Posts tagged tahura
Affindi grabs 1st ATM race victory at Tahura!

Malaysian powerhouse Mohamad Affindi grabbed his maiden win on the Asia Trail Master tour with a masterful run at Tahura Trail in Bandung, Indonesia, last Saturday. Taking the bull by the horns from the get-go, Affindi still had enough dash left in the tank to fend off the late charge by the surprisingly quick Pablo Diago Gonzales. Tomohiro Mizukoshi was a great third, while his Japanese compatriot Asuka Nakajima controlled the women’s 42k trail race and made a perfect ATM debut.

The 7th edition of Tahura Trail was one for the record books with over 2700 people registered for the four races that took place during the weekend. 480 of them appeared on the start list of the 42k trail marathon, which for the third year in succession was the opener of the Asia Trail Master Championship season. As per tradition, the current ATM champions were present at the Tahura Park. However, Alessandro Sherpa (recovering from a surgical procedure two weeks ago) and Ruth Theresia (in training for her first goal, the 9 Dragons Ultra) did not compete in the main event. Bandung in January is often hit by heavy rain showers, but for the first time in three years, the race was dry from start to finish.

Whenever a new season kicks off, we look forward to seeing new names appear on the boards, but this time in the men’s it was the established guard who controlled proceedings. Mohamad Affindi had been chasing a race win in ATM for one-and-a-half years, scoring multiple second places in the process, and finally got it right in Bandung. The 34-year-old Malaysian typically started fast and went solo after local youngster Yusuf Aprian, Ari Masrudi and Japan’s Tomohiro Mizukoshi were overheating. Seasoned long distance trail runner Mizukoshi was able to maintain a high pace, though, and didn’t allow Affindi to lose focus. Aprian lost a bit more terrain, yet would finish eventually as fourth and that is a visual improvement from last season, when he got eighth. Aprian, only in his mid-twenties, was the top Indonesian runner on the weekend and increasingly looks like the man who could challenge Arief Wismoyono - unable to run in Tahura due to work obligations - for the number one spot in his country. On the other hand, Masrudi didn’t have the best of runs as he slipped from second (2017), fifth (2018) to sixth this year. He was the one who resisted most to Affindi’s early attack. Another local trail veteran, Rudi Iskandar, managed to pass Masrudi at the end to score fifth place. Christovik Simatupang and Fandhi Achmad were the next finishers.

And where was Pablo Diago Gonzales all that time? At some point, the Singapore-based Spaniard was down in tenth place! However, he is not a three-time race winner and two-time top five ATM championship finisher for nothing. Diago Gonzales left the early battles to the others, and gradually began to up his pace in the second half of the race. One by one he collected and overtook, and in the final five kilometre he even passed Tomohiro Mizukoshi going into second place. Eventually, he even approached Affindi, which made the latter so nervous he shifted back up a gear and powered over the final hill to the finish line in 4:27. The top trio arrived relatively close together they all got into the live video broadcast that you can see below. By all means an excellent start of the season for all three protagonists.

The women’s race was perhaps less spectacular as Asuka Nakajima’s pace was just a little too high for Surabaya’s Sri Wahyuni, who collected yet another podium place in an ATM points race. Wahyuni will take comfort in Affindi’s victory, as it also took him a long time before finally taking the podium’s top step. Nakajima is based in Jakarta, runs a 3:14 road marathon, and will be someone to be reckoned with in the next months, as she is poised to compete in several ATM points races, including even the super tough Indonesia SuperTrail, Mantra Summits Challenge in Malang in July.

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Debby Meylia won the 21K race ahead of Ruth Theresia, who was ‘in training’. Still, a remarkable run by the road runner from Jakarta

Debby Meylia won the 21K race ahead of Ruth Theresia, who was ‘in training’. Still, a remarkable run by the road runner from Jakarta

Tahura Trail: How the race unfolded

Below is the video summary of the live broadcasts on the Asia Trail Master facebook page during the Tahura Trail 42K race.


Tahura Trail 42K - FInish of the Men’s Winner Mohammad Affindi

Tahura Trail 42K - Finish of Women’s Race Winner Asaku Nakajima

Tahura Trail 21K - Finish of the race winners

Tahura Trail : Broadcast of the race start

Tahura Trail: wide open race for the first victory of the new campaign!
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It’s 2019 and it’s tabula rasa! A clean sheet for all runners at the start of the 5th Asia Trail Master Championship series, which kicks off tomorrow in Indonesia with the 7th Tahura Trail in Bandung, West Java. Who will rise to the top in the next 11 months to compete with the established guard on the challenging trails of Asia? The five-best-count rule remains in effect, and runners can score championship points in 30 races across at least 13 countries before the big new final in Taiping, the Malaysia Mountain Trail Festival on 14/15 December! By then we know who the successors are of 2018 ATM Champions Alessandro Sherpa and Ruth Theresia. 

