Thailand's best two trail runners delivered a high-paced and fascinating dual on Koh Chang last weekend during UTKC, the first SuperTrail race of the 2018 Asia Trail Master Championship. Jay Jantaraboon and Sanya Khancia both beat the course record set by Steven Ong and Wataru Iino last season, despite the extra hill that was added to the course for this year. Finishing barely 17 minutes apart, Jantaraboon and Khancai sent also a strong warning to all other potential contenders for this year's ATM Championship. In the women's Ruth Theresia led a very strong Indonesian group performance.
UTKC had the reputation already of being one of the toughest races on the ATM calendar, and last weekend confirmed that status even more. Whereas the approx 4400 metres of elevation gain on the 100 course is not necessarily earth-shattering, the steepness of the hills, the density of the rainforest and the long road section halfway in scorching hot temperatures force all runners to dig deep into their reserves. Organiser Teelakow is well-aware UTKC is very challenging and spares no expense to stock all aid stations abundantly, and set a CUT that is manageable for all participants as long as they keep moving. As such, 67 runners succeeded in finishing the 100K distance and they were all delighted, indeed.
The main race was set alight quickly after the 4 am start when Jay Jantaraboon and Sanya Khancai opened the gas. Italy's Alessandro Sherpa was alert and followed, but after twisting his ankle badly he faded and was eventually forced to stop. Sherpa was in a position to grab the points lead in the ATM Championship in this race, but given his injury he will also need to sit out the 9 Dragons Ultra next weekend. Not following the Thai duo was Indonesia's Arief Wismoyono. Perhaps untypical, Wismoyono opted for a quiet start of his 100k. The first runner-up of the 2017 ATM championship would never play a role for the victory, and instead was battling with France's Clement Dumont for the third spot. At km 64, it looked like Arief had the potential to catch up with Dumont, but the latter kept a solid pace himself and was able to extend the gap substantially come finish. His second fourth place of the 2018 ATM season does put Arief Wismoyono in the lead of the championship ranking with 850 points, though. Dean Perez was not running in Thailand, and will be back on the your in two weeks for Cordillera Mountain Ultra.
Jay and Sanya ran together for half of the race, until the Champion System runner accelerated and was able to put some distance between them on the way to CP 5 at km 64. The gap there was 12 minutes. It is quite impressive therefore that the gap at the finish was just 5 minutes more. It proves the resilience and fantastic form of 46-year-old Sanya Khancai, who also explained afterwards to be disappointed with his result. Certainly it is no shame to lose to Jay Jantaraboon, who scored his second ATM race victory after dominating Ultra-Trail Chiang Rai last October. The winner's time was 14:27, compared to 15:06 last season by Ong and Iino. It is still early season, but if Jantaraboon and Khancai manage to get five ATM race results they will both be hot contenders for the 2018 ATM title!
Legros pulls out, Theresia wins and takes ATM points lead
The women's 100K enjoyed the presence of an international elite runner from France, Elisabeth Legros, who is spending holiday time in Thailand this month. Pre-race favourite Ruth Theresia had a great start of her race as she was able to keep the gap between her and Legros to around 15 minutes. Unfortunately, the Bandung runner then chose a wrong trail that sent her up another hill. When back on the right trail, Theresia of course had lost contact with Legros entirely and instead had to watch out for her compatriot Shindy Patricia, Philippines' Ann Jilian Pulanco and Thailand's Kanlaya Srinantawong. Montha Suntornwit was a DNS, unfortunately. Theresia was clearly in great form and also had luck on her side later on the day. Shindy Patricia missed a marker and got lost for a long time herself, and Pulanco had to stop the race being unable to still take in any water or food. Then, Elisabeth Legros began to suffer from serious foot blisters, too. And that was not her only problem: an insect flew deep into the French runner's ear and was stuck inside. Legros pulled out of the race at around km 75 and had to be taken to hospital to have the bug removed from her ear. As such, Ruth Theresia claimed the race lead and would hang onto it without rushing at nighttime to finish in 23:23. Shindy Patricia arrived two hours later to grab second. Thailand's Kanlaya Srinantawong was a further three hours back in third place. Srinantawong was engaged in a dual with another Indonesian Grandmaster runner, Lily Suryani, who reached the finish seven minutes later. Suryani is of course the only female two-star Grandmaster so far. Back from a hamstring injury that still bothers her, the runner from Bali remains an incredibly consistent finisher of ultra races!
The 70K race of UTKC saw a tight battle between Fabien Bencler from New Caledonia and Britain's Paul Dunn, decided in favour of the former. The gap at the finish was just four minutes. In third place fourteen minutes down was Filippino Joeffery Camara. The women's 70K saw a Thai winner and podium: Patcharee Chuaythaisong, was faster than Parinda Sothonboon and Anisa Suebwongsan.