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Asia Trail Master - Editorial September 2017

Every new season around the summer months we put the entire Asia Trail Master project under a magnifying glass and try to identify areas where we can twist and tweek the set-up, so everything becomes even more attractive for all parties concerned. Now in its third year, ATM still continues to grow on a constant basis according to all our internal parameters, for which we are of course very grateful to all of you. From the get-go in 2015, Asia Trail Master was the pet project of our Hong Kong-based mother company Kuai Sports Promotions with as main ambition the development of trail running, and runners, in Asia. We have hit turbulent weather at times and for sure not everything has gone the way we had imagined it, but we are confident to claim that ATM mid-2017 is a much bigger animal than mid-2015. Our champions like Arief Wismoyono, Manolito Divina and not in the least Tahira Najmunisaa Muhammad Zaid clearly value their championship titles, and today do their utmost best to retain or regain them. The competiton in 2017 is bigger than ever and we are looking forward to a fantastic conclusion of this year’s championship in the next few months, hopefully with a showdown of the best runners at the Izu Trail Journey in Japan on 10 December. Still, Asia Trail Master has never been only about the fastest of runners out there. Our Grandmaster Quest is an individual challenge for every type and level of runner. Today, six athletes have achieved the first level of six races of 70+ km in two years, and Thailand-based Filipino Aleksis Capili has even managed to score his second Grandmaster star already for finishing ten such long distance races. It has pleased us to hear all around the ATM circuit that people now have the Grandmaster Quest in focus. 

We are grateful to each of our sponsors and promotional partners of the Asia Trail Master Championship series and hope we can continue to cooperate in 2018 and beyond. Trail running remains a niche in the overall running business, which means it is still not easy to obtain large financial support but some brands do see the potential now of strategic regional marketing to increase their share in the trail industry, and indeed the running industry as a whole.  As of the second half of 2017 already, ATM will boost its media services to unprecedented heights creating new brand exposure opportunities for brands and companies, either pan-Asian or national. Traditional sports are in crisis worldwide - just look at the difficulty of finding olympic host cities nowadays as just one example -, and trail running belongs to a new wave of popular activties that, perhaps, fits the 21st century better than what we thought a few years ago. Along with that comes the opportunity for innovative and creative marketing and sales ideas to blossom using the latest available technologies. 

As our social media community has grown bigger than any regional trail media platform, we have recently also opened a closed community group on facebook called ‘ATM Trail Talk’  for runners and trail running insiders with opinions. ATM Trail Talk is not meant for publishing news about events, but rather as a discussion forum for organisers, runners and other stakeholders. At Asia Trail Master, we are always open for new suggestions - or founded criticisms - and happy to discuss them with all of you keeping our core ambition close to heart. So, if you have any well-founded ideas or arguments, we are happy to hear them on ATM Trail Talk. The floor is open for all registered members.

Last but not least, a big thank you to all event organisers and all dedicated runners in the Asia Trail Master Championship series. Without you no races, and no Championship. It is fantastic to see that events have matured and gotten ever better since the beginning in 2015. Likewise, many trail runners have become household names in trail families outside their native countries. All of this to the extent that some global trail running stakeholders, such as UTWT, have taken notice. All things considered, that is a very positive development and shows that Asian trail running is moving up. One of our goals remains getting the top of the ATM Championship into the annual trail world championships organised by IAU and ITRA. For a variety of reasons, Asia is largely absent from that competition. But as institutional matters go, it takes time, unfortunately. 

We keep on working, we keep on running, we keep on making new friends and enjoying ourselves on the magnificent trails of Asia!


2018 ATM Preview - Precious little gems & the Malaysia SuperTrail
Mt. APO Turning Point.jpg

In part 4 of our 2018 calendar preview we highlight three perhaps lesser known races, but little gems they are for sure: the Mount Apo Sky Race on Mindanao in the Philippines, the Ultra Trail Nepal in Kathmandu and Batase, and the Tengri Ultra Trail in Tamgaly Tas, Kazakhstan. All three take place back-to-back from 22 April to 6 May, and are followed by the big Malaysia SuperTrail, Penang Eco 100! 

The 3rd edition of the Mount Apo Sky Race is organised by the Vertical 2 Sky Team, which has set up several nice races in Davao and on Mindanao island. In 2018 the main points race will be upgraded from 70K to 100K, yet remains an out-and-back route to the summit of the highest mountain of the Philippines. The registration is open earlier than ever soon, and with Air Asia now flying directly from Kuala Lumpur to Davao, the event has become more accessible than ever as well! 

