Posts tagged malaysia
Check the 85k race course for MMTF, The ATM Final!

The TNF Malaysia Mountain Trail Festival in Taiping in Malaysia’s State of Perak is this year’s Asia Trail Master Championship Final on 14 December and the excitement is rising as the last weeks of running of 2019 approach. We are very happy to know already that almost every runner currently ranked in the top 10 of the men’s and women’s championship standings will be present in Taiping. MMTF has also pledged free entry and hotel for those top-ranked athletes. Anyone who still want to get inside the top 10 and enjoy the privilege should run The Punisher near Davao on 30 November. That’s the cut-off for MMTF privileges.

Below you can now see the final race course plan of the 85 km - the main race of the event. Last year the event was - unfortunately for some, fortunately for others - soaked in rain to the extent it can hardly rain more this time around. We expected a dryer race, but the biggest difference compared to 2018 will be that it will almost be a complete daytime race - at least for the protagonists. Start time is 6:00 am.

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Steven Ong wins EcoTrail Putrajaya
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Home runner and 2017 Asia Trail Master Champion Steven Ong has comfortably won the inaugural edition of EcoTrail Putrajaya in Malaysia da solo. The event is a 2020 Asia Trail Master Candidate Race. Steven Ong took control after roughly 25 km and never looked back. Indonesia’s Hendra Siswanto was a challenger initially but took some wrong turns and lost a lot of time, eventually putting him out of the race. Nepalese runner Kajiman Rai was next, but he too missed a marking towards the end during a downpour of rain. Jeffery Budin (MAS) and Yim Heng Fatt benefited and scored second and third on the podium. Rai still made it in fourth, Jacques Pasquier (SUI), who has done every single EcoTrail in the world, was fifth.

Syariffah Syazrah won the women’s 80km, her debut on that race distance. Running consistently and smart, she stayed out of trouble. An impressive ultra debut for the young Malaysian. Experienced runners Faherina Mohd Esa and Tan Hongping came in jointly as second and third as the sky had opened the gates again.

50km: Singapore-based Spaniard Pablo Diago Gonzales won it in 5h43’26”. Early leader Liau Chin Lee was second and Saiful Iswadi came third. Siti Khadijah was number one in the women’s race after playing yo-yo with Indonesia’s Ina Budiyarni, who then got lost and had to settle for third. Goh Joo Sing was second.

EcoTrail is a brand concept event hailing from France focusing on eco-sustainability and raising environmental awareness. The event in Putrajaya was the first EcoTrail in Asia and set to return on 17 October 2020.

Syariffah Syazrah was a great winner in the female race over 80 km

Syariffah Syazrah was a great winner in the female race over 80 km

Steven Ong on the way to victory in EcoTrail Putrajaya / Photo credit: Fadil Othman

Steven Ong on the way to victory in EcoTrail Putrajaya / Photo credit: Fadil Othman

Grandmaster Ina Budiyarni looked like the fastest, but missed a marking and lost time.

Grandmaster Ina Budiyarni looked like the fastest, but missed a marking and lost time.

Siawhua Lim came in fourth on her traditional slipper shoes

Siawhua Lim came in fourth on her traditional slipper shoes

Faherina Mohd Esa and Renee Tan enjoyed their joint-run in the pouring rain at the end

Faherina Mohd Esa and Renee Tan enjoyed their joint-run in the pouring rain at the end

Wismoyono wins tough Great Malaya Trail
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While all the Championship and Grandmaster Quest runners were focused on Ultra Trail Chiang Rai in Thailand last weekend, a 2020 Asia Trail Master Candidate Race unfolded in Malaysia at the same time. The Great Malaya Trail lived up on its pre-race promise of being ‘probably the toughest’ ultra in the country, and the very wet weather early on was not even needed for that. The 100 km had 6600m of elevation gain and went through three states: Selangor - Pahang - Negeri Sembilan. The eventual race winner - former Asia Trail Master Champion Arief Wismoyono from Bandung, Indonesia - needed 22 hours and 20 minutes to complete the course. As Arief said himself afterwards, ‘harder than anything he has done before in Malaysia’ , and he even compares it with some of the renowned extreme trail running events in his own country. Fandhi Achmad, also a known mountaineer and technical trail runner from Indonesia, came in second twenty minutes later.