The two defending champions will be honoured at the beautiful Tahura Hutan Raya on Sunday morning, as has become custom. Tahura Trail has indeed been the opening event of the Asia Trail Master series since three years and we love it. The 42k trail marathon is a concise summary of everything what trail running is about, and given the moderate race distance the ideal start of anyone’s campaign after the new year’s break. Sherpa and Theresia will not be eyeing the victory on Saturday, however. The Singapore-based Italian underwent long-postponed surgery two weeks ago and is currently unable to race, let alone on the potentially wet and slippery trails of Tahura Trail’s mid-section. Homerunner Theresia opts for the 21K non-ATM distance, as she did last season. Her focus is on the 9 Dragons Ultra in Hong Kong in two weeks’ time, the first SuperTrail in the 2019 ATM Championship, for which she wants to be in top form. 

Ari Masrudi (above) and Yusuf Aprian (right)

Ari Masrudi (above) and Yusuf Aprian (right)

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The trail marathon in and around the park in Bandung has a wide open competition, at least on paper. Six to eight runners have a logical chance to emerge victorious in the men’s. Without Jeff Campbell (winner last year) and Abdullah Mitiche (winner 2016, 2017), it could be the big day of Ari Masrudi. The fast Indonesian has been second and fifth in this race and therefore has the experience to time his efforts perhaps better than his rivals. Masrudi has been knocking on the ATM door for some time, and a big win in the season opener would be the protagonist entry he has been looking for. The same applies to BDG youngster Yusuf Aprian. A raw talent who has notched up wins already, but not yet at the level of ATM’s A races. His second place behind Salva Rambla at Ijen 70 just a few months ago does indicate that it is only a matter of time. Aprian making that final step forward in his development would be fantastic. Last year he was 8th in this race. What can we expect from Jakarta’s Christovik Simatupang? A specialist of the shorter trail races, Simatupang is arguably the dark horse of the weekend. If he can keep his pace over the full distance of 42 km, he won’t be far off the podium, which means top 5 in Tahura. Aiming for that will also be Rudy Iskandar. A strong competitor who crossed the finish line in 6th place a year ago. Japan’s Akihede Ando was behind him in 7th, and is also returning on Saturday. But Ando will not be the only Japanese runner with ambition at the starting line: ATM’s Trailmate of the Year, Tomohiro Mizukoshi is making the journey from Tokyo to Tahura to launch his 2019 campaign in the best possible way: a win. Not taking a long rest after a heavy 2018 season in which he took 3rd place in the Championship, Mizukoshi has tasted victory before in Indonesia, winning the Plataran X Trail in Bali last October. His running speed is quick and he knows how to cope with mud and technical sections, yet is 42 km long enough for Mizukoshi to make the difference? For Malaysia’s Mohammad Affindi the marathon distance may be just right. Always quick out of the blocks, Affindi may find a trail course made for his characteristics and yes, he is motivated to launch his new ATM campaign with a bang. Finally, what can Spaniard Pablo Diago Gonzales do at Tahura? Everyone knows who strong he is on the most technical and toughest of races - see Mantra Summits Challenge - but he is actually also a fast road runner on a good day. Diago Gonzales won three ATM races over 70 km in 2017, two of them in Indonesia, and finished 4th and 5th in the Championship in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Never underestimate him! Another born European who will feature up front is Wilhelmus Van Vliet, winner of the 21K race last year and now moving up to the A-race of 42 km. 

The participation of Margono, the Indonesian speed-walker who was second behind Campbell and ahead of Sherpa last year, is still in doubt. If he turns up, Margono of course becomes a top contender for the race win as well. What is certain, however, is that Bandung’s number one Arief Wismoyono won’t be competing this weekend as work duties prevent him from doing so. 

In the women’s race all eyes will be cast on Sri Wahyuni, the number 3 of the 2018 ATM Championship and of this race as well. The Surabayan runner often made races a bit harder than anticipated for Ruth Theresia last year, and could grab her first career ATM race win. Already a Grandmaster as well, Wahyuni has incredible grit and always gives it her all. Of course, a maiden victory won’t be given to her on a silver platter. On paper, she may receive the sternest challenge from a Japanese runner who has a 3:20 pace on the road marathon: Asuka Nakajima. Based in Indonesia, Nakajima is making her debut in ATM and it will be fascinating to see how she fares in Tahura Trail. Others eyeing a podium result will be Mila Marlina, Novita Wulandari, Ping Yanti and Siti Nuraini. 

Asia Trail Master will be covering the opening race of the new season extensively via social media as usual. As of 6 am on Saturday, Jakarta time, we will start with our multimedia coverage, including live video broadcasts. Just go to our Facebook ATM page to follow the event. 

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Sri Wahyuni could take her first ATM race win this weekend

Sri Wahyuni could take her first ATM race win this weekend


Tahura Trail opens 2019 Asia Trail Master Championship series

As in the past two years, Tahura Trail will once again open the new Asia Trail Master Championship season in 2019 at the Taman Hutan Raya on 19-20 January. It is one of the most popular events of the entire calendar, as a matter of fact, and ideal to begin a new year of trail running as the long distance remains wisely restricted to the meanwhile classic course of 42 km, or a marathon distance. Registrations for the event are already open.

Mr Agung Adijani from IBA is the organising force behind Tahura Trail, an event that is a bit atypical for Indonesia, a country renowned for its many monster ultras. Convinced there’s a place for less challenging trail races on the domestic calendar, he has seen Tahura grow to one of the biggest trail events in the country, if not the biggest. Other than the ATM Championship distance of 42 km, there’s also a 21 km, 17k night run and more ‘family-targeted’ races. Close to 2000 runners will be visiting the beautiful surroundings of Taman Hutan Raya. Mind you, less challenging does not imply it is an easy race. Tahura Trail is often wet in parts, causing a few trails to be muddy and slippery, and 1600 metres of elevation gain in 42 km still needs to be conquered first before you can relax your muscles in of the several spas and relaxation resorts in the area.