One week later we travel to Nepal for the Ultra Trail Nepal event, which commemorates the devastating earthquake of 2015. Running from Kathmandu to the Batase Valley, also this course has been extended from 86K to a full 100K for the next edition of 28 April. Although this is Nepal, this event actually has quite some runable sections as well. 

Meanwhile a classic on the ATM calendar is the Kazakhstan pioneering race in UNESCO World Heritage Site Tamgaly Tas, 100K from Almaty. The 4th Tengri Ultra Trail is scheduled to retain its 70K main course, which is characterised by grasslands with snowcapped peaks on the horizon, and a rocky canyon to be traversed. Registrations for non-Kazakhs will be open in due course. 

Finally, Penang Eco remains the Malaysia SuperTrail on 12/14 May 2018. This is a big event with the first 100 miler of the season, along with a 100K as main race as well. Less ambitious runners can also do the 50K or 35K, but those do not offer any ATM Championship points. The courses are expected to stay as they are more or less. As everyone who has done Penang Eco knows, this one is not about the elevation, but about the humidity and mental resilience as the techical sections come at the end and after a very runable first part. 

Tengri Ultra Trail

Tengri Ultra Trail

Penang Eco 100

Penang Eco 100

the 2018 ATM Calendar so far

2018 ATM Preview - The Points System

As every year we have been evaluating our points attribution system for the Asia Trail Master Championship. Without changing too much and always sticking to the principle of "easy to calculate, easy to follow" , the 2018 system sees a few modifications that may be relevant for those fast runners gunning for a top placing in the championship. The most significant of these amendments is that B-races of 70K will no longer offer the full 400 performance points for the winner, but only 300. In our attempt to harmonise everything across the whole event calendar, we felt that B-races of a few events were overvalued - points-wise - in 2017. 

While the 'five-best-count' rule remains for the final classification at the end of the season, it should be noted that we require one of those five races to be a SuperTrail in 2018. If no SuperTrail is among the races run by an individual, his or her points total will be reduced by 250 points. This amendment is being introduced to avoid a situation whereby a runner collects high doses of points in some of the more remote or less competitive races on our calendar. 

There will be six SuperTrail races in 2018, whereby UTKC in Thailand, the 9 Dragons Ultra in Hong Kong and the Penang Eco 100 in Malaysia have already been confirmed. The allocation of the SuperTrail event for Indonesia, Japan and Philippines will be done soon. 

The Asia Trail Master Championship series continues to offer challenges and opportunities for runners of all levels and characteristics, mountain goats and quick rabbits. 

In a nutshell: 

2018 ATM Championship Points System - The key facts

  • The best 5 results in terms of points count for the final classification after the last race
  • Standard races: 500 championship points for winners:
    • 100 finisher points + 400 performance points
  • Performance points for winners:
    • A races: 400 
    • B races of 100K: 400
    • B races of 70K or C-races of 70K: 300
    • B races of < 70K: 200
    • Exceptions to this rule possible in selected cases
    • Performance points overview table link
  • Bonus finisher points:
    • SuperTrail bonus: 50 
    • 100 Miles bonus: 50
    • Abroad bonus: 50 (when 1 of minimum 3 races outside of resident country)
  • NEW: SuperTrail requirement
    • To avoid fast runners collecting high doses of points in very remote or less competitive races, we introduce the SuperTrail requirement, which says that 1 of the - minimum - five races that count for the final classification must be a SuperTrail for the runner to keep all his or her points. If the runner did not compete in a SuperTrail, his or her points total will be reduced by 250 points after the last SuperTrail race of the year has taken place. 
  • There will be 6 SuperTrails races in 2018. Thailand, Hong Kong and Malaysia are already confirmed. Japan, Indonesia and Philippines will be announced in due course
2018 Asia Trail Master Championship: the first quartet

ANNOUNCEMENT - While we are all anxiously awaiting the conclusion of the 2017 Asia Trail Master Championship  in the fortcoming three months, we are also already planning ahead for next year. In the next days we will be making several announcements related to the 2018 championship, including some points regulation changes and of course the race calendar for the first semester of 2018. 

