisting his knee broke his morale. A DNF and no points for the winner of Mt Apo Skyrace and Ijen Trailrunning 70 this time around. He will be back for minimum the three remaining SuperTrail races in Indonesia, Philippines and Japan later this season. 

Given his incredible pace during the first 100km of the Penang Eco last month, Hong Kong's Isaac Yuen Wan Ho was arguably the top favourite for Tam Dao. But things turned sour for him early on, as he chose a wrong trail and lost a lot of time in getting back on the right course. Halfway through the race he was nearly half an hour behind leader Cao Ngoc Ha and down in 9th place. Nevertheless, Yuen Wan Ho is not one to resign. In the second part of the race he chased down runner by runner, set the fastest time on the final mountain climb (allegedly, he ran all the way up!) and overtook a shocked Nguyen Duc Quang in the final 4 km to still grab the third spot on the podium! Yuen Wan Ho finished 41 minutes behind the race winner. What if? "No, " said the honest-or-modest Hong Kong runner, who also became a Grandmaster for finishing his sixth 70+ km race within two years. "Steven Ong was very strong in the second part of the race, I doubt I could have beaten him." 

Steven Ong is building a reputation for being a tactical mastermind, or is it just down to experience? At CP 7 after approx 55 km, the gap to leader Cao Ngoc Ha had increased to five minutes. But then things got more technical again, and as the trails started to go up he caught the Vietnamese star already before the last CP 9! On the final mountain climb, Ong continued his rush to the finish and the victory. The verdict: still 23 minutes advantage over Cao Ngoc Ha. Despite his second place, Cao Ngoc Ha was full of admiration for Steven Ong and had no problem admitting the strongest man had won. 

Ong only lost one ATM race this season: at the very runable Sungai Menyala Forest Trail in Malaysia last April, current ATM champion Manolito Divina proved too fast. For sure, these two will meet again at the end of the season, CM 50 or Izu Trail, with maybe even the championship on the line. Throw the dice on who will win then! 

Conditions at Tam Dao were very hot and humid, which made it extremely tough for a lot of runners. The women's champion Kim Matthews from Australia had to give everything on the final climb to reach the finish, despite being comfortably in front. Matthews, who won UTKC 70 in February but also struggled with the heat to lose Penang Eco 100 in the final 10k, fell down - with a smile, though - from exhaustion right after the finish line. She had suffered a minor heatstroke. It looked a bit worrying at first, but she turned out to be okay. With this second race victory of the season, plus the second place at the previously mentioned Malaysia SuperTrail, Kim Matthews has become a serious contender for the women's ATM Championship. Now 4th, but with one or two races less than the three women ahead of her, it is significant she has 20 points more than defending ATM champion Tahira Najmunisaa. Most definitely, the women's championship is anyone's guess at this moment! 

Second and third place in the women's 70km went to Vietnamese runners Nguen Thi Duong and fast starter Nguyen Chi. While in the shadow of Matthews, it should be noted that trail running is very new to Vietnam and both young women showed remarkable grit. More to come, for sure! 

The 42 km races were won by Singapore-based Britain Timothy Kelsall in the men's and

Up next week is the Altai Ultra Trail in Russia's Siberia, followed by a resting month, in which there are nevertheless two Indonesian Candidate Races in East Java (Mantra Summits Challenge) and Bali (BNI Plataran X Trail). Early August we have the trail classic Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset and the new classic Magnificent Merapoh Trail in Malaysia. 
 

Okunomiya wins a fast Echigo Country Trail

Pre-race top favourite Shunsuke Okunomiya won a fast edition of the Echigo Country Trail 52k in just under five hours. The celebrated Japanese runner was pushed forward all the way, though, by his compatriot Hayato Kimura. Kimura was never far behind and took second place just five minutes behind Okunomiya. Niigata's Jun Kaise came back from a modest start to take third place, and after winning Kushigata Wind Trail three weeks ago is now the top Japanese runner in the ATM championship. Kazuyuki Takahashi was a solid fourth place, and Kobe's Yuta Matsuyama completed the top 5. In the women's race, Kayo Siimbo led from start to finish. 

The race was held in good weather conditions with rather cool temperatures at the start. Nevertheless, the 2000 metres of elevation gain are  treacherous, as several forest climbs are so steep ropes are required to reach the top. As a result, there were again a considerable number of DNFs as the cut off time proved rather tight. 

