Posts in talking trail running
Jun Kaise is Talking Trail Running

He was second in the Echigo Country Trail last year and determined to win the colourful race in his home region of Niigata this coming Sunday. Jun Kaise is one of Japan's fastest non-professional trail runners, especially on the medium distance. He proved as much three weeks ago when he won the Kushigata Wind Trail, the shortest race in the 2017 Asia Trail Master Championship series. Not that it was a walk in the park, because no fewer than 2500 metres of elevation gain had to be conquered over a mere  30 km. Perhaps Kaise is not just fast, but also stronger than he thinks. A smile on his face wherever he goes, Jun Kaise will be one to watch this weekend. And possibly for the rest of the season, as another victory means 1000 ATM Championship points, which would put him right up there in the ranking. Let's find out a bit more about the Japanese trail runner! 

Q: Where were you born and did you grow up ?
In Minamiuonuma city, in Niigata Prefecture. 

Q: What created your interest in running and trail running in particular?
To make use of it for my day to day work. Also, I love mountains.

Q: What do you do for a living?
I am a firefighter, or an emergency medical technician. I need to be in good shape. 

Q: What do you like about the Echigo Country Trail?
I very much like to talk with the local people.

Q: What is your ambition for this event?
First and foremost, enjoying the contact with local residents.

Q: Do you prefer the long 100k ultras or shorter trail races like the 52k Echigo?
I am at my best racing around 30 to 50 km.

Q: In your eyes, what is the current state of trail running in Japan?
I am excited about it, and I think that it will be even more exciting in the future.

Q: There have been some set-backs in Japan lately for trail runners, with arguably the biggest event UTMF cancelled this year and still without a confirmed date for 2018. What do you think is the reason?
Because the act of running in the mountains can not get the understanding of some stubborn people.

Q: What do you talk about when you talk about running?
The splendor of mountain scenery.

Q:  You won Kushigata Wind Trail two weeks ago, is that race comparable with Echigo? Not so much. In my view, KUSHIGATA needs speed, but Echigo is requires a high degree of toughness.

Q: Have you ever run IZU TRAIL Journey? It is the big final of the ATM Championship this year.
Not yet, but I am looking forward to it. 

Q: Is it easy for Japanese runners to travel abroad to other trail races in the Asia Trail Master championship series?
In Japan, there are many people who have difficulty in taking leave from work,  and it is difficult to travel for more than just a couple of days. So, it is difficult to go to remote areas of Asia.

Q: How do you see the future development of trail running in Japan?
I think that as the number of competing runners increases, it will become more and more familiar and understood, also for those people who are not runners. 

Q: Many athletics federations in Asia do not recognise trail running as a genuine discipline. How's that in Japan?
Unfortunately, in Japan this is also the same situation. 

Q: Should trail running become recognised as an olympic sport?
I think it is difficult. Because you can not get the same course, distance and altitude difference every time.

Q: What is your favourite piece of running music?
Japanese pop music.

Jun Kaisen proudly wearing the winner's shirt of Kushigata Wind Trail 3 weeks ago

Jun Kaisen proudly wearing the winner's shirt of Kushigata Wind Trail 3 weeks ago

Ruth Theresia is Talking Trail Running

Penang Eco 100 this weekend has attracted a stellar line-up of protagonists in the Asia Trail Master Championship series. On the start list for the Malaysia SuperTrail is also a whole delegation from Indonesia, a country which has produced several outstanding trail runners in the past two years. Among them, and arguably the latest running star coming from Java, at least in the women's category, is 27-year-old Ruth Theresia. Ruth only got into competitive running about two years ago, but her progress has been more than remarkable. Hailing from Bandung, place of her mentor and male ATM championship leader Arief Wismoyono, Ruth Theresia won the last three ATM races she took part in and is aiming for more, a lot more. The upcoming race in Penang will be her first attempt at the 100 miles distance. If she proves successful, Ruth Theresia will have a significant shot at the Asia Trail Master championship title later this year. Not bad for someone who can certainly still be called a "newbie" in trail running! High time to get to know Ruth Theresia a little bit better. 

By K. Van de Velde

Q: first of all, could you briefly present yourself to the people who may not know you. Where do you come from, and where did you grow up?

RT:  My name is Ruth Theresia. Actually people call me Irut. I come from Bataknese family. I was born 27 years ago in Jakarta. I grow up in Jakarta until graduate my senior high school, then I move to Bandung to continue my study at Telkom University (Industrial Engineering program) in 2008 and currently stay here. I am the eldest children in my family. I have 2 young brothers, and I haven’t married yet.

