Posts tagged vmm
VMM: Hung Hai up against Tomohiro Mizukoshi
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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.

Julia Nguyen Thi Duong won VJM 70 last year

Julia Nguyen Thi Duong won VJM 70 last year

Hung Hai: new Vietnamese running ace

Hung Hai: new Vietnamese running ace

Tomohiro Mizukoshi: a prime candidate for the race win in VMM 100

Tomohiro Mizukoshi: a prime candidate for the race win in VMM 100

Third place last week on Borneo: what’s in it this weekend for Jcy Ho?

Third place last week on Borneo: what’s in it this weekend for Jcy Ho?

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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.

VMM - Impressive Evelyn Lek scores 2nd ATM win
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The 6th edition of the Vietnam Mountain Marathon took place in generally fine conditions with almost 3000 runners spread out over the various race distances. The women’s 100k attracted a lot of attention as it had a class field of regional top runners, several of whom are also in contention for the 2018 Asia Trail Master Championship. And one of them just added her name to the list of contenders for the title: Evelyn Lek. After winning her debut on the ultra trail distance at Magnificent Merapoh Trail in Malaysia last month, the Singaporean now also claimed top honours in Vietnam Mountain Marathon. Intermediate race updates did not have her leading, yet Lek arrived solo back at the Topas Ecolodge in 17:57. In the end she had a comfortable gap over second-placed former winner Nathalie Cochet. The French runner had been leading earlier on, but finished in 18:40. In third place was Vietnamese Australian Hoa Banh, and another half hour back was Marieke Dekkers. Philippines’ Aggy Sabanal had an off-day and retired from the race at km 64 feeling unwell.

The men’s race was quite tight with 3 runners finishing within 30 minutes. Local star Hung Nguyen Tien had taken the bull by the horns from the beginning, but had to stay focused as in-form Hisashi Kitamura was never far behind. Kitamura runs a lot of races, this was his sixth ATM points race of the season and his third 100K in six weeks. Yet, the Kuala Lumpur-based Japanese shows no sign of fatigue as 2nd in VMM is his best result of the year. In fact, by eliminating his 19th place in 9 Dragons Ultra - his worst this season - Kitamura jumps ahead of his compatriot Tomohiro Mizukoshi in the ATM standings. France’s David Fontaine grabbed third place on the podium in Sapa last weekend.

The 70 km race was won by Vietnam’s Si Hieu Nguyen and by Hong Kong’s Ngon Sin Fang in the women’s.

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Top runners gather for the Vietnam Mountain Marathon
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The 6th edition of the Vietnam Mountain Marathon at the Topas Ecolodge in Sapa proves this event has become a true Southeast Asian classic alongside Borneo TMBT Ultra in Sabah. It has become much more than just a race with more than 3000 runners registered for one of the five race distances. In the context of Asia Trail Master, as usual the Grandmaster distances of 100k and 70k are the ones that count for the championship, and the participants’ field is fantastic.

For once we start with the women’s 100k, because it is jam-packed with talented runners who are challenging for the women’s Asia Trail Master Championship to boot. To recall, Indonesia’s Ruth Theresia took an important step towards the ATM crown at her home race in Bandung last week, but despite four victories in the bag her fifth was an off-day (CMU in March). So the title battle is certainly not yet over. Philippines’ Aggy Sabanal is one of her main challengers at this moment. The very young Filippino, 22, has scored wins in Rizal and Mt Apo in her home country this season and currently ranks 3rd in the championship. Interestingly, also for Sabanal, CMU was not her greatest race as she came in sixth. What is guaranteed is that the tough mountainous jungle course of Vietnam Mountain Marathon is ideal for Sabanal. The question is: will it also be for Singapore’s Evelyn Lek? A fast newcomer on the scene last month, Lek looked very composed in winning the Magnificent Merapoh Trail in Malaysia early August. That was her debut on the 100k trail distance. Of course, Merapoh is considerably more runable than VMM, so let’s find out what Lek can do on this type of terrain. There’s a few Asia-based expats who are also in the mix for the podium battle. Ho Chi Minh-based Dutchwoman Marieke Dekkers, for instance, won the Dalat Ultra Trail and the Penang Eco 100k this year. As for Sabanal, a third victory would create options in the ATM title chase. France’s Nathalie Cochet is based in Thailand where she won Ultra Trail Panoramic 100k last December, but more importantly she won the Vietnam Mountain Marathon already once in 2016! This season, Cochet has not yet been active on the ATM tour. More contenders for the female 100k podium this weekend are Malaysia’s Siokhar Lim and home runner Vy Le Phuong.