A photo album of the event can be found on our facebook page

Ngoc Ha and Nicole Ng win Vietnam Jungle Marathon

The first Vietnam Jungle Marathon in and around the Po Luong Nature Reserve was held in very hot and humid conditions, making the race tougher than it already was on paper. Local hero Cao Ngoc Ha dropped his compatriot Duy Quang Tran in the final sector to win the race  in 8:22, nearly four minutes ahead. After a great third place at UTKC in February, the first ATM race win for Cao Ngoc Ha, who now totals 975 championship points. Cao Ngoc Ha and Duy Quang Tran ran most of the trail together, but in the end Ngoc Ha had the upper hand. He will also compete at Tam Dao Mountain Trail next month and can become a dangerman for the Asia Trail Master Championship. 

United States' Kent Luu completed the men's podium with a third place in 9:45 after a tight battle with Singapore-based Fabien Billaud, who came in 12 minutes later and who suffered from cramps towards the end. Stephen Hargrave finished fifth, Ric Stockfis sixth, closely followed by Paul Nicholas of France. Duncan Wilson, Myanmar-based Kiwi, has arrived in 8th place.

Malaysia's Nicole Ng won the women's race! She finished ahead of local Vietnamese runner Thi Thieu Phuong Nguyen and Phuong Vy Le. Nicole Ng likes Vietnam, as last year she also completed the 70k race of the Vietnam Mountain Marathon. Pre-race favourite Ann-Mari Lillejord unfortunately did not start the race. 

A photo album by our house photographer Adventure III will be uploaded in the course of this week. 

Winner: Cao Ngoc Ha

Winner: Cao Ngoc Ha

Winner: Nicole Ng 

Winner: Nicole Ng 

The men's podium last Saturday

The men's podium last Saturday

The 70k race started at night time

The 70k race started at night time

Report: Theresia sprints past Patricia to grab ATM points lead!

Indonesia's Ruth Theresia is the new points leader in the women's Asia Trail Master championship after scoring her third race win of the season at Ijen Trailrunning in Sempol, Bondowoso, East Java. It didn't come easy. Shindy Patricia looked like having the victory all wrapped up, until Theresia came back in the final kilometres. The two leading ladies of the Indonesian trail scene then sprinted for the win. An amazing conclusion to a 100k race, and arguably also a symbolic one: Patricia was last year's Indonesia Trail Champion, but this year Ruth Theresia seems to have taken over. With 2020 ATM Championship points in 4 races, she now leads the standings at the expense of Cheryl Bihag, who also sees Lily Suryani overtaking her. Both Bihag and Suryani already completed 5 races this season. Last year's champion Tahira Najmunisaa has three races so far. The best five results count at the end of the year. 

Ijen Trailrunning offers one of the most beautiful trail courses of the year with the impressive Ijen volcano crater as the centre point of the race. The weather conditions were unusually cool at the nighttime start of both the 100k and 70k races, which was of course pleasant for the participants. While Shindy Patricia had the best start in the women's, local running star Yohanis Hiareij put the hammer down in the men's 100k. Hiareij finished second in a close finish with Arief Wismoyono at Ijen last season, and was determined to win this time around. Having notched up places of honour at Tahura Trail and Coast To Coast Night Trail, he was keen to take his first ever major race win. But alas, as with the women's race, and just like last week in Penang Eco, the race is not over until it is over. Hiareij was in control for over 90 km, and then Central Java's dark horse Dzaki Wardana ran up to him. Wardana is known to mix stellar results with average ones, but at Ijen he clearly felt great. Wardana caught Hiareij and dropped him to win his first career ATM race! At the finish the difference was about ten minutes. His race time was just under 17 hours for the 100k and 4200 hm. Vincent Chalias from France looked set to gain third place, but in the end Sam Samides took it. 

The field of participants on the men's 70k on paper looked even stronger. With this year's new regulations, each Grandmaster distance race offers the same championship performance points. All eyes were set on Grandmaster Jan Nilsen, making his comeback from injury, and Spain's Pablo Diago Gonzales, king of Mount Apo on Mindanao last month. Before the start, there was a third runner popping up who could spoil the party for both established runners: Indonesia's Ari Masrudi, second at Tahura Trail in January ahead of Wismoyono, Dessy, Hiareij and others, is a roadrunner looking to find his way on the trail. Ijen 70 was his first 70k ever. In the race, Gonzales went to the front quickly and coming down from the volcano crater had a gap of approx ten minutes on Jan Nilsen, who did very well in his first race in 2,5 months. Gonzales kept the advantage until the finish. Masrudi followed with Philippines' Jared Tevis closely behind in fourth place. The latter duo would change places later on, making it an interesting non-indonesia podium for the 70k race. 