Q: What do you do for a living? 

RT: After I graduate my bachelor program in 2013 I work as a banker until mid of 2016. Then I resign from office. Now my daily activities just for sport. Do the running program, sometimes play basketball and ride my bicycle.

Q: have you always been sporty? 

RT: Yes. Before I run, I was a basketball athlete. I play basketball since the age of 13. I play in several national basketball competition and for a pro basketball club (Rajawali Bandung). After I quit from my club, then I join Bdg Explorer in September 2015. 

Q: what attracted you to running, and in particular trail running?

RT:  Basically, when I started to run I didn't  have any plan to join running competitions. I run just for maintaining my condition, so that I am still fit when I play basketball. Before I join Bdg Explorer, I join BR20 runners first. It is one of Bandung run community, their passion is in road run. In July 2015 my crew influenced me to join a road race. My first time race was in Singapore. I found something new in running. Then I continued to participate in a marathon in the next month until I got to know Bandung Explorer in September. That was the first time I learnt about  trail running. I was curious, then I join BTS 70K in November 2015. That was my first experience in mountain-ultra-trail race. When I am in a road run, I feel bored of the track because of the flat route and it's mostly asphalt. In trail I can see beautiful scenery, run on varried terrain, and combine running with hiking. I also learn about self management and strategy in ultratrail races. Second reason is because I see a big opportunity in trail running, esspecially in Indonesia.

Q: did you have any idols as a youngster? 

RT: Yes absolutely, Mira Rai. She is young, strong, fast, talented, and inspired me in trail running.

Q: can you describe your first ever running race? 

RT: My very first time running race was the Singapore Sundown Marathon 2015. It was my first race experience and I took full marathon. I finished it quite close to the finish cut off time. I felt exhausted and almost the whole of my body felt stiff. People said that I am a desperate runner at this time. I have my own reason, because I want to challenge myself and feel the sport competition atmosphere. I got addicted to running.  Then I join others marathon race the following month.

Q: you made a remarkable progress in a very short time, and arguably are the woman-to-beat in Indonesia these days. You won the last 3 ATM races you took part in. How would you explain this jump in performance? 

RT: It began when I participated in MesaStila Peaks Challenge 2016. It was my second time in a mountain-ultra-trail race after BTS 70K in 2015. I finished 10th place in that BTS 2015. The gap in time was almost a year to MPC 2016. I had started to train and joined several local trail races (not ATM qualified). As a junior to join MPC last year, I had only set "to finish" as a  target, I had never dreamt to catch the podium. But finally I could finish in 2nd place of the women category. MPC 2016 was my moment. The great result became a trigger for me. Then, I went back to BTS 2016 for 102K and finished as 1st women. Both results made me set another target. I feel optimistic and motivated in 2017. I also receive great support from Bgd Explorer team. I train with experts and get running program from a coach. So, I quit my daytime job and have begun as a serious trail runner. Thankfully,  I had background as a basketball athlete already, So I have felt the sport competition vibe before and already built a strong mental strength. 

Q: What is your ambition in trail running? 

RT: I can represent Indonesia in international trail running races, become an Indonesia mountain trail running ambassador, and inspire Indonesian women to get fit and be brave to do sport, especially trail running.

Q: Coming back to idols, are there any Indonesian role models for you?

RT: Arief Wismoyono. One of my role models in Indonesia and my training partner.He shares much his experiences and give some advices to us. He is so humble, so we never be afraid to ask him about training program. When I train with him, he always support me and never leave me far from him. It makes me to follow his pace.

Q: How often do you train per week?

RT:  6 times in a week, 1 day rest on Monday.

Q: what about road running? I have noticed you have a fast pace on the road as well, what's your best time on the road marathon? 

RT: Not so fast hahaha.. My last timing is 4 hr 18 minutes at Jakarta Marathon 2015, then after that I never participate in road marathon anymore. 

Q: What is your favourite race and why? 

RT: Vibram HK 100. Very well organized, nice weather to run, and I can meet and share the experience with some elite runners.

Q: Did you ever experience the runner's high? 

RT: Never so far

Q: You are attempting the 100 miles at Penang Eco 100, which is a very big challenge given the cut-off time. How do you feel a few days before the race?