It is clear that the Great Malaya Trail appeals to the hardcore trail runner. Only 19 finishers on the 100 km of roughly 100 starters, and only two women. However, the finishing rate on the 50 km was much higher at even 80%. The extra bits on the double distance therefore clearly seem to make the difference. Participants were also happy with the event organisation and services. The experienced event organisers from Team Pacat did have a hard time as well as heavy rainfall forced them to cancel the short distance categories of 30 km and 16 km - usually the categories with most paying registrants. It is very brave of a trail organiser to make that decision and Team Pacat deserves a lot of credit for that.

Ahmad Aqua Bin Othman completed the men’s podium of the 100k in 24h50. The two women into the finish were Sammy Yiaw in 30h49 and Izzah Hazirah in 33h26.

Despite all the challenges faced by the organisation, the Great Malaya Trail made a solid debut and those who like the rough’n tough will look forward to the next edition, now scheduled for end of September 2020. It is not yet decided whether or not the event becomes a points race in the 2020 Asia Trail Master Championship. All Malaysian slots on our ATM calendar are currently occupied, but one or two are yet to be guaranteed, so stay tuned for news on this one.

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2015 ATM Champion Arief Wismoyono is still going strong on the toughest of terrains

2015 ATM Champion Arief Wismoyono is still going strong on the toughest of terrains

EcoTrail Putrajaya a 2020 Candidate Race
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A lot of events in Malaysia are keen on joining the Asia Trail Master Championship series and EcoTrail Putrajaya on Saturday, 26 October is the third Candidate Race in the country this season. While The Great Malaya Trail the weekend before is food for technical trail lovers, this one in Putrajaya caters for pure runners. The traditional categories of the EcoTrail brand events are on offer: 80km, 50km, 30km and 15km. For pure beginners even a 5km is on the programme, so the whole family can take part in the event.

It will be the first ever EcoTrail-branded event in Asia and the technical organisation is in the hands of Ten Senses, who brought you TMMT. EcoTrail has grown to a premier event brand in Europe with environmentally conscious races in Europe’s capital cities such as Paris, Madrid, Florence, Geneva, Stockholm, Brussels and Oslo.

“Trail running comes to the city” is the main slogan of EcoTrail. Start and finish will be in the city centre, and from there the course will lead through parks, forests, hillsides and along rivers and lakes. This is a very runable race that will please the road runners who like to get a taste of off-road running.

Registration is open via Ticket2u .

For more details check out the official website.

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Borneo TMBT 100: Amazing Amat conquers home race!

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.

Borneo TMBT 100: Sherpa & Amat to chase Kitamura
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Two classic South East Asian trail running races back-to-back now with Borneo TMBT Ultra this Saturday and Vietnam Mountain Marathon next week. TMBT continues to attract a lot of people to Sabah, one of the East Malaysian states on the island of Borneo. It’s an event with a lot of categories, but the 100K remains the flagship and even the most popular one. It is indeed a 100K that many people argue “you can do”. However, this is by no means a walk in the park and besides the tropical humidity, heavy rainfall can cause muddy, slippery trails at all times.

Quite some international trail and spartan stars have been invited to the event this weekend, but nearly all of them are running the shorter distances. Good news for the Asia Trail Master Championship contenders and especially defending champion Alessandro Sherpa, as they can go for the prestigious race victory and the full 500 ATM Championship points whack! In fact, it is something the Italian desperately needs now if he wants to keep his ambition to retain the ATM title alive. Top favourite this weekend, though, must be local star Milton Amat. Currently 5th in the Championship, Milton can become third with a strong result and winning would reduce some pressure in that sense. Winning his home race is in any case Milton’s dream. He already did so in 2017, but that was jointly with … Sherpa (who made his debut as a ultra trail runner back then!). Last year, Milton came in fourth and quite far down on his fellow Sabahan Daved Simpat. Even youngster Wilsen Singgin (who runs the 50k this weekend) finished ahead. Milton Amat of course will excel if the terrain gets rough. He is slightly disadvantaged if the faster legs in the starting field can make their speed to work. In any case, for all contenders staying ahead of ATM Championship leader Hisashi Kitamura will be essential to prevent the Japanese Uglow ace from earning too much of an advantage. And there we have Kitamura’s goal of the weekend rightaway. Three weeks after his stellar show in Merapoh, he cannot improve on his total points tally - 2575 - at TMBT. His fifth and “worst” result is 500 points for 2nd place in the SuperTrails Dalat and Mantra. At TMBT 100, the winner scores 500. But it is important for Kitamura to beat his opponents in a straight dual just in case down the line in Taiping and TNF Malaysia runners end up with the same number of total points.