In the women's 70k, Switzerland's well-known and very experienced Katja Fink proved to be the fastest. Fink led from start to finish. Grandmaster Ina Budiyarni was in second for over three quarters of the race until hydration issues slowed her down to see Elisabeth Perez (USA) come past with 13k to go and grab second at the finish. 


 

Drama and a lot of sweat at Penang Eco 100!

The Penang Eco 100 again lived up to its reputation of being a seriously tough event for even the best trail runners in the region. The Malaysia SuperTrail in the 2017 Asia Trail Master championship series brought Hitchcock-like suspense and drama, with a number of turnabouts nobody saw coming in both the 100 miles and 100k races! 

If one major conclusion can be drawn after the event it is this: trail running experience and tactics outweighed sheer running pace. Sefli Ahar, Kim Matthews, and Isaac Yuen Wan Ho all set a blistering pace in the early and rather flattish part of their respective races, but none of them arrived first at the finish.

On the 100k, local Ultron runner Steven Oong grabbed his second ATM race victory of the season, after UTKC 100. The Malaysian overtook Wilnar Iglesia from Philippines after km 62 and found the technical hilly sections very much to his liking. Oong's race story could be printed unedited in a trail running guidebook. Unbothered and smiling when Brunei's Sefli Ahar took off like a bullet with Iglesia trying to keep up, Oong bode his time and balanced his effort in the hot and humid conditions of Penang. When the race went into the rainforest and the hills after about 40k, the number 2 in the Asia Trail Master Championship ranking began to focus and chase the front runners. Even Kim Matthews from Australia was running ahead of him at that point. Matthews herself ran like stung by a bee, which was amazing given she had started the race with a broken rib sustained in a household accident. Up front, Sefli Ahar discovered that technical trail running is very different from his maiden discipline: road running. The Bruneian won the Hong Kong Half Marathon a few years ago, and has developed an appetite for trail running after winning both editions of the Beach Bunch Trail Challenge in the past two years. Ahar has the ATM Championship in mind. He started the hilly section of the race with an advantage of approx 20 minutes on Iglesia, but his inexperience in trail cost him dearly. Ahar missed a marking, got lost and seemingly panicked. Unfortunately, he went on to end up at the start/finish arena rather than track back to the point he lost the right trail. The race director had no choice but to disqualify Sefli Ahar from the race result.

Iglesia took over the lead, but Oong charged forward, overtook the Filipino and finished in 15:47. In the end, thanks to his technical proficiency and stamina, Oong had even opened up a time gap of almost two-and-a-half hours over Iglesia, who did great in his ATM debut. Iglesia hails from the Manila area and will be back on the ATM circuit later this season. Oong now more than ever looks like a serious candidate for the ATM Championship. His Malaysian compatriot Yim Heng Fatt adopted a similar strategy than him. Fatt came also from behind, was never mentioned in the top five at checkpoints, but then reached the finish in a clear third place! Yim Heng Fatt in so doing retains his 4th ATM championship ranking with another great result. Singapore's Norman Koh was a popular and remarkable fourth place in the race - he ran on slippers! Man Kok Fai completed the top 5. 

In the women's, everyone at the finish was waiting to celebrate the victory of Kim Matthews, until Dong Minfei (China) appeared in the final strait instead! A new name on the scene, Dong Mingfei ran her first 100k and hails from Zhejiang Province. She had passed Matthews under the radar at CP9 with only some 10k left to go.  The Thailand-based Australian had suffered a knock of the hammer and got sick (like so many runners on the weekend). Matthews even fell asleep at the checkpoint, which allowed the Chinese girl to return. Dong Minfei obviously had a mental boost and managed to stay clear of a struggling Matthews by some 15 minutes.  The two female runners both had an outstanding performance nonetheless, considering they were also fourth and fifth overall in the race! The battle for the last female podium spot was interesting throughout the race and decided in favour of Katanya Kapelli (USA). Home runner Lynn Law won the battle for 4th place ahead of her compatriot Siawhua Lim. Shindy Patricia came in sixth, followed by her Indonesian compatriot Eni Rosita, who had clearly not recovered yet from all the ultras she did in the past few weeks.