The men’s race last year saw a fantastic victory by Quang Tran over ATM champion Manolito Divina. This season, the local Vietnamese star is opting for the 70km race, where he will obviously be the one to beat. However, he might face stiff competition from South Korea’s Kim Jisub. The latter won the Korea 50k race last April, and certainly has the speed over hilly terrain as well. Can he cope with the South East Asian humidity?

On the 100k, the men’s race seems more open on paper and who fills the podium may depend very much on the form of the day. Based on recent performances, Japan’s Hisashi Kitamura will be close, although it remains to be seen how much is left in the tank after TMMT 100 and Borneo TMBT Ultra 100 in just six weeks. Kitamura, of course, ranks 4th in the ATM Championship at the moment, having already achieved five races. His worst result is 19th in the 9 Dragons Ultra, which means a podium result at VMM this weekend may see him jump ahead of his compatriot Tomohiro Mizukoshi. France’s Regis Cabaret is the second race favourite with an extra star behind his name. Cabaret is a very experienced technical mountain runner, whose 4th place on the 50km of Borneo TMBT Ultra three weeks ago show his legs are fine these days. What to expect of Italy’s David Gianelli? Having recently moved to Thailand and work as a diving instructor, the Mount Apo winner has not had as much training time as he would have liked. Let’s find out where he stands this weekend. Other runners who could envisage a podium finish are Robert Butcher and Guillaume Degoulet, and of course several other local runners who make their debut on the international ATM scene.

Aggy Sabanal has won 2 tough races so far this season

Aggy Sabanal has won 2 tough races so far this season

Evelyn Lek was impressive on her 100k trail debut at TMMT last month

Evelyn Lek was impressive on her 100k trail debut at TMMT last month

Kim Jisub won Korea 50k this year, what can he do in Southeast Asia?

Kim Jisub won Korea 50k this year, what can he do in Southeast Asia?

Quang Tran was the big winner last year, this year he is on the 70 km

Quang Tran was the big winner last year, this year he is on the 70 km

Amazing views along the VMM course

Amazing views along the VMM course

VMM - Triumph for Quang Tran & Kim Matthews
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The Vietnam Mountain Marathon in Sapa saw quite an upset on the main 100K race as local runner Quang Tran had the better of current Asia Trail Master champion Manolito Divina. In the women's, Kim Matthews delivered on her role as favourite to take her third ATM race victory of the season. 

After finishing second in the Vietnam Jungle Marathon last May, Quang Tran had only one focus in the last months and that was to prepare himself for the Sapa race. While everyone was  pointing to Cao Ngoc Ha as Vietnam's best bet to compete against the pinoy tandem of Divina and Arnold Lozano, Quang Tran was at the front early on. Manolito Divina was able to resist for a long time, but eventually had to admit the Vietnamese runner was simply too fast last weekend. In the end, the gap at the finish had even built up to 1 hour and 15 minutes, which is impressive. Finish time: 13 hours and 17 minutes. Cao Ngoc Ha completed the podium in third place another full hour back. It illustrates the dominance displayed by Quang Tran. SIngapore's Chua Ying Zhi came very close to the podium in fourth place only a few minutes behind Cao Ngoc Ha. Arnold Lozano - winner of this year's Cordillera Mountain Ultra - came home in fifth place. 

While Quang Tran collects 500 ATM championship points and now totals 950 in two races, Manolito Divina moves up into the ranking's top 10 with this third points score of the season. Cao Ngoc Ha improves to 4th place, equalling the total score of Isaac Yuen Wan Ho, who will be in action next at the Mesastila Peaks Challenge. Steven Ong still heads the championship ranking.