There’s a question mark behind the participation of another Sabahan star, Daved Simpat, winner of this race a year ago. He returned injured from Europe last week and will see how he feels. Simpat has not run any ATM races so far this season and does not seem to be a title challenger, therefore. There’s a few dark horses, too, mostly expats. Jono Woodhouse, from Australia but living in Hong Kong, could be most dangerous. Stephen Dundon is another Ozzie who won Merapoh 70k and also scored third in Ijen Trail 70k over the last few weeks. Jeremy Ritcey is coming back after a break and Scott Pugh is an ultra runner who is likely to appear in the top placings of the leaderboard late in the race.

Also in the women’s 100k, a lot of participants and it is hard to know each one’s background. But those 6 women in the poster below will be close to victory and podium for sure! Asuka Nakajima lost her top spot in the Asia Trail Master Championship to Fredelyn Alberto in Thailand two weeks ago, but the Japanese runner can reclaim it on Saturday. Unless she DNF like in Penang Eco, TMBT will be her 5th result of the season and that means a full whack of points still. Being 317 points behind Alberto in the ranking, a top 9 result will do the trick: definitely within reach! Nakajima already won three ATM races in 2019, there’s a good chance that she will be the target for the other title contenders in the next few months. Adelinah Lintanga, however, is the home runner in Sabah and very keen to win this weekend. Lintanga is racing much less this year, and with great competitive effect: she won Penang Eco 100 miles in style! Adelinah has a weak ankle, which hopefully won’t bother her too much. Hong Kong’s Oxsitis ambassador Jcy Ho is on a roll: she ran the 62K in Chiang Mai two weeks ago and came 4th, now she is on the 100k and next week she is also doing Vietnam Mountain Marathon. Jcy Ho made herself known in the 9 Dragons 50/50 earlier this season by coming second, and backed that up with a solid 5th place on the fast Sungai Menyala Forest Trail. A podium at TMBT is a real possibility. Paulina Svoboda, from Czech Republic but living in Singapore, is always a contender. She won MMTF and Merapoh last year, this year she was 4th in Ultimate Tsaigu 80K. Chong Mei Tze from peninsular Malaysia is a newcomer and as she said herself in Merapoh: a newbie in running even! Her relative inexperience still shows, but the pace is there. If she can get it all together, watch out for an upset victory this weekend! From Philippines comes Melanie Hingpit, another dark horse who on given days rises up to the occasion. Finally, we are also interested to see how Evelyn Lek from Singapore will fare. After winning Merapoh 100 and VMM 100 a year ago she has been struggling a bit competitively, but winning aforementioned races proves the ability is there. Also on the start list, but a DNS is Faherina Mohd Esa, who suffered a badly twisted ankle last week.

As usual we will be reporting live from Sabah starting on Friday afternoon and throughout the race on Saturday, which starts at 6 a.m. local time.

Asuka Nakajima can regain the points lead in the ATM Championship at TMBT 100

Asuka Nakajima can regain the points lead in the ATM Championship at TMBT 100

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TMMT: "Karate Kit" wins dramatic final edition!

Malaysia-based Japanese Uglow runner Hisashi Kitamura has become a very serious contender for the Asia Trail Master Championship by winning the Magnificent Merapoh Trail in Malaysia in breathtaking style. After “getting lost” just after CP1 and losing 15 minutes to race leader Alessandro Sherpa, he did not hesitate to start a ferocious chase in pouring rain and caught the Italian by km 41 at CP 4. Knowing he needed nothing else but a win to boost his ATM points total, Kitamura left CP 4 before Sherpa and never looked back. It was astonishing bravery. A year ago, Kitamura was beaten by the same Alessandro Sherpa in this race by one-and-a-half hours.