Andres Villagran passed Yuen Wan Ho in the final stages to win the men's 100 miles

Andres Villagran passed Yuen Wan Ho in the final stages to win the men's 100 miles

Dramatic turn of events as well on the 100 miles. Hong Kong's Isaac Yuen Wan Hong led most of the race but got sick in the final sections . He was ultra fast early on, running 105k in 12:20! Andres Villagran from Ecuador chased him down and eventually won the 100 miles race in 28:13! His first career race win after several podium finishes in the US, and a new course record. Villagran is 33 years old and this was his first race in Asia: "i m so happy with my first win," he said. "I did not expect it as the Hong Kong runner was so fast, but I saw him throwing up towards the end. Great organisation and a very tough race, which makes my win even sweeter." Isaac managed to hold on to second place. "This was so tough, especially the descents are very technical," said the visibly tired runner, who seems to have a subscription on second places. Yuen Wan Ho nevertheless did a good job for his ATM Championship ambitions, and deserves a lot of credit for his resilience. 

ATM championship leader Arief Wismoyono was third. The Bandung Explorer ace had taken the fastest start, in fact, until Yuen Wan Ho took over. Wismoyono kept a good pace throughout and never saw his podium place under threat. The Indonesian was also visibly battered, though. Liew Tho Fatt from Malaysia was fourth. Fedok Ompiduk (MAS) fifth. Hendra Siswanto eventually came in as number 6 and again accumulated useful points for his championship ranking. Shannon Lee was 7th, followed by William Beanjay.

First woman was Malaysia 's Christine Loh, ahead of pre-race favourite Ruth Theresia. Loh finished in 34:30 approximately, which was amazing in her first 100 miler! Loh was ahead from the beginning, with Theresia a few minutes further down until the Indonesian got lost. And she got lost for a very long time, which dropped her all the way down the leaderboard halfway through the race. To her credit, Theresia did not give up and began to fight back. She finished her first 100 miler still in second place, which is important for the ATM Championship as she now has 25 points more than defending champion Tahira Najmunisaa in as many races (3). Lily Suryani was another runner who proved that on 100 miles, experience counts. Suryani finished on the podium, ahead of the younger and faster-paced Adelinah Lintanga, who faded towards the end but also deserves applause for completing her own debut on the 100 miles.  

Christine Loh won the 100 miles for women! 

Christine Loh won the 100 miles for women! 

Second ATM race win of the season for Steven Oong in the 100k 

Second ATM race win of the season for Steven Oong in the 100k 

Isaac Yuen Wan Ho set an excruciating pace in the first part of the 100 miles, but eventually had to settle for second place

Isaac Yuen Wan Ho set an excruciating pace in the first part of the 100 miles, but eventually had to settle for second place

New girl on the block: Dong Minfei from Zhejiang in China. Winner of the women's 100k.

New girl on the block: Dong Minfei from Zhejiang in China. Winner of the women's 100k.

Malaysiá Yim Heng Fatt continues his brilliant trail season with a third place on the 100k

Malaysiá Yim Heng Fatt continues his brilliant trail season with a third place on the 100k

The 4 women who managed to complete the 100 miles within the cut-off time of 40 hours

The 4 women who managed to complete the 100 miles within the cut-off time of 40 hours

Indonesia's Arief Wismoyono retains his lead in the 2017 ATM Championship ranking with 3rd place in Penang Eco 100 miles

Indonesia's Arief Wismoyono retains his lead in the 2017 ATM Championship ranking with 3rd place in Penang Eco 100 miles

Gonzales wins on Apo as Capili claims his 2nd Grandmaster Star
Aleksis Capili

Aleksis Capili

The race to the summit of the highest mountain in the Philippines lived up to its reputation. The Mount Apo Sky Race on Mindanao Island was hailed as a tough and technical 70 km course, and the winning time of seasoned trail runner Pablo Diago Gonzales  sums it up nicely: 12 hours and 6 minutes. The 35-year-old Spaniard, who lives in Singapore, was even an hour and 40 seconds faster than the second man on the podium, local runner Rexel Aguirre. Gonzales hereby scored the maximum of 500 points in his second ATM points race of the season after being 4th at Sungai Menyala Forest Trail in Malaysia a few weeks ago. He's now 7th in the current ATM Championship ranking with 900 points in his bag, and Gonzales is aiming for more. As the season moves on, he could indeed become a dangerman for this year's Asia Trail Master championship crown. 

