One week after Borneo TMBT, we move on to another classic on the Southeast Asian trail calendar, the VIetnam Mountain Marathon. Taking place in the northwestern ethnic mountain area in Sapa, VMM is arguably also the toughest in the country where trail running has seen an incredible boom over the past two years. New local hero Hung Hai will be trying to win the 100km again after his phenomenal run a year ago.
Hung Hai has been training in the Sapa area for quite some time to prepare. It will be needed because Tokyo’s Tomohiro Mizukoshi will be at the start this weekend and he is in better shape than he was in May for the Vietnam Jungle Marathon. On paper these two look like the main guys to watch on the 100k, which this year has a slightly new course with the addition of one more climb. However, Nguyen Duc Quang - who finished together as 2nd with Hung Hai in VJM 70 and has more experience - is another serious contender. The Vietnamese stars are not playing an active role in the Asia Trail Master Championship so far this season, but a second podium this weekend could of course still be a stimulant for more in the remaining races. For injury-prone Tomohiro, VMM presents an opportunity to boost his total points and edge closer to Championship points leaders Hisashi Kitamura, John Ellis and Milton Amat.
VMM is one of those races in a “new market” with lots of unknowns on the start list so there’s potentially a lot of strong contenders. One international runner who is of course very well-known is Francesca Canepa, the Italian Uglow runner who should be the leading lady on the 100 km this weekend. However, trail in Asia is not the same as in continental Europe and there lies the chance for other competitors such as Habiba Benahmed, who is improving race by race and getting closer to her best performance level again.
The 70 km option, which is actually the original VMM race category, seems to have a wider range of podium contenders this year. As 70k is a Grandmaster race distance, the winner here will still go home with 370 ATM Championship poins in the bag. The 100k winners of course collect 500. On the 70 we will find athletes such as Mads Louring, who is in-form and more than solid on the medium distance. Margono from Indonesia is making his occasional start in a trail race again. The national speed walker has a pedigree in fast trails such as Sungai Menyala Forest Trail and Tahura Trail, and it will be interesting to see how he fares on the more technical, mountainous and slightly longer course of VMM. Aaron Ong from Singapore can be expected to challenge for the podium.
In the women’s 70km we have Julia “Sugar” Nguyen Thi Duong who will be trying to please her home crowd. Hong Kong’s Jcy Ho will be in it for sure - but just a week after a strong 3rd place in Borneo TMBT she may not be at her freshest.
We expect several new names to appear on the leaderboard this weekend, and ATM is of course present in Sapa for live coverage on our facebook page.