RT:  I feel excited but nervous. This is one of Asia Trail Master's super trail races, so I am ambitious to get the bonus championship points.  But I feel nervous because this will be my first 100 miles experience.

Q: Penang Eco 100 is indeed the Malaysia SuperTrail and has 575 ATM championship points on offer for the race winner. If you manage this, you are putting pressure on Tahira Najmunisaa and may even become the woman to beat in this year's ATM championship. Is that a goal for you?

RT: Yes. Penang Eco has the biggest points on offer for the 100 miles. It is one of my red circles on my ATM race calendar this year. So I have to finish it to boost my ranking.

Q: Last year at MesaStila, Tahira finished clearly ahead of you. Do you think you can get closer to her this year ? 

RT: She really did great last year and her performance has even increased this year, it seems.  It was our first head to head at  Mesastila, but I am optimistic to get closer to her this year. 

Q: Just one week after Penang, you are also on the start list of Ijen Trailrunning. Do you think you will be recovered in time? 

RT: I hope so. If I am still fit I will continue to run in Ijen. I will discuss to my therapist for the recovery after Penang Eco.  

Q: Have you ever competed against Sandi Menchi from Philippines, another ATM title pretender this season? 

RT: Never, I haven’t competed against her.

Q: do you enter a race with a specific strategy in mind? 

RT: Yes. First I learn about my competitors to find out my position, then I learn about the maps, elevation gain, weather forecast, and the terrain to project my finishing time. I study the water statiion distance to set my refuel energy plan.

Q: Would you like to represent Indonesia at the Trail World Championships? 

RT: Absolutely, especially in UTMB and UTWT

Q: Any Indonesian race you would like to see in ATM? 

RT: Bandung Ultra 100, Mantra Summit Challenge, Rinjani Ultra 100, and GP Ultra 100

Q: What is your favourite piece of running music? 

RT: All kind of up-beat music like RnB or pop music. Because it helps me to get a good mood during the race. 

 

 

 

 

Luc Hapers is Talking Trail Running

This weekend the 3rd edition of the Tengri Ultra Trail in Kazakhstan is on the Asia Trail Master agenda. A 70km relatively fast race through grasslands and rocky canyons of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Tamgaly Tas, roughly 120 km from major city Almaty in the East of this big country. TUT is a genuine outdoor experience with camping along the Ili River included before the race. Increasingly more international runners with an adventurous spirit are travelling to Kazakhstan for the race. Belgium's Luc Hapers is one of those trail running globetrotters and has been since many years. This weekend he will be among the top favourites for the victory in the Tengri Ultra Trail, as his pace is still quick, too. Formerly living in Bali, Indonesia, Hapers is also familiar with trail running in Asia and that makes for an interesting talk. 

By K. Van de Velde

Q: Luc Haepers, born in Belgium but quite familiar with Asia and in particular Indonesia. How's that?
LH: My first introduction to Asia was Bali. I was 18 back then. I fell in love with Bali immediately and I went back nearly every year since. Year after year I explored more and more countries in Asia. 

Q: When did you start running?
I started running when I was 30. That's when my older brother convinced me to join him in a 5 km race.

Q: Did you have any running or sports idols as a youngster?
I practice sports a lot, but don't really like to watch it. And if I do I am neutral so I never have to be disappointed after a game or race. 

Q: You're known as an ultra runner, doing several races a year. How do you recover between races? 
I guess I can say that I usually recover very well after an ultrarace. In some cases I only needed a day or 2. But when my body needs more time to recover I listen to my body. I'm asking a lot of my body but sometimes you have to give something back. It works both ways...to me  it's just like a relationship...give and take. I treat my body well and I get strength and performance in return.

Q: Do you keep a training and nutrition plan? 
I do not stick to any nutrition or training programme. I don't want to get a sense of pressure. I eat healthy all the time...it has become a habit...a lifestyle to me. I strongly believe that it helps me to perform better. I'm always experimenting with my nutrition intake and way of training. Nobody knows your body better than yourself.

Q: What's the toughest race you have done so far?
That must have been either 'la diagonale des fous' in Reunion last year or 'la echappe belle' in France.

Q: What's your ambition still in trail running after all these years? 
My plan was to compete in the Asia Trail Master series but I'm not sure I will be able to join enough races to do that. I would love to do a multiple stage race like Transpyrenean or Atacama crossing. A few more podiums would also be lovely. 

Q: How do you select races on your programme? 
I always combine my races with a holiday. I try to pick at least 1 country I haven't been to every year. 