Another protagonist in Davao last weekend, in more than one way again, was Aleksis Capili. Born in the Philippines, but living in Bangkok, he scored his second Grandmaster star by finishing Mount APo, his tenth ATM Grandmaster distance race in his career! Capili is undoubtedly the epitome of endurance runners. And not only does he continue to show grit and perseverance, he is also running faster and faster. Last Sunday, the 39-year-old Capili crossed the finish line in third place in 14:46 and therefore claimed the final step on the podium. That means an additional 425 championship points in his bag as well, which propels Capili up to 3rd place with 1155 points, ten more than Yim Heng Fatt. 

The women's race on Apo was decided in favour of Manilyn Mamugay (time 17:26), who was roughly two-and-a-half an hours faster than Mary Kristines Hernandez (19:54). Daisy Linas scored third place. For Mamugay it was the second career ATM race win, after also grabbing The Punisher 50 miles last December. 

Pablo Gonzales and organiser Doi Calbes

Pablo Gonzales and organiser Doi Calbes

The men's top 3 of the Mt Apo Sky Race

The men's top 3 of the Mt Apo Sky Race

Aleksis Capili now is also the first trail runner to have scored this shield

Aleksis Capili now is also the first trail runner to have scored this shield

Japanese clean sweep in the men's Korea 50K as Sandes pulls out

The biggest trail race in South Korea was a textbook example of the growth of the sport in that country, yet international runners took the top step on the podium in the main race of 59 km. South African star Ryan Sandes pulled out at the last moment with a hip injury that he sustained in training, and so the trail was open for Japan's top runner Ruy Ueda to deliver an outstanding performance. Ueda completed the hilly and tough course in a blistering 5:41:12. He was in a league of his own finishing nearly 40 minutes ahead of number two. In fact, two more Japanese runners completed the podium with Takeshi Doi overtaking Tomonori Onitsuka in the final stages to claim second place. Shimjae Dok, second last year, had to settle for fourth place. He was 41 minutes off the podium, which indicates just how quick the Japanese ran. Second Korean was Jisoo Kim. Al Telias from Philippines was one of the pre-race favourites, but he did not start. 

The overall level of the women's race also went up a notch as last year's winner Yukari Hoshino had to see Marie McNaughton from New Zealand run away from her after an intense dual between the two. For a long time they were separated by not more than ten minutes, until McNaughton pulled away in the late stages to win by approx 25 minutes still. Sunghee Lee was the best of the local runners in third place - just like 12 months ago. Lee is last year's winner of UT Jeju in October and the female Korean Trail Master, finishing 8th in the 2016 ATM Championship. She had to fight for her podium place last Sunday, as her compatriot Jeong Sun Park was just over five minutes behind. Park, of course, is the winner of last year's ill-fated Ultra Trail Mount Jiri, ran in very wet conditions. 

Importantly, Cheryl Bihag from Philippines finished the Korea 59k race as well, collecting another 188 points in already her fifth points finish of the ATM season! As such, she totals 1638 points and takes over the lead in the current Asia Trail Master points championship from Tahira Najmunisaa Muhammad Zaid (1500 pts in 3 races). A well-deserved top spot for one of the most popular runners on the Asian circuit. For Cheryl, it will now be about consolidation and increasing her points tally further by doing better than the 188 points of Korea 50k, which by coincidence happens to be her smallest points haul of the season. As per ATM championship regulations, only a runner's best five results are taken into account for the ranking. This year, Cheryl has done Rizal Mountain Run 50, Beach Bunch Trail Challenge 100, Cordillera Mountain Ultra 50, Sungai Menyala Forest Trail 50 and thus Korea 59K. 

MEN TOP 5

1. Ruy Ueda (JPN) 5:41:12
2. Takeshi Doi (JPN) 6:20:54
3. Tomonori Onitsuka (JPN) 6:30:39
4. Shimjae Dok (KOR) 7:11:39
5. Jisoo Kim (KOR) 7:33:55

WOMEN TOP 5:

1. Marie McNaughton (NZL) 7:42:32
2. Yukari Hoshino (JPN) 8:07:18
3. Sunghee Lee (KOR) 8:59:39
4. Jeong-Sun Park (KOR) 9:05:05
5. Bo Yong Jang (KOR) 9:22:23