Please find below the video summaries of the 2019 Sungai Menyala Forest Trail in Malaysia. These can also be found on our Facebook video section and YouTube video site.
This weekend the ATM Championship tour stops in Malaysia for the first time in the 2019 season. Sungai Menyala Forest Trail in Port Dickson has become a popular race for those with fast legs on not-so-technical terrain. When conditions are dry, it may indeed be the fastest trail in ATM and Asia as a whole, as elevation in the ancient forest is even less than other so-called speedways such as Plataran X Trail Bali and Brunei’s Beach Bunch, which unfortunately doesn’t take place this season. However, things are a bit different this Sunday, too. SMFT now features one big loop of 50 km rather than 2x 25k loops of previous years. This is certainly a plus as we did see quite some ‘elite’ runners pull out after one loop if they felt no longer able to score a podium. This weekend we are bound to see some exciting competition between ATM and Asia trail protagonists till the finish.
Calling Sungai Menyala “easy” is the biggest mistake participants in the past two years. Not only is Malaysia always humid and hot, but the fact is that a lot of trail runners are used to hills and mountains and are not accustomed to long periods of pure running. On the other hand, it means that road runners have an excellent chance to take part in a trail race and do great in it, too. In any case, it is always interesting to see the DNF rate at the end of the SMFT weekend.
For the ATM Championship, this could be a key race with so many protagonists on the start list in both the male and female categories. Points leader John Ellis will be defending his position against Hisashi Kitamura, both gearing up for their fourth ATM points race of the season already! They came 1-2 in Dalat Ultra Trail in Vietnam three weeks ago, separated by just a few minutes after Ellis passed the Kuala Lumpur-based Japanese runner in the final 3 km. Can ‘Diesel’ Ellis pull off the same feat in a runable race that is 20 km less in distance? In this context, how far will Mohamed Affindi, running more or less in home area, get in Sungai Menyala. The winner of the ATM season opener Tahura Trail came third in Dalat, and was passed by Ellis at the km 48 mark. The Malaysian is known to be strongest on the medium distance and this race should be ideal for him. If Affindi were to stay ahead of Ellis, Kitamura and a few others this weekend, it would be the result that could play a massive role at the end of the year. In the context of the ATM Championship, Affindi arguably needs to focus first on those guys and only then on trying to win Sunday’s race. Reason being that there is one top favourite for victory in the men’s and that is Jeff Campbell. The Hong Kong-based Canadian of the Gone Running squad, returns to the ATM scene after winning last season’s Tahura Trail in Indonesia. On paper, Campbell has the fastest legs of all on the start list. While SMFT may not be his biggest personal running goal of the year, Campbell won’t give it away neither. The risk for all the other contenders is they may try to follow him too long and blow themselves up in the latter stages of the race.
One runner who nevertheless has set his sights on “beating Jeff” is our ATM Champion Alessandro Sherpa. Back from a break after his surgery, Sherpa is indeed very quick on his day but the question is if this race doesn’t come too early. The Italian may be hoping for a bit of rainfall and some treacherous sections to slow down the average speed. The opposite may be true for Tokyo’s Tomohiro Mizukoshi, winner of last October’s Bali 70k race ahead of, amongst others, Sherpa and Kitamura. As for Sherpa, a little question mark about his current form, as Mizukoshi was a DNS in Dalat due to injury. As always in trail, who knows someone else rises to the foreground on Sunday, but those guys will certainly produce sparks in the forest!
And so will the women. Despite the unfortunate DNS of Tahira Najmunisaa and of Kim Matthews (hip injury again after Dalat), the field is dense with the winner of the past two seasons again in pole position. Baguio’s Sandi Menchi has shown great running pace in this race before and after a third place in CMU last month can be expected to challenge for the hattrick. However, Menchi will have at least one major opponent: the winner of that same CMU race will also toe the line on Sunday morning: Veronika Vadovicova. The young Slovakian made quite a name for herself already by beating USA’s Laura Kline and Sandi Menchi and of course everyone will now be watching her. Still very new to trail running, Sungai Menyala’s flattish forest course will be a first experience for Vadovicova. There are more challengers. From Hong Kong, Jcy Ho and Edith Fung, for example. Ho was 2nd in the 9 Dragons 50/50 and Fung won the 50 miles race of the same event. From Japan - even though she now lives in Jakarta - comes Asuka Nakajima, and she was the winner of Tahura Trail in January. Nobody questions her speed on this distance and terrain! With Jcy Ho, Vadovicova, Fung, Menchi and Nakajima all in the race, championship leader Carrie-Jane Stander will see her points advantage shrink but she cannot be overtaken. The local team Malatra also has several irons in the fire, including Grandmaster Adelinah Lintanga and newbie Izzah Hazirah. The latter was the surprisingly strong winner of MMTF last November, and one we will see plenty of times later in the season in the big mountain events. Obviously talented, it will be exciting to find out how fast Hazirah is on a flatter course.
We will be reporting live from the Sungai Menyala Forest Trail event all weekend on our social media channels. The race starts on Sunday morning. Stay tuned!
Philippines' Asia Trail Master champion Manolito Divina was again a class on his own in Port Dickson, Malaysia, as he beat a strong field over 50km in the Sungai Menyala Forest Trail. Divina took command early on as his pace on the fast course was too high for the competition. He finished the race, which did have a number of technical sections, in 4h27'30". It's Divina's second ATM win of the season after Rizal Mountain Run, and with 1000 points in the bag again features up front in the provisional championship ranking.
