Alessandro Sherpa won the Magnificent Merapoh Trail 100 in commanding style last weekend. The Italian ran off by himself already in the first kilometres of the 100k race, which this year featured 800 hm more elevation gain and is - at least for the fast guys - ran almost entirely at night with start at 9 pm. Sherpa won in 11:26:46 -spectacular as only marginally slower than last season's winner Sefli Ahar from Brunei - and was never really threatened. Especially as 2017 ATM Champion Steven Ong retired after 25 km with his ankle injury bothering him too much. There's still many races left on the calendar, but it does look that Ong will not feature at the very top of this year's championship after setting up his outdoor retail shop in Kuala Lumpur. Japanese runner Tomohiro Mizukoshi was trying but could not bridge the gap to Sherpa, and finished second in 12:15. One could wonder how come Mizukoshi let the Italian get away so early, as for a long time afterwards they were running at an equal pace.
It is the second victory of the season for Alessandro Sherpa after Penang Eco 100k, and his fifth ATM points race of the season. He dedicates the victory to the victims of the massive earthquake in Lombok. With 2200 total points, he also took over the lead in the ATM Championship at the expense of Pablo Diago Gonzales (2100 points). Japan's Mizukoshi improved his total points tally also and is now third in the ranking. One of the revelations of the season - even though he was 17th in last year's Izu Trail Journey - and that race doesn't lie.
The Merapoh podium was completed by Mizukoshi's compatriot Hisashi Kitamura, his first podium success in an Asia Trail Master points race. Kitamura ran with a great pace and seems to have growth potential. Based in KL, Kitamura is now 7th in the ATM Championship. And also Gakubo Chiba arrived in Merapoh in 4th place, making it 2-3-4 for Japan in this race! Next was Yeo Kim Hong from Singapore, who came in a superb fifth, followed by another interesting new face, Mohamad Raydi Koto Cham from Indonesia in sixth. And in 7th we find even a runner from Nepal in the race result: Kajiman Rai. Were any local Malaysians running TMMT 100 apart from Steven Ong? Muhammad Shahrin Faiz Bin Roslan is first Malaysian in the race result in 8th place, underlining his own personals strong 2018 season. Roslan has climbed up to 8th place as well in the ATM Championship with four strong results in the bag. In the championship, he is first Malaysian, too. Highly profiled Mohamed Affindi was a DNS due to fever, while Sabah runner Milton Amat is reportedly aiming to win Borneo TMBT Ultra 100 in 3 weeks.
Singapore’s Evelyn Lek won the women's race in convincing style in a time of approx 14:27, which is fast. Lek is a road runner who has only recently been getting a taste of trail and TMMT was her first ever 100k trail! She appeared at the top of the leaderboard at CP3, when she caught up with Adelinah Lintanga, Hiang Song Ng and Philippines' Ann Jilian Pulanco. Lek didn't look back from then on. Has Singapore found itself a new trail star?
Adelinah, the youngest of the Lintanga sisters, had to be satisfied with second place again. Twelve months ago she had to tolerate Tahira Najmunisaa ahead of her. Still, she does a good job for her ATM championship. In fact, now she is tied with Jassica Lintanga in tenth place. Tough cookie Adelinah was fourth at the end of 2017, and given that this year's women's championship seems to be more open she could become a contender down the road - or should we say down the trail.
Ann Jilian Pulanco, a good runner and 3rd in Dalat Ultra Trail this year, asked for ice to treat her hip at CP3, and dropped to 7th after leading the race in the early parts. Also Ng Song Hiang fell back to sixth after a fast start. More experienced ultra trail runners Jefferlyn Castellano and Jocelyn Cheung on the other hand kept moving up the leaderboard as the race went into injury time. Cheung proved that her podium finish at Mesastila last year was no fluke by grabbing third. Castellano settled for fourth.
Canada's Julian Baker raised some eyebrows by completing the 70km race in 6:57. That's his second ATM race victory after UT Koh Chang 70 last year. Baker is based in South Korea and - so he says - is prepping himself to feature on the 100k circuit soon. We can't wait! The women's 70km was also won by a woman from western origin, namely Pauline Svoboda from the Czech Republic - in her debut on the long distance! What's more, Svoboda is based in Singapore just like Evelyn Lek. Singapore hardly has trails, let alone mountainous technical trails, but they seem to produce some excellent trail runners of late!