It being the opening race of the season, the Asia Trail Master champions usually join Tahura Trail to open their new campaign. Many other international stars do likewise. This year, global medium distance trail star Jeff Campbell traveled to Bandung, and it was great to see how he was being pushed by a.o. local Bandung runner Margono. Kim Matthews was outstanding in the women’s race. Unfortunately, it would prove to be her only ATM race of the 2018 season, as the Australian is plagued by a delicate and persisting hip injury.

There’s direct flights to Bandung from a few Asian cities, notably Air Asia from Kuala Lumpur. You can also fly into Jakarta, and arrange bus/minivan/car transport (Grab) from the airport to Bandung. Travel time fluctuates a bit depending on road traffic, but the distance isn’t that far.

You can sign up for the 2019 Tahura Trail via the official website.

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The ATM Champions always enjoy coming to Tahura Trail to begin another campaign

The ATM Champions always enjoy coming to Tahura Trail to begin another campaign

Campbell outstanding & Matthews cruising to victory

A Hong Kong trail superstar came to Indonesia and conquered the Tahura Trail Marathon in Bandung, the opening race of the 2018 Asia Trail Master Championship series. Jeff Campbell was the hot favourite before the start, and he delivered on his credentials in exquisite style, completing the muddy course in 4 hours and 5 minutes ahead of the strongest field ever in this great race. In the women’s race, 2017 Asia Trail Master champion Kim Matthews started her season’s campaign with a comfortable victory as well. Although the event weekend was significantly drier than last year, many parts of the course proved too be extremely treacherous and slippery for the over 420 runners on the longest 42k marathon distance of the event. 

The 35-year-old Campbell is a specialist of the medium distance trail and renowned for his velocity. While he admitted that Tahura Trail was muddier and therefore tricky and technical more than he has been used to in Hong Kong, Campbell felt in command of the race. It wasn’t a start-to-finish solo run, though. Until past the halfway mark, he was still accompanied by Italy’s Alessandro Sherpa and the surprisingly strong Margono Ono, a local speed walker who finished fifth in this race last year. In fact, Margono received praise from both westerners for his sheer speed in the first half of the marathon. While he had no response to the acceleration of Campbell and Sherpa after 20 km, the Indonesian did maintain a high pace and caught Sherpa still at the end to snatch second place away from him. A bit further back was local Bandung hero Arief Wismoyono, who equaled his fourth place from last year. Perhaps more at ease on the ultra distances, Wismoyono nevertheless looked good in this short and rather fast race and stayed ahead of Ari Masrudi, who still beat him at Tahura last season. The 2017 runner-up in the championship will be a top favourite for UTKC in Thailand next month, along with Sherpa - who will also be competing in the first SuperTrail of the year. The solid performances of Margono and Wismoyono were further accentuated by the fact that Gaspard Dessy - third in 2017 - “only” came in ninth yesterday, and the Tahura king of 2016 and 2017 - Abdoullah Mitiche - barely made the top 15 this time around! Triathlete Mitiche was in shape and focused to go for the hattrick, but a direction error early on put him in a chasing group where he never really got out of. Also Fandhi Achmad - winner of Bandung Ultra 100 last September - and Asia Trail Master champion Steven Ong were the whole day condemned to the chase. In the case of Ong that was not entirely unexpected, as the 41-year-old Malaysian is at his best on the ultra distances. The champion started his 2018 ATM season with a 12th place. 

Jeff Campbell is supported by a.o. Gone Running - also a sponsor of the 2018 ATM Championship - and will likely be seen more often on the tour this year. Born in Canada, he only discovered his running talent about four years ago and since then he has made a remarkable rise to the very top of the Hong Kong trail community. While 50K is his standard race distance, Campbell pointed out after the race that eventually he will try and move up to longer distances as well. 

Margono Ono: a speed walker about to turn trail runner

Margono Ono: a speed walker about to turn trail runner

The men's top 3 captured 1 km before the finish line: Campbell, Margono and Sherpa (P: Adventure III)

The men's top 3 captured 1 km before the finish line: Campbell, Margono and Sherpa (P: Adventure III)

Kim Matthews took a relatively easy start before overtaking Ninie Hausschildt and then pulling away from the Indonesian, who has a subscription on second place at Tahura. Ninie Hausschildt, also more a triathlete than a trail runner, finished runner-up for the third consecutive year! In third place was Sri Wahyuni, who has become a regular podium visitor in Indonesian trail races lately. 

Matthews looks increasingly confident and strong in Asian trail races, which is bad news for her challengers to the throne. Last season, the Australian speech therapist suffered more than once from heat exhaustion, but seems to have overcome this problem since moving to Ho Chi Minh City. 

Bandung’s own Ruth Theresia opted to run the 21K half marathon at Tahura Trail. Theresia is in full training programme for the SuperTrails in Thailand and Philippines in February and March with the 2018 ATM championship title as top goal. It was nice to see that Matthews and Theresia ran side by side during the 10K race at Tahura the day after as well. There is competition, but trail running is mostly about fun and friendship!