A few runners have already finished more races than him this year. Indonesia's Arief Wismoyono has actually regained the points lead thanks to his third place in Sungai Menyala. The Bandung Explorer ace, 2015 ATM champion, has clearly returned to his best form this year. He had to succumb to local runner Steven Oong, joint winner of UTKC last February, for second place, but never really lost ground and kept a high running pace. In fourth was Spain's Pablo Diago Gonzales. He'll be one to watch in the coming months, too. Pablo has only just resumed training, and will be one of the race favourites at the upcoming Mt Apo Sky Race in Davao at the end of this month. Indonesia-based Malaysian Eric Chooi was an excellent fifth ahead of compatriot Yim Heng Fatt, who moves up to third place in the ATM championship ranking.
The women's race was dominated by another Filipino star, the 28-year-old Sandi Menchi. In the absence of ATM champion Tahira Najmunisaa, Menchi had no match in Malaysia and even finished the race fourth overall - ahead of Pablo Diago Gonzales! With two race victories in the bag already this year, she is becoming hot for the championship title. Tahira, of course, already has three race victories in the bag this year and could afford to pull out. The Malaysian star won a 30k road race on Saturday, but sustained a mild injury in doing so and preferred not to take chances. The season is still long.
Second place went to her teammate at Team Malatra, Sabah's Jessica Lintanga, who actually delivered a strong and balanced performance to edge out Singapore's running star Jeri Chua at the end of the race. Lintanga saw Chua pulling away from her early on in the race, but came back and proved that she as well is getting stronger and more confident race by race. Her sister Adelinah Lintanga took fourth place.
Sungai Menyala was a fast race, yet more than tough enough due to the heat and a number of technical and swampy sections. Confirmed for 2018, this is a great event for quick legs and weekend trippers. Port Dickson has easy access to both KL and Sepang Airport, and the organisation committee has announced that in 2018 there will be a new big loop of 50k.
On our facebook you can watch photos and video footage of the winner's arrival, as well as interviews with some of the protagonists (including Tahira on her DNS decision).
The next points race is Korea 50k on 23 April, followed by UT Nepal two days later.
After a short break, this weekend the 2017 Asia Trail Master Championship series enters the second quarter with two points races in Peninsular Malaysia and in Central China (UT Xinxian 100 in Henan Province). The Sungai Menyala Forest Trail arguably attracts most attention giving its stellar line-up including both current Asia Trail Master champions. Manolito Divina (PHI) and Tahira Najmunisaa (MAS) will not have an easy walk in the forest on Sunday as the competition on paper is tough. 2015 ATM champion and new Grandmaster Arief Wismoyono is traveling to Port Dickson for the 50K race, and appears set to regain the lead from Gaspard Dessy in the current ATM points standings. Tahira will be facing the talented Sandi Menchi from Baguio in the Philippines, recent winner of the Cordillera Mountain UItra. The Sungai Menyala Forest Trail is pure trail running, but with little elevation gain on the 50k course it is a race suited for fast legs. Race director Razif Yahya, himself a very experienced international trail runner and technical organiser, sees a bright future for his latest event, which caters for runners of all levels.
It will be the third ATM race for both Manolito Divina and Arief Wismoyono this season. Both scored race wins: Manolito in the Rizal Mountain Run and Arief in Coast To Coast Night Trail Ultra. While the Filipino ace had an unfortunate DNF at Tahura Trail in the season's opener, the Bandung Explorer leader also scored a fourth place there. On Sunday he needs 350 points - equivalent to a 6th place - to overtake Gaspard Dessy in the ATM championship ranking. Strictly in theory, there is a third participant in the Sungai Menyala Forest Trail who can claim the top ranking spot: Malaysia's Yim Heng Fatt went very well in Thailand and Brunei and is 455 points behind Dessy at the moment in third place. That implies he needs a win and a DNF of Wismoyono, though.
Another Malaysian to watch out for is Steven Soonseng Ong - joint winner of the UT Unseen Koh Chang SuperTrail in Thailand last February and currently 9th in the ranking. In Thailand, Ong ran a tactically very clever race to come out on top. Can he do it also on a shorter and less technical course?
Tahira Najmunisaa is already lining up for her fourth ATM points race of the year. Unbeaten in 8 ATM races, she is the record holder as well in terms of ATM race wins. Particularly in Tahura Trail and UTKC, the Malaysian running icon was again blisteringly fresh and quick. Still young herself, she will be determined to extend her string of race victories even more against upcoming young talent Sandi Menchi. The Filipino actually beat Tahira on a climbing course in Sabah last year, but Sungai Menyala is different. Other top female runners at the start will be Gretchen Felipe, the Lintanga sisters, Cheryl Bihag and Jeri Chua.
As usual, you can follow the action live via our social media channels all weekend. The race itself starts at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday morning.
We are happy to announce a new entry in the 2017 Asia Trail Master championship series on 9 April. The Sungai Menyala Forest Trail in Port Dickson, peninsular Malaysia, is brought to you by the experienced crew of Malatra Ventures led by race director Razif Yahya. It features a 50 km race for points in the ATM championship that will appeal to all levels of runners, and also has shorter distances of 25 km and 10 km, and even a kid dash, to allow for a weekend trip for the whole family.
Sungai Menyala is a pristine forest near the coastal town of Port Dickson, which is roughly only one hour away from Kuala Lumpur. The trail course is relatively flat and expected to be very runnable with few technical sections. This means it is a race that appeals for beginning trail runners, road runners keen on a taste of trail, and experienced trail runners who want to work on their speed. Arguably the main challenge for this race will be heat and humidty, as often in Malaysia, and each participant's hydration strategy will be significant to finish this race in style. The start will be given at 7:30 a.m., which means no need for a very early wake-up call neither.
The most interesting part the route will go though the tribal village (Kampung Orang Asli) near the forest, which allows for plenty of cultural sightseeing.