The weather deteriorated in the middle of the night and caused flash floods. What was already very tricky in river one early in the race became outright dangerous for the next big river crossing between CP4 and CP5. Kitamura was on such a “runner’s high” that he did not care about anything but pushing forward. He entered the river when Sherpa and Ong decided two-three minutes later that it was '‘too dangerous”. Kitamura later admitted he had to swim across against a strong current that “even pushed him back 50 metres” at some point. There was no question that his chasers made the right decision to stop and turn back. The race organisers, who were very reactive to the sudden circumstances and deserve a lot of credit for that, agreed that it had become too dangerous for runners to cross that river and re-routed the course back to a road that also led to the next checkpoint (7). The only alternative would have been to stop the race. For a brief moment, people got concerned about Kitamura’s well-being as he was the only one who had gone in … and through the river. The flamboyant Uglow runner emerged on the original trail and was in good spirits. Still in the lead, the adrenaline pushed him forward on the road diversion and he increased his advantage to safe margins. “I am faster than the marking!” he shouted when the ATM reporter drove by him in a car. The course markers, who had an excellent response time to the crisis as well, were indeed pushed to the limit by the speed of the race leader. Meanwhile, Steven Ong, the 2017 ATM Champion who suffered from injuries for over a year, was having the best trail race in a very long time and kept on pushing himself. He dropped a fading Sherpa and Chris Koelma and looked set for a great second place.

However, one side effect of the sudden re-route was that the organisers did not have enough time to move the CP 6 aid station from the original location to a new location. At least not for those front runners. As such, they went without aid station for 20 km. Poor Steven Ong, who had accidentally lost one of his bottles early on, began to dehydrate and got very dizzy. Experienced as he is, he decided it was medically unsafe to continue running. Alessandro Sherpa’s blister had also gotten worse, and without a chance to still get a podium, he also decided to DNF at CP 8 (km 80). By that time, Tomohiro Mizukoshi and Seiji Morofuji had already overtaken him and would contest the podium between themselves. Kitamura was far ahead.

When he approached the finish line back in Merapoh town, he even made time to wait until the cameras were in place for his meanwhile trademark ‘flying karate kick’. It was the apotheosis of what was for sure the trail race of his life so far. The progress - through hard work AND analysis - he has made in just 18 months is astonishing.

For Hisashi ‘Karate Kit’ Kitamura it is his 2nd ATM points race victory of the season after Vietnam Jungle Marathon in May, but surely this one is most important. Kitamura earns 50 points today to boost his total to 2575 points and claims the championship lead for himself at the expense of John Ellis (2525 points).  The pressure is now on the Hong Kong-based Australian star… and of course also on others such as Milton Amat, Job Tanapong, Mohamed Affindi, Alessandro Sherpa and so on.

Steven Ong, who was running in a superb second place till CP8, retired from dehydration. Due to the reroute, one checkpoint (6) was left out for the front runners as there was no time to put up a new aid station so quickly. As such, they ran 20k without aid. Alessandro Sherpa repeated this explanation also for his own DNF at the same checkpoint 8 at km 80. Sherpa had led the race until km 40 when Kitamura caught him back quite surprisingly. Already then, Sherpa was struggling with a blister (see our video footage on facebook). That blister got worse and with podium eventually out of the question, he decided to save energy for Borneo TMBT in 3 weeks. Of course, another DNF means he still only has the 550 points from Penang Eco in the 2019 bag… It’s not over yet, and Sherpa proved last year how resilient he can be when the going gets tough but it is high time for him to put in another result.

Tokyo’s Tomohiro Mizukoshi scored his second consecutive podium in TMMT: second again in 11:45 approx. Mizukoshi had an unpleasant experience in one of the early river crossings at nighttime and even thanked Steven Ong for saving his life. Tomohiro apparently got swept away by a strong current in the first river crossing early on. That water level had also risen much higher than normal. One more testimony that the race organisers did the right thing by redirecting the route away from the rivers as of CP4, even if that meant one checkpoint less (for front runners) and more road sections. 

Third place was also for a Japanese runner: Seiji Morofuji, who managed to stay ahead of Malaysian Tan Chong Jen and Ong Wei Keong from Singapore. 

Estzer Csillag is an impressive winner of the women’s race in 12:07 no less. The Hong Kong-based Hungarian made her debut in an Asia Trail Master points race, and crossed the finish line as third overall! Malaysia’s Izzah Hazirah scored a great second place by virtue of a strong second part of the race. Not far behind was Chong Mei Tze, a newbie in trail running and also from Malaysia. Lynil Martinez is experienced enough to handle tough situations and fourth place did not come as a big surprise, but it is nevertheless a great personal result given that she left behind runners such as Carrie Jane Stander and Been Lee.

Live video of Kitamura’s arrival at the finish

Summary of first part of the race till CP 4 (km 41)

Even at km 64, Hisashi Kitamura, by no means certain of his gap over the rest, was unafraid to do his kick!