Steven Ong and Kim Matthews were celebrated as the 2017 ATM Champions

Steven Ong and Kim Matthews were celebrated as the 2017 ATM Champions

Tahura Trail offers great scenery (P: AIII)

Tahura Trail offers great scenery (P: AIII)

Everybody excited for the new season!

Everybody excited for the new season!

Incredible line-up for Tahura Trail launches 2018 Championship

The 4th Asia Trail Master Championship begins at 6:45 am on Saturday with the 42k long Tahura Trail in Bandung, main city of West Java in Indonesia. It’s the 6th edition of the most popular race in the country based on participan numbers, and as last season, the two defending Asia Trail Master champions Steven Ong and Kim Matthews will be joining a very strong line-up of local and regional runners. In fact, the entire top 4 of the male 2017 Tahura race is back, including winner Abdoullah Mitiche and 2017 championship runner-up Arief Wismoyono. 

For Abdoullah Mitiche, Tahura Trail is his annual rendez-vous with the trail world before he focuses on what he loves even more: triathlon. Last year he was outstanding in overcoming a stern challenge from Ari Masrudi, Arief Wismoyono, Gaspard Dessy and Manolito Divina to take his second consecutive victory in the final kilometres. Can Mitiche do a hattrick at Tahura? It for sure won’t be handed to him on a silver plate. Other than the already mentioned runners, Steven Ong is keen to do well in his first ATM race as champion, even though being an ultra specialist he might find 42k on the short side. However, if the weather plays in his favour - when it’s wet - the course may just be technical enough for him to aim for the race win. A lot will also depend on the pace set by two western runners based in Hong Kong and Singapore respectively: Jeff Campbell and Alessandro Sherpa. Canada's Jeff Campbell has raised many eyebrows in recent months as he ran from victory to victory in Hong Kong. Sponsored by Gone Running, Campbell this year wants to see more of Asia and see where it gets him in the Asia Trail Master Championship. Hong Kong with all its concrete steps is rather unique, and on Saturday we will find out how Campbell fares on more natural and potentially muddy trails with a higher risk of missing markers along the route. Italian Alessandro Sherpa already knows what trail running is like in Indonesia. He was leading BTS Ultra last November until he failed to obtain his drop bag and saw no other choice but to end his race. Sherpa bounced back in UT Panoramic in Thailand  last month, finishing fourth in the 100 miles won by Steven Ong. While he prefers running ultra, Sherpa is sharp as a knife on    shorter distances and will regard Campbell as a challenge-in-the-race to boot. The men’s 42k Tahura Trail is going to be a blast with many potential winners who could just as well fail to even reach the podium! It’s the thrill of the shorter trail races that makes Tahura Trail the ideal season opener for the ATM championship. 

The men's podium last year: they are all back! 

The men's podium last year: they are all back! 

ATM Champion Steven Ong 

ATM Champion Steven Ong 

Alessandro Sherpa: ready to make an impression!

Alessandro Sherpa: ready to make an impression!

Two months after their first and tight clash at Clark-Miyamit Falls Ultra in Philippines, Kim Matthews and Ruth Theresia will already be facing each other again. It could be a tough task for the Vietnam-based Australian, as Ruth Theresia is of course competing on home soil in Bandung and knows the course well. The form of the day will decide! Last year’s second place Ninie Hauschildt is also on the start list and definitely in for another shot at the podium on Saturday. Other women who could make it to the podium are Sri Wahyuni, Ina Budiyarni, Mila Marlina and Malaysian Puteri Norsharina, just to name some of the better known runners on the ATM tour. 

As usual, we will be reporting live from the field at Tahura Trail on Saturday via facebook, instagram and twitter. 

Kim Matthews is up against local hero Ruth Theresia for the second time after CM 50 Ultra. 

Kim Matthews is up against local hero Ruth Theresia for the second time after CM 50 Ultra. 

Tahura Trail opens the books for 2018

It is always exciting to announce the opening of registration for the first event of the new season. Tahura Trail will once again launch the Asia Trail Master Championship in 2018 on 20 January. Close to two thousand runnes will be expected in the Forest Park in Bandung, Indonesia, of whom the majority will engage in the 42k trail marathon - the points race for the ATM Championship. As of this week, you can commit yourself to the first challenge of 2018 since the organisers of Indonesia Biking Adventure have opened the books. 

The 42k race has a good mixture of everything trail running is about. Nevertheless participants need to take potential rain showers and muddy trails into account when they venture to West Java at that time of year. A drop of rain won't stop the party at Tahura, though, and it is one of the relatively few events that makes for a splendid weekend outing for the whole family. The outskirts of Bandung are picturesque enough and the area is full of spas and other types of comfortable accommodation facilities. 

For more details of the race, visit our cover page or go straight to the event website, where you can also register. 