The calendar promises to be even more filled and as varied as this year with a number of exciting newcomers, a big returnee, and of course our young classics. Beginning on the weekend of 20/21 January, trail runners can look forward to Asia Trail Master action nearly every weekend till the end of June. Points will be collected throughout the season, and at the end of the year still the best five results per runner, in terms of points, will be taken into account for the final championship classification. The foundation of the championship therefore will remain the same as this year. A few details will be amended and these will be announced in a separate announcement later this week. 

The 2018 Asia Trail Master Championship series will again take off in Indonesia and Philippines, two countries that have witnessed a large growth of their domestic trail running scenes over the past years, which naturally also has resulted in a number of runners gaining fame and prestige throughout the Asian continent. Just think of Manolito Divina and Ruth Theresia, to name two only. 

The Tahura Trail in Bandung, West Java, is the ideal race to get into gear on 21 January. It's not too long at 42 km, it's not too hard neither, but it does have technical sections that will separate the trail runner from the road runner, especially when it's wet and muddy like in 2017. For those who have not been in Bandung, it's a city surrounded by green mountains where Jakartians flock to on weekends. The tourism and hotel industry is therefore well-developed and you can easily spend a brilliant weekend with the family in the area. 

As in 2017, the next event has a similar set-up in that the Rizal mountains are close to Manila, capital city of the Philippines. Participants for the Rizal Mountain Run on 28 January can stay in Manila and grab transport to the event site on Saturday night and return to the city after the race. The Rizal Mountain Run will be the first of two back-to-back pinoy points races because the following weekend we have the Pilipinas Akyathlon, as introduced last week. The Akyathlon takes place around Mount Ugo in the Cordillera mountains, and a full week travel package including the two ATM points races is currently being designed for runners who like to spend a whole week in the Philippines! Stay tuned for more details on this special travel option in due course. 

With three races of 42 km, 50 km and 46 km in the bag, runners will be warmed up for the first genuine ultra race of the 2018 season: the Coast To Coast Night Trail Ultra in Central Java's Yogyakarta. If you thought the 70 km was tough this year, be prepared then for 10 February as the local organisers have announced a 100 km course as main race distance in 2018. Final confirmation of that is still pending, though. The 70 km also remains on the programme, which means CTC offers the first 2 Grandmaster point collection options of next year's season. Coast To Coast Night Trail takes place mostly at night - obviously - and can safely be considered a race suited for in-shape trail technicians. However, there's quite long runable sections, too, which makes for a well-balanced course appreciated by experienced runners. 

With these four great events we are confident the 2018 Asia Trail Master Championship series will start with a bang. And wait for tomorrow... when we announce the next quartet of races and the first SuperTrails for next year! 

The First Four: 

Hakuba Trails in Nagano latest ATM Candidate Race

With three races in the 2017 Asia Trail Master Championship series, Japan is more than ever open to the international trail running community. The country arguably being the centre of Asian long distance running, we can only applaud this and we are looking forward to discovering more of all these gems of events that have so far been elusive if not outright mysterious. Introducing Hakuba International Trails: a new 2018 Candidate Race taking place this coming weekend 9/10 September in Nagano, former host city of the Olympic Winter Games. 

It will be the second edition of the event after a very successful premiere last year. Hakuba offers a scenic and spicy 53 km course with 2800 metres of elevation gain. As you can see from the images below, the race takes place in the mountains. Several rivers need to be crossed as well. About 1700 runners are expected to take part in the event that also offers three shorter distances to cater for the whole family. The first start is at 7:00 a.m. and the COT for the 53km is 10 hours, which does imply participants need to move on during the race. 

The event is organised by the Hakuba International Trail Run Committee, which includes several experienced ultra runners. We are looking forward to next week's Candidate Race edition, and are confident Hakuba International Trails will also be a great points race in next year's Asia Trail Master Championship. 

Please take a look at the website of Hakuba International Trails for more details (currently only in Japanese). 

UTKC 2018 opens registration!

UTKC, aka Ultra Trail Unseen Koh Chang, made quite an impression on runners last February as the Thailand SuperTrail in the Asia Trail Master Championship series. The organising team Teelakow of course has quickly gathered a reputation for delivering well-organised and designed events like also the Ultra Trail Panoramic and Ultra Trail Chiang Rai. We are happy to announce that also in 2018 these three great races will be part of the Asia Trail Master Championship, and UTKC will again be the first SuperTrail race of the season on 16/17 February 2018. 

The event again features tough 100k and 70k Grandmaster distance races, along with two shorter races for beginning runners. For the championship, the two long distances count for points. 