Q: How do you see your chances of reaching the podium in Kazakhstan this weekend?
Looking at last year's results I would be able to win...but every year is different. Podium should be feasible...if everything goes well!!

Q: Having done plenty of races in Indonesia and Asia in general, would you say there is a difference in the organisation of Asian and European trail events?
I think that Europe has some benefits in terms of sponsors, expertise, status of some races...etc but me personally I prefer the smaller races. 

Q: Do you have a recommendation perhaps for organisers in Indonesia based on your experience? 
In general, trailrunning in Asia is still in its infancy compared to Europe. Communication can be an issue in some cases and lack of information before as well as during the race. Oh...one more important thing...keep the trails free from rubbish. Disqualify the ones who litter!

Q: How should people in Asia imagine racing in Belgium?
You would think that trailrunning in a rather flat country as Belgium is nearly non-existent...but it's not like that at all. In fact we do have some hard races in here. A self-navigating 250km race with around 9000m of altitude gain for example. The biggest difference is probably the fact that we don't have this long, never ending ascents and descents. 

Q: Would you like to see trail running become an olympic sport and why or why not?
I'm not waiting for it to become an olympic sport. I prefer to keep it low key. 

Q: Do you feel trail running merits more institutional oversight, e.g. in the field of safety? 
I would say it's the job of the organizer to determine the safety of the course. He also has to make it clear on the website and during the briefing.

Q: What do you think of the Asia Trail Master championship series? 
The Asia Trail Master series is still new to me. But I definitely like the concept. 

Q: Do you like running with music? if yes, what's your favourite tune? 
As I mostly run in nature I hardly listen to music while running because I don't want to exclude myself from nature. but if I had to choose I would go for Sigur ros' music because their music is one with nature!  'Ik loop' from Belgian band  Halve Neuro is one of my favorite roadrunning songs. 

Pavel Rozanov is Talking Trail Running

At the end of Q2 in this year's Asia Trail Master Championship series we find an odd-one out, if one could say so, on the race calendar. The Altai Ultra Trail is certainly the most remote event of all, but that should not deter anyone. In fact, the Altai Ultra Trail is a popular race in Siberian Russia and the area where it takes place is quite simply breathtaking. Being one with nature is no exaggeration when out there! Moreover, the event is held over several days and offers various race distances and even a three-day-duo team race. The organiser and race director knows the Altai area like the back of his hand. Pavel Rozanov grew up in the closest city Novosibirsk and is a mountaineering fiend. Via the Altai Ultra Trail, which he set up last year (it was an ATM Candidate Race, too) Pavel wishes to show his native region to the world. A great opportunity to get to know Pavel Rozanov a bit better, and we were happy to talk trail running with him! If you are keen on joining him and his team, check out our cover page of the Altai Ultra Trail event, which has links to the registration module on the event's own website. Please note that registrations are ending next week. 

By Kris Van de Velde

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

PR: I was born and grew up in Novosibirsk (unofficially dubbed "the capital city of Siberia”); after graduation from the University I moved to Moscow and lived there for 15 years until finally returning to Novosibirsk 3 years ago.

Q: What created your interest in running and trail running in particular?
My interest in trail running stems from my continuous mountaineering activity in the past which gradually transformed into this just as mountain-involving but a less risky activity.

Q: Are you a runner yourself? What's been some of your greatest performances? 
Yes, I do practice trail running with great inspiration but for myself I prefer individual self-supported treks (as opposed to organized races).

Q: What do you do for a living?
I am a manager of architectural design projects.

Q:The Altai Ultra Trail attracts a lot of attention. How would you describe the event in a nutshell?
The Altai Ultra-Trail is a wild demanding race in a WILDLY beautiful environment.

Q: Should non-Russian speakers be worried about making the long trip to Altai?
While the trip is long there is nothing to worry about because once you take our shuttle bus in the Novosibirsk airport (or in downtown Novosibirsk) all you really have to take care of is taking pictures, and that is especially true about the second part of the journey (the Chuysky Trakt) which was named one of the most amazing and scenic roads in the world by the National Geographic magazine. And when you reach the start area our English-speaking volunteers will help you with all the arrangements so I'm sure the language problems are overestimated. A lot of foreign tourists and mountaineers visit this region of Altai every season, so the staff of the local hotels/base camps is used to dealing with foreigners.