Even at km 64, Hisashi Kitamura, by no means certain of his gap over the rest, was unafraid to do his kick!

The men’s top five podium of the final edition of TMMT 100

The men’s top five podium of the final edition of TMMT 100

Podium of the women’s 100km minus race winner Eszter Csillag who had to leave earlier

Podium of the women’s 100km minus race winner Eszter Csillag who had to leave earlier

TMMT: Sherpa returns to the Merapoh caves
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This weekend the Asia Trail Master Championship series continues in Malaysia with the fifth and final edition of the Magnificent Merapoh Trail, also known as TMMT. Event organiser Ten Senses announced it would be the last time the event will be held under its ‘Running Project’ umbrella before its team moves to Baling, another venue in the north of the country where there is a need to protect the local environment from logging and mining industries. Since the beginning of TMMT, Merapoh has witnessed a blossoming eco tourism scene that has benefited the local villages’ economy and stalled the deforestation and destruction of the many natural caves in the area, which is on the fringes of the vast and famous Taman Negara National Park. After five years and objectives reached, the management of the annual trail running event and all the expertise it entails is now ‘given’ to the local people. So, while TMMT will cease to exist, there will still be trail running in Merapoh next year!

The overarching meaning of the event has apparently not gone missing. Many runners this weekend are returning to the Merapoh trails and caves, including last year’s entire men’s podium: Alessandro Sherpa, Tomohiro Mizukoshi and Hisashi Kitamura. All three will once again be favourites for the 100km race that starts 3 hours later than usual, though, at midnight. A year ago, exactly those top runners - and others - were argueing that it was a pity they ran for 9 hours through the night and therefore hardly saw anthing at all during the entire race. TMMT is a fast course, namely. Sherpa’s winning time was 11:26 last year. The course is flattish and has a few spicy and technical sections, yet there has always been ’tempo’ in this one. Even despite the 3 km long river crossing, which aside from the four cave crossings is another main feature of this race. The Italian will be looking to win again and collect another 500 championship points. After a quiet start of the year, recovering from surgery, Sherpa returned convincingly in Penang Eco 100k two months ago. He is counting on a strong second part of the season to bring him in a position to retain his ATM title, a battle that is likely to go all the way to the last race: TNF Malaysia Mountain Trail Festival in Taiping on 14/15 December.

But incidentally, Hisashi Kitamura is the one who can claim the points lead in Merapoh. Currently on equal footing with John Ellis (2525 total points each in five races), the Japanese Uglow runner requires a win to boost his total, though. His fifth and “worst result” is 450 points for Sungai Menyala - where he finished second. He has not exactly been resting a lot since his fantastic second place in Mantra Summits Challenge, a technical mountain race that normally does not suit his characteristics as a runner. How much is left in the tank after what has already been a very long and tough campaign for him? His compatriot from Tokyo, Tomohiro Mizukoshi, was faster than him in Merapoh last year and also in the recent 100 miles race of Penang Eco. For Mizukoshi, TMMT is indeed the kind of race that he excels in. Now in fifth of the ATM Championship, Mizukoshi can become third as it will be his fifth result of the season.

What can 2017 Asia Trail Master champion Steven Ong do in Merapoh? It is a race he has not yet done, and Steven is still working his way back to the top after prolonged injury in 2018. If he is in good shape, Uglow Malaysia’s Steven is of course a dangerman for anyone on a 100k distance.

Other podium candidates we know are Thibault Bertrand, third in Ijen 70k three weeks ago, and Grandmaster Yim Heng Fatt, who is always doing well in this race.

In the women’s 100k, it seems quite an open race with Carrie Jane Stander once more toeing the start line this season. The Canadian is third in the ATM championship and only needs 56 points to overtake Veronika Vadovicova for second place again. One of her competitors for the win in Merapoh is likely to be Been Lee, also known as Bikini Been since Moon 100. The South Korean finished second in that very tough race in Thailand and especially showed a lot of grit in that one. There’s several Koreans on the start list, in fact, so we may get to find out some new faces as well. The same applies for the many Malaysians with little to no previous track record in ATM. From Philippines comes Lynil Martinez and she was 6th in Sungai Menyala and 7th in Penang Eco 100k.

Connectivity can be challenging in Merapoh, but our team will be reporting live from the event throughout Saturday on our social media channels.