Female podium of this year's 42K race with ATM Champion Tahira on the top step

Female podium of this year's 42K race with ATM Champion Tahira on the top step

Tahira rocks Tahura while Mitiche doubles up

The first race of the new Asia Trail Master championship series took place in Bandung, Indonesia, last weekend and was a worthy opener with two fantastic winners. Abdoullah Mitiche had to work hard on the very muddy and slippery course but repeated his victory from last year, while defending female Asia Trail Master champion Tahira Najmunisaa Muhammad Zaid delivered another superb run to take the women's race convincingly. The fifth edition of the event saw over 1700 participants spread over four race distances, all of whom had to spend time washing their shoes afterwards as heavy rain on Saturday night turned most of the trail course into a mud pool. 

The mud was good for the hardcore trail runners, but less so for the fast "road"runners who use the not-so-technical Tahura Trail to gain experience offroad, or simply because it is such a good event.  Algeria-born COMPRESSPORT athlete Abdoullah Mitiche is primarily a triathlete who does Tahura Trail year after year as it fits his schedule. Mitiche won last year, and was determined to repeat that feat last Sunday, even with established trail heroes such as Asia Trail Master champion Manolito Divina, Arief Wismoyono and Alan Maulana at the starting line. After a fast start, he and Margono - second place last year - opened up a small gap over his main rivals, but then took a wrong turn that put him back behind and on the chase. Divina was going well in his first ever race in Indonesia, until he also lost the right trail. Disaster struck for the Filippino star, as he was unable to find his way back to the right path and eventually was guided to the 21 km race course by a marshal. No ATM points for Divina in his first race this year. In trail running, you never know and bad things also happen to the best. Manolito Divina will aim to bounce back next weekend already at the Rizal Mountain Run. 

Ari Masrudi, a rather unfamiliar name on the trail circuit, was putting the pressure on in the mean time. A road runner first and foremost, Masrudi kept Wismoyono, Margono and the surprisingly quick Gaspard Dessy behind as the leaders entered the final 10k to the finish. However, when Mitiche started his final charge Masrudi had no answer. Given the treacherous conditions, it was amazing to see the winning time of Mitiche being virtually the same as last season: 4:02:16, six seconds ahead of Masrudi and almost five ahead of Dessy. 2015 ATM champion Arief Wismoyono opened his new account with 4th place and Margono settled for fifth. 

In the women's race, Malaysia's leading trail lady Tahira Najmunisaa had no match on the weekend. Taking charge on the first hill climb of the day, she gradually opened up a big gap to the other women and finished in an amazing time of 4:36:11, just 34 minutes slower than Mitiche in the men's! Second place went to Ninie Hauschild, mainly known as a triathlete as well, and third place to last year's Indonesia Trail Master Shindy Patricia. The women's field was also very competitive. 

On our facebook page, you can check pre and post race interviews with some of the protagonists of this year's Tahura Trail in Bandung. Both race winners are of course also the first leaders in the 2017 Asia Trail Master points championship. The next race is already taking place next weekend in the Philippines: the Rizal Mountain Run! 

Race preview: Tahura Trail opens 2017 Asia Trail Master Championship

The new year's holiday has come to an end already, and for sure all of you are on fire to kick off your new trail racing campaign by now! The 2017 Asia Trail Master Championship   series begins this weekend in the most appropriate manner: a top event in an exciting location and a trail course that is perfectly designed to shake off that winter stiffness! The 5th Tahura Trail in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia is on this Sunday, and the highly popular event is honoured by the participation of the two defending Asia Trail Master champions: Manolito Divina (Philippines) and Tahira Najmunisaa Muhammad Zaid (Malaysia)! 

Organised by the running division of Indonesia Biking Adventure, the Tahura Trail is arguabky the most popular trail event in Indonesia looking at pure participation numbers. The event of course caters for absolutely everybody: the experienced and top athletes have the 42k marathon distance, but less ambitious or beginning runners also have a wide range of options from 21k to 10k, family run or a new nocturnal race. For the Asia Trail Master championship, only the 42k provides finisher and performance points, 500 as maximum total for the male and female winners of the race. 

When one says Bandung, trail runners obviously think of The Bandung Explorers, the local trail running team that features a.o. 2015 Asia Trail Master champion Arief Wismoyono. Having home advantage, they will be the ones to beat. It will be interesting to see the dual between Wismoyono and Manolito Divina on Sunday. Divina had the Bandung ace in his pocket two months ago in his home territory in Clark, but the freshly married Wismoyono has seemed rejuvinated and might just as well equal the score on Sunday. 

Plenty of other race favourites this weekend, though. Not in the least Algeria-born Abdoullah Mitiche who won Tahura Trail last year. As Mitiche explained in our Talking Trail Running series this week, he just loves this race. Although primarily a long distance triathlete, Mitiche always makes a goal of Tahura and anyone who wants to win on Sunday will need to get passed him. Running speed is important in this race, as the distance of 42 km is obviously no 100 km long haul. It provides excellent runners with perhaps less technical trail wherewithal such as Mitiche with chances of upsetting the established trail elite. The relatively short distance should also play in the hands of Malaysia's Lim Wen Shan. And what to expect of Yohanis Hiareij and Margono, two other Indonesian runners known for their fast legs? 

Rhenaldi Firdaus, the youngster and winner of MesaStila 4 Peaks Challenge (65km) last October, is on the start list as well. Has he recovered from his fantastic efforts in Hong Kong last week during the UTWT race over there? Plenty of names, plenty of action to be expected on Sunday morning!