The shuttle bus from Novosibirsk to the starting point of the race and back  is on request, runners need to fill in an application form when registering for the race. Estimated dates are 27/06, 28/06, 29/06, with departure at 21:00-22:00 from the city center. Total travel time is approximately 14-15 hours. Other options available upon request. 

Q: Being in such a remote place, how do you handle runner's security?
The race takes place on the territory of the Belukha Nature Park. While it's a remote place it is also a touristic spot so it's in everyone’s interest to ensure safety there. In addition, the organizers arrange insurance policy for every runner so a helicopter evacuation will be organized in case of heavy injury during the race.

Q: What's the highest altitude runners reach during the Altai Ultra Trail?
The highest altitude runners reach is 3060 meters, two spots at the 105th and 155th km of the race. For the 50 km race the highest point is approx 2600 meters.

What is your ambition for this event? 
Of course we would like to see our race among the worthiest races of the Ultra-trail World Tour... But speaking more realistically, the aim is to engage more and more strong trail runners.

Q: Can you say a bit more about the area in which the event takes place?
The race takes place on the territory of the Belukha Nature Park. It is part of the World Heritage Site dubbed The Golden Mountains of Altai. The region represents an important and original centre of biodiversity of mountain plant and animal species in northern Asia, a number of which are rare and endemic. Mt. Belukha is not only the highest point of all Siberia, it's also a sacred mountain for native Altai people.

Q: Talking about trekking, how tough is the climb on Mt Belukha? 
It’s not very tough, meaning that anyone in good physical condition could climb Mt. Belukha. At 4509 m it is the highest Siberian mountain. It's worth to keep in mind though that it takes at least 3 days from the base camp, provided the weather is good.

Q: Is trail running popular in Siberian Russia?
Trail running is becoming more and more popular following the trend in the rest of the world, I suppose. Some years ago nobody knew about trail running but now a lot of people practice trail running and still more are interested in giving it a shot.

Q: What is the connection between Altai Ultra Trail, and another ATM points race, the Tengri Ultra Trail in Kazakhstan? 
We collaborate and promote each other; and as a bonus, winners of one race can participate in the other without an entry fee.

Q: Is it easy for Russian runners to travel abroad to other trail races in the Asia Trail Master championship series?
No, it’s not easy because they are in remote locations, especially for runners from the European part of Russia. Also, the trail races of the Asia Trail Master series unfortunately are less known than the European trail races so that runners would rather go to Europe to run there than going to Asia.

Q: How do you see the future development of trail running in Russia?
One can only hope that the quantity of both races and trail runners will one day turn into quality :)

Q: Many athletics federations in Asia do not recognise trail running as a genuine discipline. How's that in Russia?
We had the same problem here in Russia, however this year the situation has started to change. The Russian Athletics Federation established a trail running committee which now cooperates with Russian Trail Running Association in order to specify trail running as a genuine discipline.

Q: Should trail running become recognised as an olympic sport?
 I don’t think it`s possible, or necessary for that matter. So much depends on the weather or a specific terrain where the race is held… there are just too many variables.

Q: What is your favourite piece of running music?
Actually, I enjoy the sounds of nature; my running music is singing of birds, whispering rustling of leaves and soft patter of rain.

Huzairi Shah is Talking Trail Running

One of the new names on the Malaysian trail running scene is Huzairi Shah Mohd Hussin. A member of Razif Yahya's Team Malatra, Huzairi Shah was 11th in the 2016 ATM Championship and is a young runner with a clear focus on the Asia Trail Grandmaster Quest. So far, he has managed to finish three races already, all of them last season: the Magnificent Merapoh Trail 100, MesaStila 5 Peaks Challenge 100 and Clark-Miyamit Falls Ultra 50 miles. Last February, an upset stomach forced him to retire at the UTKC race in Thailand, but Huzairi is not discouraged. Via this weekend's Sungai Menyala Forest Trail - a home race for Team Malatra - he returns to action to prepare for the continuation of his Grandmaster Quest later this season. Mind you, a tenth place in last year's Merapoh Trail also indicates Huzairi is fast on his day.  Let's get to know Huzairi Shah Mohd Hussin a bit more, and find out what his ambitions are for Sunday's Sungai Menyala race. 

By K. Van de Velde

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

HS: I was born in Lumut, Perak and I spent most of my childhood at Kampung Koh, a very small town in Sitiawan, Perak. I was raised as a normal child and not active in sports until I started running that changed my lifestyle almost entirely.