ATM Champion Alessandro Sherpa is aiming for a second victory in Merapoh

ATM Champion Alessandro Sherpa is aiming for a second victory in Merapoh

2017 Champion Steven Ong is on the way back. He will be in Merapoh.

2017 Champion Steven Ong is on the way back. He will be in Merapoh.

The Great Malaya Trail is a 2020 Candidate
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The Great Malaya Trail across three states in peninsular Malaysia is the latest new Candidate Race for our 2020 Championship series, scheduled for 19/20 October. Organised by the experienced crew of Team Pacat, the Great Malaya Trail will be a technical race with over 6600 hm elevation gain on the 100 km, making it rather unique for the country - known for its rainforest but unlike Indonesia without the abundance of high mountains. The centre of the event, which also offers 50km, 30km and 16km options, is Taman Negeri Kenaboi, Negeri Sembilan, as finish location for all four race categories.

The event will cross 3 state lines on both the 100k and 50k options: Pahang, Selangor and Negeri Sembilan, and offer 95% of pure trail. Along the way runners will climb several hills, cross streams and rivers and enjoy local hospitality. The event will also offer convenient hotel stay in the Kuala Lumpur Sentral area, from where shuttle bus services can take runners to their relevant starting point ( Kem Ghafar Baba, Kampung Kemensah, Selangor for 100k runners, Pangson Trail Head, Selangor, for 50k runners).

Registration is open via the quality service provided by Checkpoint Asia.

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ATM Championship: Regulations last points races

TNF MMTF Malaysia is the Asia Trail Master Championship Final in Taiping on 14/15 December. It is the 84km race where most likely the male and female champions will be crowned, although that of course depends on the points situation going into the event. 

Speaking of which, for those runners challenging for a good ranking in this year's Championship, please remember the special regulations. 550 points for the winner, and only runners who have scored points in minimum 2 ATM races during 2019 are eligible for points in this TNF MMTF 84km race. This is to warrant a fair competition between the contenders for the title. The same minimum-race-rule applies for Ultra Trail Panoramic and Izu Trail Journey a week earlier, albeit that 1 ATM in 2019 suffices there.

Please also note that the Top 10 of the ATM Championship ranking after The Punisher in Davao, Philippines, on 30 November receives A FREE race entry for TNF MMTF Malaysia, along with tons of media and sponsor exposure as a big show is in the making!

Penang Eco 100: Outstanding Ellis!

The 5th Penang Eco 100 in Bukit Mertajam once again caused quite a bit of drama in its two longest distance races that are labeled as the Malaysia SuperTrail in our Championship series. The very long flattish beginning and the very technical ending combined with heat, humid air and occasional downpours create a mixture that makes this race exciting to follow and quite special indeed. While the male winners on the 100 miles and the 100 km were probably not a big surprise, John Ellis and Alessandro Sherpa ran it in great style and most of all in a great finishing time!

T8 Ace John Ellis only required an incredible 22h 18 for the 170k course in hot and humid conditions for most of the second part! It was certainly one of the best and even aggressive runs of his trail career, proving every bit of the pre-race rumours about his training volume for this race. From the beginning, Ellis was amongst the top contenders and kept a close eye on Hong Kong’s Law Kai Pong, who took the lead early on with great speed and confidence. However, he never got more than 20 minutes. Mizukoshi, Kitamura, Ellis and at first also Sai Kit Cheng. Law Kai Pong began to feel the efforts and by km 100 he got reeled in by Ellis, Mizukoshi and Kitamura. They crossed the 100k barrier in just over 10 hours! Someone was going to pay the price for that. Hisashi Kitamura had never finished a 100 miler before and was first to let go. The ATM Championship leader admitted the pace was too fast for him and he began to focus on “just finishing”. Law Kai Pong began to suffer from stomach cramps, and dropped back. Mizukoshi resisted but Ellis just was in a class of his own. At the km 116 checkpoint, it was already clear that Ellis had the race under control (see video on facebook). Tomohiro settled for a superb second place, which is a great achievement after his ankle issues in the beginning of the season. The Tokyo runner got really fit again just at the right time! Law Koi Pang, unfortunately, did not make it to the finish. His digestive system a total mess, he had no chance to complete the final 35 kilometers. As such, Kitamura inherited third place, and that’s a great result for him in the context of the ATM Championship. While John Ellis takes over as points leader, the gap is just 75 points. For Ellis it was the second ATM race victory of the season after Dalat Ultra Trail, and he also beat the Penang Eco 100 course record set by Law Chor Kin last year by an incredible 4 hours, although even Tomohiro Mizukoshi said that this year’s course modifications made it even tougher. Ellis has cleared the important five-race-barrier for the ATM Championship and will now be taking a welcome break before returning to action in October. By being in the lead, he can see what the others championship contenders are doing before he plans his next move. In any case, his points total of 2475 is most likely not enough for the championship win at the end of the year. Alessandro Sherpa won it last year with 2600.

