The 9th edition of Borneo TMBT 100 goes into the history books as one of the most exciting, if not the most exciting! In both the men’s and women’s main race the decision fell in the final 10 km of the classic race in Sabah, East Malaysia. The local crowd had a lot to cheer about, as home favourite Milton Amat delivered his best racing performance ever in outbluffing the once again amazing Hisashi Kitamura for a superb victory. The Uglow Malaysia duo fought an amazing battle at the end of the race, after Alessandro Sherpa settled for third place.
Milton Amat was in great shape and he could not hide it for long. He dropped his fellow Sabahan Daved Simpat, who won TMBT a year ago, and the other main contenders already going into WS 4 at km 36. Amat would stay solo in the lead for the rest of the race until the meanwhile inevitable Hisashi KItamura began the chase in earnest. Alessandro Sherpa, adopting a more conservative race strategy this time around, kept himself in the mix as well. Daved Simpat, however, decided to DNF after 60km. His sore ankle began to hurt too much once again.
Kitamura perfomed his famous ‘Karate Kit’ jump to indicate his intention to attack, but his first attack proved fruitless. Even Sherpa came back to him eventually, and Amat remained out of reach. In fact, at WS 9 the gap had increased again to 20 minutes - the biggest it had ever been!
Not for the first time this year, Hisashi Kitamura showed incredible grit and gave it his all. The next two sections to WS 11 were mainly downhill and the Japanese used his natural running advantage. It was here that Sherpa had to let go once and for all. Kitamura was flying and minute by minute he edged closer to Milton Amat - as could be seen on the fantastic Dot Track Asia map, showing each runner’s GPS locations. In the approach to the final aid station WS 11, Kitamura caught Amat and passed him straightaway! The stunned Sabahan had no immediate response. But… and this is the great bit: Milton Amat kept his head cool and did not give up! The last 10km to the finish of TMBT are all gradually uphill and mostly on road. Amat has the advantage over Kitamura on that type of terrain…. and indeed: he crept closer and closer to the struggling leader and caught him again with 8k to go! Now it was the local hero’s turn, catch and pass. Kitamura was dead in the water. Milton Amat stormed to the finish and showed a great deal of emotion , which does not happen often, as he crossed the finish line. A superb performance! Kitamura came in second, exhausted. Sherpa cruised home in third, and Canada’s Jeremy Ritcey came in fourth not too far behind. Ritcey ran a very consistent pace all the way, despite arriving in Kota KInabalu just before the start after a delayed flight. Brunei-based South African Christo Swart made it up to fifth in the race and finished, ahead of Brunei’s Alexander Chung.
Milton's winning time for the 109 km was 14:22. Kitamura 14:39 and Sherpa 15:24. Milton Amat won his home race for the second time after 2017. Visibly delighted with his second ATM race victory of the season after Mantra Summits Challenge, Amat moves up to third in the Asia Trail Master Championship ranking and remains very much in contention for the title. Kitamura, though, remains the leader.
In the women’s, Japan’s Asuka Nakajima led from the start, but a painful knee slowed her down towards the end. In a situation similar to the men’s race, Guangzhou’s Wen Danyu had never been far away and caught Nakajima on the way to Cp11. Danyu pressed on uphill and took a great first victory in an ATM points race. Despite missing out on her fourth race victory of the season, Nakajima regains the points lead in the Asia Trail Master Championship at the expense of Fredelyn Alberto. It is now obvious that any woman who wants to become ATM Champion this year will need to pass Asuka ‘Bazooka’. Jcy Ho from Hong Kong ran a very consistent race and was third. A result that will push the Oxsitis runner into the top 10 of the ranking, with more to come for sure. Malaysia's Ng Song Hiang was a strong fourth place and first of the home runners.
Wen Danyu's winning time was 17:50. Nakajima came in in 18:04 and Jcy Ho in 18:36.
Both the men’s and women’s 100k races were pure promotion for the sport of trail running. A trio of runners giving it their best the whole day and creating the kind of excitement that even non-runners can enjoy. TMBT of course has a well-varied course that lends itself to this, with an ideal mixture of runable and technical sections. The races took place in cool, hazy conditions but were dry. Contrary to the days before, when heavy rainshowers put the organisation under a lot of pressure. A re-route due to a swollen river was implemented right after the start. It meant, a.o. things that the total race distance was increased to 109 km.
The 50k race - always well-stocked in talent but not a points race for the ATM Championship - was won by Kim Jisob from South Korea and Lauren Woodhouse from Great Britain.