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

I started running during my university life. I still remember it was in 2011 when I joined my friend for the first time. We jog together round the college, and after that I just fall in love with running. I started to run seriously and sign up for running events. My first event was the Standard Chartered 5KM Fun Run 2011. During early time, I always train with a motivation to finish a marathon. My dreams came true when I crossed the Finishing Line at Penang Bridge International Marathon 2014.

What do you do for a living?

I work full time as a Quality Control Engineer for TC Subaru Sdn Bhd.

How do you combine that with endurance sports like running?

My training time is very limited. Mostly I will train after office hours. And I am very lucky to have my own running family here in Malaysia, such as Kyserun Krew, Shah Alam Running Club and Mont Kiara Running Club. I spent most of my time to train with them. Also, I will go the gym to join RPM class and on weekends, I will go for trail running.

What does your training plan look like?

I don't have a specific training program. My weekly mileage usually averages around 60-70km per week. And I believe, training program is very different for each person and how you approach it. But I suggest that you do cross training to minimize the risks of injury plus it is one of the way to kill running boredom.

What is your ambition as a trail runner?

I have a big dreams to finish UTMF for now. Well I believe most of us holds the same dream like me. At the same time I want to bring our Malaysia flag higher, and I am proud to carry it running around Asia under the Asia Trail Master Series.

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

My idols have always been Kilian Jornet and Haile Gebrselassie. Both of them are very humble in person and successful in their own running careers. I love to watch their videos on Youtube, and it gives me such inspiration when I feel down.

When did you discover your talent as a runner?

I enjoy running and cycling, but due to budget constraints, I have to focus on one sport, and I picked running. To be honest, I don't know if I have the talent to run, but I can say I really enjoy running.

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

A week before a race, I will take care of my hydration level. I will drink a lot of mineral water and coconut water. For carbs intake, I will do carbo loading around 3 days before race. It’s just that I still have problems with food intake during long races.

What is your best time on the road marathon?

I completed my first and the only full Marathon at Penang Bridge International Marathon 2014 with a timing of 5:53:53. Up until now, that was my Personal Best for road marathon.

In Thailand you mentioned that the Grandmaster Quest is one of your goals. How has it been going so far for you?

Yes. It is my dream to become an Asia Trail Grandmaster. For now, I have collected 3 points, and I have another 3 points to go. I hope I can achieve it soon.

What does your schedule look like to achieve that first star on the Grandmaster Quest?

I am eyeing to participate in The Magnificent Merapoh Trail, Mesastila Peaks Challenge in Indonesia, and CM50 in Philippines. The latter is the same event I entered last year. I will go back because l really enjoyed running there. It’s a very challenging course but that’s what makes it more fun.

What is your favourite type of trail race?

I prefer mountain races as my favourite part is climbing uphill. But always I love trail, it’s just that my strength is climbing.

You are part of Team Malatra, how's that been going for you?

I would like to say thanks to Mr Razif Yahya, our team manager for giving me the opportunity to be part of the team. Team Malatra is created with an objective to develop and polish young potential trail runners in Malaysia. He always encourage us to fully explore our potential and provide us with the supports needed. It’s almost four months with them, and I can say that it’s a good team and we are like a family member.

How do you see the future development of trail running in Malaysia?

I am so happy to see the development of trail running here. With so many events organized and yet they receive quite a big number of participants, I can say trail running in Malaysia is getting exciting. With more people to join trail running, and ultra-trail running gets into attention now, I just love the atmosphere when most of us trail runners gathered together in a race.

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

I don’t think so. I believe this sport has their own fans and getting attention with world class trail events being held every year involving many elites around the world.

Should trail running become recognized as an Olympic sport?

Yes, why not? I am very excited to see elite trail runners from all around the world gather under one roof to compete for Olympic's gold medal. But of course it will take a lot of time and effort for the sport to be recognized and I believe we are on the right track to achieve that.

What do you expect of this weekend's Sungai Menyala race?

It is surely an exciting race as many elites are coming here. It is a fast course and I am pretty sure that many runners will clock fast time, but please don't forget about the heat. It is very challenging to run under the scorching hot sun. Well for me, I am looking forward to enjoy myself running the beautiful course and meeting my friends here in Sungai Menyala. For those who missed the registration this year, you are more than welcome to join us next year.

What is your favourite piece of running music?

I love to listen to Gemuruh, sang by Faizal Tahir. The lyrics are so meaningful that it motivates me to outshine myself in everything I do.