Kim Matthews was not really under pressure last weekend and ran a solid 17 hours 52 to claim the victory. The Australian, who recently moved to Ho Chi Minh City,  is becoming a real challenger now for the Asia Trail Master women's title. Her VMM victory propels her to second place in the ranking with four races, just five points behind Ruth Theresia but also 20 ahead of Tahira Najmunisaa! Lily Suryani continues to lead the championship ranking with five results in the bank. In fact, after completing the tough Bandung Ultra 100 last week, the Indonesian finished sixth on the 100K of VMM as well! However, her points total does not increase further as VMM was her sixth race and only the best five results count. Lily needs to do better than 4th place in a regular trail race, as that was her placing in both Tahura Trail and Merapoh Trail. 

On the podium beside Matthews was Hoa Banh, running with Australian nationality as well, and Nguyen Thi Duong from Vietnam, who will move up to the top 20 of the championship ranking with her third result of the season. 

There was also a 70K in Sapa, and that race was won by Britain's Graham Knight ahead of Hanoi's Quang Nguyen after a good battle. In the women's France's Nadia Koucha took a strong victory ahead of Malaysia's Penang Eco 100 winner Christine Loh. 

 

 

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VMM - Asian trail stars unite in Sapa
Kim Matthews

Kim Matthews

The Vietnam Mountain Marathon launches the final part of the 2017 Asia Trail Master Championship series this weekend. In style, because not only has VMM grown to be one of Asia’s finest trail races over the years, it also has attracted a quality field of Asian runners including our defending champion Manolito Divina. The Philippines’ running star still has some work to do in the final quarter of the year to defend his title. After an unfortunate DNF in Tahura Trail in January, Divina won the Rizal Mountain Run and the Sungai Menyala Forest Trail, but while others already have four or five results he is still down to two. Manolito has remained in good shape, though, as he proved in the Candidate Race in Bali two months ago. Manolito dominated the race and never even had to push to claim victory. This weekend in Vietnam, however, he will face some stiff competition on a hilly and often technical course that may match less with his characteristics as a trail runner. Manolito Divina, ironically enough, may have to fear another pinoy runner most in Vietnam: Arnold Lozano. The man from the Cordillera is known as a mountainbiker mainly outside Philippines, but then he won Cordillera Mountain Ultra last March, ahead of Marcelino Sano-Oy, Al Telias and Jan Nilsen! Lozano has his own ambition for the ATM Championship, so we could get a very interesting dual on the mountains around Sapa this weekend. 

The local stars of course also want a say in the battle. Cao Ngoc Ha in first place. The tall Vietnamese runner has been doing great in the ATM Championship this year and is determined to finish the year on a high note as well. Currently ranked in 6th place with three race finishes, Cao Ngoc Ha has home advantage this weekend and will be cheered on by the ever-growing Vietnamese trail community. Trail running is coming of age in Vietnam, indeed, and Cao Ngoc Ha is one of the pioneers. With also BTS Ultra on his agenda, it looks like he will definitely claim a top 10, if not top 5 or even higher position in the final championship ranking. 

In the women’s 100K, ATM Championship leader Lily Suryani will be at the start to defend her position. The Bali-based Indonesian  is unstoppable and very consistent this year. Only last weekend she finished the Bandung Ultra 100, a very technical and tough ATM Candidate Race. Lily has five results in the bag already, and her aim is of course to improve on her “fifth result”. This weekend, she will for sure leave Vietnam still as the Championship leader, but Australia’s Kim Matthews is set to move up. Matthews, in fact, is the women’s race favourite. She won UTKC 70 and Tam Dao Mountain Trail, and also scored second in the Penang Eco 100k earlier this year and is one of the top favourites for the ATM Championship at the end of the season. In Sapa, Matthews will be competing with Suryani, but also with Montha Suntornwit and local stars Tu Nguyen, Nguyen Thi Duong and Vy Le Phuong. Moana O’ Sullivan from New Zealand is the dark horse for the women’s race this weekend. 

As always in trail running, there may be guest runners claiming the spotlight as well. In Sapa we can expect some solid runners from South Korea, Thailand and France.