Moving over to the women, one cannot look past the presence of defending champion Tahira Najmunisaa. Unbeaten in five races on the Asia Trail Master tour, it is only logic she goes into Tahura Trail as the woman to beat. While admitting to being fatigued after the grueling Indonesia SuperTrail at MesaStila a few months ago, Tahira can be expected to be back at the top of her game this weekend. The local opposition will be there, though, as well. 

The first race of the 2017 Asia Trail Master season will be followed extensively on our usual social media channels as of the race briefing and champion's ceremony on Saturday afternoon. 

Abdoullah Mitiche is Talking Trail Running

Upcoming weekend the 2017 Asia Trail Master Championship series begins in Indonesia with the Tahura Trail. Taking place in Bandung, West Java, and one of the most popular races in the country, the fifth edition will see loads of strong runners at the starting line this Sunday morning. Both defending Asia Trail Master champions Manolito Divina and Tahira Najmunisaa will begin their new campaign, and will face strong local opposition in the 42 km race. Not in the least by Abdoullah Mitiche. Born in Algeria, Mitiche won the race last year as a triathlete in love with Tahura Trail. Now residing in Jakarta, Mitiche is determined to give the established trail running stars a run for their money again this weekend, and does not even exclude going after the Asia Trail Master Championship title himself one day. Currently, though, Mitiche's season planning sees him focusing first and foremost in long distance triathlon and IronMan. We were talking trail running with Abdoullah Mitiche, and disovered a genuine athlete with a very interesting story. 

By K. Van de Velde

ATM: Where were you born and did you grow up ?

AM: Algiers, a hilly city on the Mediterranean sea and the capital of Algeria, a country with a tradition of middle-distance running (800m to 3000m) and a home specialty in the 1500m: 4 Golds at this track race in the last 6 Olympics have been won by Algerian runners (2 men and 2 women). 

ATM: Was running something you have always done, or is it a recent hobby?

I’ve always loved Running, but haven’t regularly practiced it until 6 years ago.
Growing up, I loved the instant feeling of freedom and speed it provided and the rewarding sense of achievement at the top of a hill.
Back in high school, I joined a sprint team for almost one season, which was completely different from the running I do now: Training for 200m and 400m races, we didn’t do long runs (we didn’t have to), but we learned the ABC’s of running drills, clearing hurdles, and most importantly: Sucking up pain outside one’s comfort zone!
And after trying many other activities recreationally in the following years (basketball, parkour, hiking, tennis and even ultimate Frisbee), it’s not until end of 2010 (at age 28) that I became a runner, thanks to an Australian runner, Stephanie, then Minister Counsellor at the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby, who persuaded me I could run further than I thought I could.

ATM: What do you do for a living?

I’m a Risk Management consultant in the telecom industry; my office job takes most -if not all- my daytime but has also enriched my experience and taken me to uncommon yet wonderful places: Haiti, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea and for the last 4 years: Indonesia.

 ATM: You are mainly a triathlete. Have you completed an IronMan already?

I’ve been a triathlete for the past 4 years; and after a couple of experimental and introductory short course races (Novice, Sprint, and then Olympic distance), I soon realized I’m more suited to long course events and enjoy them much more; I’ve done 10 since: 8 Half-Ironman distance (70.3) and 2 Full Ironman, all of them in South East Asia.

ATM: What is your ambition as a triathlete?

4 years ago, I would’ve answered: “Getting faster” but then Joe Friel, my Triathlon guru, taught me better: “Goals should be event outcomes, not vague statements about your dreams of success. They should be well-defined, measurable … and just out of reach” to quote him. So my mid-term triathlon goals –Brace yourself for some geekiness- are: to improve my swimming to sustain a 1:45/100m pace for 1h, increase my cycling FTP (Functional Threshold Power) to 305 watts, and run a 3h15 marathon off the bike in an Ironman race.

ATM: Are you member of a sports club?

No, but I’m a proud member of the Indonesian sport community that welcomed me to its family and treated me as one of its own. “Indorunners” is the running community I joined as soon as I started calling Jakarta home; Triathlon Buddies is my triathlon community; When it comes to Trail, I was lucky enough to have met Om Wailan, a fellow-member of both those communities, who knows the local trails like his pocket and likes exploring new ones. He showed me around my first trail runs in Indonesia.

ATM: Do you have any sports idols, athletes you look up to?

My early idol would be my father, former national record holder of Triple jump and a true amateur who combined between his athletic passion, medical studies and surgery profession.
My encounter with Morceli, 3-times 1500m world champion and Olympic champion, left quite an impression on me as a 12 years old boy: I saw him training in one of Algiers’ running tracks, he called me and my cousin when he was done, handed his autographs to us and told us: “Chase your dreams!”
Other sport idols are Kilian Jornet and Javier Gomez.

 ATM: When did you discover your talent as a runner?

It must have been my marathon debut: The Sahara Marathon, in February 2012; a 100% sand trail race in the Algerian desert, that I didn’t train or taper for specifically as I was training for my first 100km Ultra 2 months later; Ultra training means back-to-back long runs and I wouldn’t let a “C race” compromise my training for my “A race”, so I went for a 3h run the day before; to my surprise, on the next day: I clocked 3h24 in my first 42k and ranked 9th overall in an international field; It did hurt but all I remember now is how much I loved it, I thought: "I  might be good at this endurance stuff! I should do more of it!"