The registration has just opened today for UTKC 2018. While the organisers accept high numbers of runners, better do sign up relatively quickly as the events do sell out beforehand in Thailand. 

Go to the new website for info on 2018 and the online reg form. 

Welcome to Pilipinas Akyathlon!
Akyathlon Logo.jpg

The Philippines is rich of exciting trail running events and today we are excited to introduce one that is a great newcomer for the 2018 Asia Trail Master Championship series. The Pilipinas Akyathlon has been recommended to us by the most experienced trail runners in the country, and we are delighted that the organisers of Philippines Skyrunning Association have indeed engaged in a cooperation with us for the next two seasons. Scheduled for 4 February 2018, the Pilipinas Akyathlon’s main event is the 46 km race from Binga Lake in Itogon to the summit of Mt Ugo and back to the lake via a different route. Two shorter races are also on the programme, but it’s the 46 km that counts for ATM points. 

While 46 km is not particularly long, it is a typically crisp course with no fewer than 3257m of elevation gain to be conquered! It’s therefore the perfect addition to our 2018 early season roster, and follows the Rizal Mountain Run a week earlier. Runners coming from a bit farther away or outside Philippines therefore have a chance to spend a fantastic week in the country taking in two ATM points races in one go! A training and sightseeing programme for in-between the two race weekends can be designed for people interested. 

The course of the Akyathlon is very scenic and features rice fields in remote villages, pine forests and hanging bridges crossing the mighty Agno River. And there’s of course the long and often steep ascent of Mount Ugo. For those who wonder, the Akyathlon goes up this famous mountain via a different route than the Cordillera Mountain Ultra, so both races are very distinct, indeed. Kian Vicera, race director, does emphasize that this is a race for runners with already a few trails on their record. 

Registration for the Pilipinas Akyathlon opens very soon via Raceyaya. Stay tuned! 

Akyathlon 2018 map profile.jpg
2018 ATM Calendar: 1 week to go!

We are only mid-way in the 2017 season, but behind the scenes preparations for next year have been heating up in recent weeks. As already announced, the 9 Dragons in Hong Kong is an exciting newcomer in our Championship series on 24/25 February as the new Hong Kong SuperTrail (register quickly as selling out quickly!), but there's more to be announced! Watch this space next week for the first introduction of our 2018 ATM Championship calendar for the first semester. 

Concerning this year's Championship, the battle for points continues next month with the Vietnam Mountain Marathon in Sapa. One week earlier, there is of course also the Candidate Race Bandung Ultra 100 in West Java, Indonesia. There's a few more Candidate Races that may be announced in due course as well, for those seeking a pioneering experience.

Enjoy the summer time lull in the mean time! 


Enter the 9 Dragons - Sign up now!

One of the exciting newcomers in the 2018 Asia Trail Master Championship series: the 9 Dragons in Hong Kong on 24/25 February. Organised by the reputed fellows at Racebase Asia, the 9 Dragons has quickly established itself as a must-run race in a place already overloaded with trail running events. We are delighted to have it as part of our championship series and credit the 9 Dragons as the Hong Kong SuperTrail, which means bonus points for all finishers.

The event's main competition is the combination of the 50 miles race on Saturday with the 50k on Sunday. In principle we are thus talking a stage race with two stages, which makes it rather unique. The extra hours of rest in between the two stages will be welcoming for some, while others may feel very worn out when going to the start of Sunday's 50k stage. This being Hong Kong, elevation gain is of course also respectable. 4000 hm on Saturday during the 50 miles, another 3000 hm for Sunday's 50k!   The combo race is limited to 150 runners and you need to prove some credentials when you sign up for it. Registration for the 50/50 combo opens today, and you better be quick. Those who prefer to do the 50 miles single stage can sign up soon. 

In the context of the Asia Trail Master Championship, please note that points will be given to all finishers on the 50/50 combo stage race and on the 50 miles single day race, but not on the 50k single stage. It goes without saying that those who complete the combo will benefit from additional 50 bonus points. Be aware that if you sign up for the 50/50 and decide to quit after the first stage, you will only get finisher points for the first stage (150) and no performance points. 

For more information about the 9 Dragons, please visit the official event website, where you can also sign up. A comprehensive interview with race director Steven Carr will be posted on our channels in the upcoming weeks. Runners who have specific questions directed to him can let us know via before 10 August.