The women’s 100 miles race developed into a thriller at the end. Hong Kong-based French ultra runner Habiba Benahmed led the race for no fewer than 156 kilometres. Yet, Adelinah Lintanga from Sabah had a fantastic day and was able to keep up even on the flattish 110 kilometres. Lintanga is a Grandmaster and a known mountain goat, but her speed on the flat surprised many. She was never more than 25 minutes behind and stayed focused throughout. Going into the technical hilly jungle sections, Lintanga crept closer and closer to a fading Benahmed. Meanwhile, another Malaysian, Siokhar Lim proved to have recovered well from the Moon 100 in Thailand and also kept her chances for victory as technical trail suits her well. And then there suddenly was Hong Kong’s Macy Li, too. Li had started out slowly and didn’t really feature at the top of the leaderboard until passed 116 km when she took a shortcut - unwillingly - and ended up leading. Thanks to the excellent service by Dot Track Asia, the race director could intervene immediately and Li was told to return to the section where she went off course, similar to the situation with Sri Wahyuni a week ago in Thailand. However, while Wahyuni refused to go back, Li did… and then began a ferocious chase! Behamed had hurt her hip around the halfway mark and gradually became a bird for the cat named Narna. At km 156, the popular Sabahan runner from Team Malatra caught her and left her. Lintanga on the way to the biggest race win of her career. But then… the Macy Li dot on the map began to move ever quicker and with about 12km to go, the Hong Konger passed both Siokhar Lim and Habiba Benahmed and had 20 minutes to make up on Lintanga at the last checkpoint with 7km to go. For sure, Lintanga would not immediately know someone was chasing her down. And Macy Li was: the gap continued to narrow down. With just under 3k to go, the map interface from DTA showed that the difference in distance between the two was just 600 metres, coming down from over 1 km at the last CP. Eventually, Adelinah Lintanga was so fired up by emotions that - luckily for her - she kept on running herself whenever possible. And so she kept Macy Li at bay. Lintanga won the 100km of this race in 2016 and finished 4th in the 100 miles 2017. Now she wins it against two established Hong Kong race winners and Siokhar Lim. A great leap forward in performance, especially on this type of trail event. Afterwards, Adelinah explained how she had prepared for this 100 miles basically since new year. Well, dedicated training certainly paid off for her!

On the 100 km we witnessed the first ATM race victory of the season for Alessandro Sherpa in 14h 53 (approx). A relatively easy win, as he led from start to finish. Kwok Lun Ng from Hong Kong was second in a great effort as well. Alex Ang from Singapore took third, one week after doing Moon 100.

Lo Chin Ling - another Hong Konger - was third overall and first female. A fantastic ATM debut for the energetic young woman. Malaysia’s Faherina Mohd Esa was an impressive second. Esa has returned to form after being plagued by a hand injury last year. Sarah Pemberton claimed third place ahead of Izzah Hazirah.

Video of John Ellis winning race finish!

Video of Adelinah Lintanga’s winning race finish!

Penang Eco 100: Ellis & Kitamura head-2-head!
Penang Eco 100 logo.jpg

This weekend we conclude the first half of the year and of the Asia Trail Master Championship season with the traditional Malaysia SuperTrail, the Penang Eco 100 in Bukit Mertajam. It’s the 5th edition of this event, which has become renowned for its atypical race course and its unexpected twists in the stories of the 100 miles and 100 km races.  Both these distances are labeled as A-race SuperTrails and also this year we have a stellar line-up for each of them. 