 ATM: What does your training plan look like? How does trail running fit in?

I’m a big advocate of scientific and structured training, and think it’s the most efficient, fastest and safest way to optimize fitness and performance. I divide (or periodize) my season into periods: Base, Build and Peak, then divide periods into blocks, then divide blocks into 3 to 4 weeks, each block would culminate with either a recovery week where volume backs off or a race; races are ordered by priority from A to C. My weekly training volume ranges between 13 and 19 hours depending on the period and the block.
I love trail! I feel close to nature there, “The meditation of the trail” as Jack Kerouac beautifully puts it; I would do most my running on trails if I could, but I live in Jakarta, one of the most urban metropolis in the world, and I could only run trail occasionally on weekends or holidays, in either Sentul (around 50km south of Jakarta) or Bandung (180km southeast). For 2 years in a row, I’ve been dedicating my end of the year holiday to trail running as an Off-season activity; in fact, I’m just back from a multi-day ultra-trail in the Sahara where my friends and I covered around 120km over 4 days in the breathtaking Algerian desert; during which we were at least 100km away from the nearest electricity socket, water tap, mobile tower or civilization sign we otherwise take for granted; my face got sunburned, my hands and feet froze in -3° at night, but I got my fix of trail endorphins (and sand).

ATM: Where do you do cycling training?

As a triathlete, cycling represents at least 55% of my training volume; I used to be do all of it outdoors (the “old school” way), at crazy hours as early as 4am to avoid Jakarta’s epic traffic and reduce my exposure to pollution. I now do around half of it indoors on my Kickr smart trainer that adjusts resistance according to the specific wattage I want to achieve in my effort and recovery intervals; I even embraced a virtual reality technology recently called Zwift that allows cyclists to ride together on virtual islands with climbs and descents and even races. I do most my outdoor cycling with my KGB (Kelapa Gading Bikers) friends, on the hazy roads and flyovers of Jakarta city center on weekdays and in Sentul hills on weekends.

 ATM: Do you pay attention to your food before a race? Are there any special products you take in preparation for your race?

I take nutrition pretty seriously, we call it Triathlon's 4th discipline; when one sets off on an endurance event that lasts the entire morning (or the entire day), our food intake before and during the event has direct impact on our performance. I never skip my race morning breakfast, I usually have it early (2h before the start), and keep it simple, high carb, low-fat, low-fiber.
No pre-race special products really, but my usual race morning breakfast is: a banana (or couple of dates), milk (chocolate or plain), toast with honey, black coffee. I’d have lost some fluids by the time I finish my warm-up and line up at the start-line, so I either down a gel with some water or sip from a small bottle of electrolytes drink while waiting for the gun to go off. 

ATM: What is your best time on the road marathon?

With my focus on multi-sport events, it's been over 2 years since I last ran a stand-alone road marathon: Jakarta Marathon 2014 is the last one I ran and remains my PB in 3h06, way off my Sub-3 target! My "lame excuse” is that I raced Ironman Malaysia 4 weeks before the marathon and hadn't recovered from it, but I want to have a crack at the 26.2  either late 2017 or early 2018. As a Jakartan runner, one of my targets is to run Sub-3 Jakarta and Bali Marathons; heat and humidity are always going to be hindering factors in our tropical climate, but we just have to deal with it.

ATM: Do you often take part in trail races, or was Tahura Trail 2016 rather an exceptional event for you?

I race trail whenever I can fit the event into my training and racing calendar. I must admit things used to be more spontaneous and much simpler when running was my only discipline, but the questions I now have to answer before putting any stand-alone race on my calendar (not only running but also cycling races) are: Does the date fit in my blocks? How far is it from my “A race”? Does its distance fit into the program? Will I be able to do a long ride and swim the day before/after? ...etc. But with the right planning, I could fit around 8 running races a year, probably half of which are Trail.
ATM: What do you like about Tahura Trail?

Tahura is a Classic event in the Indonesian Trail Running calendar. It’s a race I never missed since its first edition in 2013, here is why:
It's only 2-3h drive from Jakarta.
It’s a full-fleshed Trail Race that features breathtaking 45% climbs, mud, rocks, water crossings, bushy single tracks, treacherous descents, slippery cobble-stone, alleys through kampungs, cabbage and eggplant farms, and an epic elevation gain; a real all-terrain trail.
It grew to become one of the best and most popular trail events in Indonesia, thanks to its organizers commitment to improve it every year: smooth registration, a punctual start, a very well-marked trail, sufficient water stations and marshals on course, accurate timing system, quick results. I've seen all these aspects improve year after year.
I usually meet my big trail running family in this event (even many triathlete friends), and catch up with them in a pleasant festive ambience.
The last reason is not objective and rather bias: I stood on Tahura's podium a couple of times but it took me 4 attempts, 4 years in a row to finally win it; it's my story of stubbornness.

ATM: What is your favourite type of trail race?

Long course, diverse terrain and hilly profile.

ATM: What is your dream as a trail runner?