To begin with, the current ATM Championship points leader and his closest rival are on the 100 miles start list. Four weeks after his popular maiden race victory in Vietnam, Hisashi Kitamura will now tackle his first ever 100 miles race. As he said in the post-race video interview at that time, the Japanese Uglow runner only has one objective and that is to stay close to John Ellis, who has developed into his key rival for the championship at this point of the season, but who is also his big example as an ultrarunner. Ever since Ellis, Australian but living in Hong Kong, appeared on the ATM scene in Penang Eco 100k last year, he has earned deep respect from Asian running communities. Ellis is going all-in to win this year’s Championship, but by now has also realised it won’t be as easy as one might have thought. Reports from Hong Kong say that Ellis has never been leaner as now, preparing himself for this weekend’s SuperTrail. He knows that this is a tough race, as he disintegrated in the final technical sections of the 100k last year and got passed by the stronger Alessandro Sherpa at the end. Now Ellis is doing the 100 miles, of which the first 100k are runable and nearly flat, before a very technical apotheosis on single trails in the jungle and likely run entirely at night time. Looking back a year ago, Tomohiro Mizukoshi came first at the checkpoint after 110km, but he finished the race in seventh place and 8 hours and a half behind winner Law Chor Kin (Hong Kong).  Another Japanese star runner, Sota Ogawa, ran out of steam after 110 km and -suffering from digestive issues- called it a day. Two years ago it was Isaac Yuen Wan Ho who set a blistering pace on the flat, only to break down as well in the final 50 km. 

Tactical running is a must in Penang Eco 100, and that is of course the trademark of John Ellis. Kitamura adopted this strategy to good effect in Vietnam, and with the championship in mind he indeed better focuses exclusively on arriving ahead of Ellis in the finish line - as he did in Sungai Menyala in April. The points gap is 390, but let’s not forget Ellis can score a full whack this weekend in his fifth race of the season, whereas for Kitamura it’s about eliminating his “worst” result (7th in Cordillera Mountain Ultra) as he has reached the five-race-treshold already. 

So who can run between them? Tomohiro Mizukoshi returns to erase the bad memory from last year, and his form has been steadily improving in recent weeks after his ankle injury early in the year. Malaysian ultra veterans Yim Heng Fatt and Liew Tho Fatt are podium candidates on the 100 miles, both of them also experts in energy management during a race of this length. Jeffery BUDIN from Team Malatra is also one to watch for. 

John Ellis (Team T8)

John Ellis (Team T8)

Hisashi Kitamura (Team Uglow Malaysia)

Hisashi Kitamura (Team Uglow Malaysia)

Adelinah Lintanga, sister of Jess, has been a podium contender for years here. Can she win this time?

Adelinah Lintanga, sister of Jess, has been a podium contender for years here. Can she win this time?

Julia Nguyen Thi Duong

Julia Nguyen Thi Duong

In the women’s 100 miles, it will be interesting to see what trail newbie Asuka Nakajima can do on this ultra distance. She won Tahura Trail 42km and came third in Sungai Menyala Forest Trail 50km, but now we are talking 100 miles for the Jakarta-based Japanese runner. In any case, if she manages to win this one, she will do a fantastic job for her ATM Championship ambitions. Sabah’s Adelinah Lintanga, Bali’s Lily Suryani both are Grandmasters and have been on the podium before in this race. The dark horse for the race victory is most likely Habiba Benahmed from Hong Kong. Benahmed has experience winning 100 miles races (eg HK 168), and even though still on the way back to top form after injury she would not come to Penang Eco 100 miles for a DNF… Siokhar Lim is another likely podium contender  - or more -, but how much is in the tank after last week’s gruelling Moon 100, which she finished in fourth place. 

On the 100km race distance, which starts on Saturday early afternoon, most attention will go to last year’s winner Alessandro Sherpa. The defending Asia Trail Master champion has returned from a training camp in his home region in Italy and seems ready to start his championship campaign in earnest. On paper he would have had to face off with Mohamed Affindi this weekend, but the top-ranked Malaysian in the ATM Championship has professional duties and will not make it to the start line - as we were informed. The women’s race will see the likes of Izzah Hazirah, who is reportedly training hard for Mantra Summits next month - a pure mountain race that should suit her more than Penang Eco. Also, multi-race runner Khat Visperas is on the start list. The Filipino is 4th in the points standings after already having completed five races this seasn.  Faherina Mohd Esa is a potential podium candidate, and certainly also Vietnam’s Julia Nguyen Thi Duong.

We will be reporting live from Penang Eco 100 on our usual social media channels. Dot Track Asia is also present, and you can watch all runners’ progress online here:

Asuka Nakajima going for the 100 miles win this weekend

Asuka Nakajima going for the 100 miles win this weekend