Reading the ultra-trail literature out there played a big role in getting me into running, so it’s always been a dream to run an iconic race from that literature like Western States 100 one day.
In Indonesia, Mount Rinjani Ultra (MRU) in the beautiful island of Lombok is a trail race I’ve always wanted to do, but could never make it as it usually conflicts with a key triathlon race in Bintan island I always commit to; I hope I can run it one day and have a go at breaking its course record.

ATM: Running, and trail running, has seen a boom in popularity also in Indonesia recently. How did you experience this?

I’ve seen it grow exponentially: Back in 2012, runners down the street used to be a rare sight, running events could be counted on fingers and I used to see much more bikers than joggers on Jakarta’s weekly Car Free Day (CFD). Runners grew in numbers in the past 4 years; there are running events almost every weekend now (sometimes more than 2 on the same day), some of which draw thousands of participants, most running events are Road, but increasingly Trail too; many Jakartan cyclists avoid Car Free Day on Sunday, “It’s been taken over by runners” they mutter.
The running boom in the country is in my opinion only the tip of the iceberg, research studies show obesity has been rising rapidly in Indonesia and is becoming a major threat to public health; While urgent policy work is required to address the problem, I think we runners should play a leading role and be part of the solution: Raising health-consciousness, advocating running-friendly cities, demanding a minimum of green space “square meters per capita” in urban areas, sidewalks, trails …etc.

ATM: How do you see the future development of trail running?

I believe trail running will continue to grow in popularity in the region and the world, not only because health awareness and runners’ numbers will continue to increase, but also because more road runners continue to look for less urban and more beautiful sceneries, cleaner air quality, and just runs that are more pleasant and more fun; all that can generally be found when we return to nature and run trail; with this comes a responsibility to protect environment, keep our trails clean and keep them green, “Leave nothing but footprints”.

ATM: Many athletics federations in Asia do not recognise trail running as a genuine discipline. Is this holding the sport back?

Definitely, would any cycling federation stop recognizing MTB as a cycling discipline?! It’s unthinkable; MTB is a well-established and fully recognized part of cycling.
The same terrain differentiation applies to Trail running; I really hope its growing popularity will convince Athletics Federations in the region to regard it more progressively, recognize it, support it and nurture its young talent; Trail is not Track, nor Road, not even Cross-country, but it’s still Running.

ATM: Should trail running become recognised as an olympic sport?

Yes; Going back to Road vs Off-road cycling comparison, Mountain Biking (MTB) was born in the 70’s, then became an Olympic discipline in 1996; BMX followed and made its Olympic debut in 2008.
When it comes to Trail Running, even though the sport is relatively new, the activity itself is not only older than its track and road siblings, but as ancient as humans themselves!
I think IAAF recognition of Trail Running as an official running discipline in 2015 is a step in the right direction and would eventually lead to the sport becoming Olympic.

ATM: How is triathlon organised in Indonesia? Are there many events?

Triathlon is a relatively new sport in Indonesia, but one of the fastest growing; many pure runners and pure cyclists like to go outside their “comfort sport” and take up a multi-sport challenge that adds 2 more disciplines to what they are familiar with; they represent the bulk of people taking up triathlon. Finishing a triathlon is also becoming the next box to tick after a runner finishes a full marathon, or a cyclist completes her first running race, and as fun and addictive as it is, many stick around and sign up for the next (generally longer) triathlon event. I find this quite inspiring! It reminds me how I started and why I love Triathlon at the first place. Which brings us to triathlon events, Top 5 yearly events:

  • Sungailiat Triathlon (Bangka) [Distances: Sprint, Olympic, Long course]: born as a Duathlon in 2012, it never stopped improving, adding new distances and drawing more participants each year.
  • Triathlon Buddies Mini-Tri (Jakarta) [Distances: Novice, Kids]: is my community’s anniversary, it strives to introduce Triathlon to newbies (I was one of those newbies when I joined it 4 years ago).
  • Ironman 70.3 Bintan [Distance: 70.3, Iron-kids]: The first Ironman race in Indonesia in 2015, it’s making endurance Triathlon more popular.
  • Bali Triathlon [Distances: Sprint, Olympic]
  • Bintan Triathlon [Distances: Sprint, Olympic, Kids, Youth]

ATM: What do you think about the Asia Trail Master series? Could you see yourself tring to win the ATM championship one year?

I think it’s a brilliant idea to bring the Asian Trail Running scene together and connect quality races in different Asian countries into one series system that rewards runners of all capabilities, it certainly adds to the sense of achievement we get from practicing the sport we love; which makes me think: there should be something similar in triathlon on national or regional level!
I love endurance sport and intend to do it as long as my heart beats and legs move; so I do have in mind, at some point, to dedicate a season or 2 to single-sport events; winning ATM championship would be an exciting goal to aim for in the running year(s)!

ATM: Will you compete again in Tahura Trail next week?

Of course! Not only to try to defend my title, but to stay true to my tradition since Tahura’s first edition 4 years ago.

ATM: Finally, what is your favourite piece of running music?

I’m not a big fan of headphones while running, and find the sound of my breath and footsteps to be very musical, but I do find inspiration in some songs lyrics, like Mano Chao’s: “Il faut courir tous les jours, il faut courir. Il faut gagner tous les jours, il faut gagner. Il faut subir tous les jours, il faut subir”. It translates to: “One has to run every day, one has to run. One has to wineveryday, one has to win. One has to endure everyday, one has to endure”