Razif Yahya (left) and Huzairi Shah (right)

Razif Yahya (left) and Huzairi Shah (right)

Wataru Iino is Talking Trail Running

Last weekend at UT Unseen Koh Chang, aka UTKC, we had the pleasure of welcoming one of Japan's better known trail runners on the international circuit. Wataru Iino made his debut in the Thailand SuperTrail of the 2017 Asia Trail Master series and he did it in great fashion. Not only because of his charming smile and seemingly eternal good mood, but also because of his grabbing-the-bull-by-the-horn race tactics. After checking out his main rivals for the race in the early sections, pre-race favourite Wataru Iino just went for it and attacked already with over 70k still to go. A winner and podium placer of several big ultras on various continents, it looked like the UTKC 100k race was his. However, the extreme heat on Koh Chang last weekend, with temperatures rising well above 40 degrees, caused its toll on the Tokyo resident. Wataru Iino began to suffer from dehydration and had to accept the return of Malaysia's Steven Oong, who by nature is of course more adapted to those climatic conditions. They crossed the finish line together, helped by the fact that Oong has no championship ambitions due to his unpredictable international work schedule. Wataru Iino showed his sportsmanship and gratitude giving hommage to Oong, and looks set to become an exciting contender for this year's Asia Trail Master championship title. Time to get to know the man a bit more. 

By. K. Van de Velde

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

WI: I was born in Tokyo, Japan,  and grew up there as well.
What do you do for a living?
I'm an engineer in a car company.
What made you become an ultrarunner?
I just developed into it, also by focusing on my diet. 
How did you get involved with running at all? 
I used to go to work by train and one day I changed by running the route for 18 km one way.
What has been your biggest achievement as a runner yourself?
I once ran for 55 hours without sleeping in a trail race.
What are you favourite sports other than long distance running?
Judo and cycling
Running, and. especially marathon, is very popular in Japan. What is your explanation for this?
There are 4 distinct climate seasons in Japan. That means running never gets boring as the landscape keeps changing.
Is the Tokyo Marathon the biggest running event in the country?
I don't think so. Plenty of other marathon/trail races are huge as well inside the country.
How do people feel about the upcoming Olympic Games in 2020?
It depends. Some people are looking forward to seeing world famous athletes, but some people also worry about incidents and other potential disturbances.
Haruki Murakami wrote a book entitled "what I talk about when I talk about running". So, what are you talking about? 
There is no other sports than marathon in which “effort” counts more than “talent”.
If we may say so, Japan is still a little bit of a closed society and many mass sports events only cater for domestic participation. Is this deliberate, or would many organisers actually like more international exposure?
I guess Japanese organisers welcome foreigners anytime, but they cannot fully support them due to language and cultural issues.

Mr Hiroaki Matsunage is opening his trail events, such as the Echigo Country Trail and Kushigata Wind Trail, to Asia and the world. How important would you argue his work is, and will we see you running in one of those two races, which are also part of the Asia Trail Master series? 
I don't know his races so well,  but it's a good opportunity for Japanese trail running to welcome foreigners. On the other hand, the locations in Niigata take some time to get to
from Tokyo as they are really in the Japanese countryside. 
What should a good trail event look like in your view? 
Trail races depend heavily on volunteers. Therefore organisers should always communicate extensively with local people. The races that have all volunteers and local crowd cheering for runners are the best. It is all about the atmosphere. 
How do you see the future development of trail running in Japan? Recently, there have been some conflicts with local authorities in the Kansai region.
Again, an event cannot be successful without an agreement with local people. We need strong cooperation from them.
You are one of the top favourites for the Thailand SuperTrail UTKC, will we see you challenging for the Asia Trail Master championship this year (the interview took place a few days before UTKC, kvdv)
Maybe, currently there is no fixed plan yet. It will depend on how UTKC goes, I guess. 
What is your favourite piece of running music?
I tend to listen the music of "Sister's act".

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”

Aldean Lim is Talking Trail Running

Aldean Philip Lim is one of the better known faces in the trail running community of the Philippines. To a large extent that is because Aldean Lim is wearing several different hats. First of all, he is a great trail runner with pedigree. His current tenth place in the 2016 Asia Trail Master championship is even more testimony to that. Secondly, he is the co-organiser of the Rizal Mountain Run, the new points race to the east of Manila in next year's Asia Trail Master series on 29 January. Thirdly, Aldean Lim is co-founder of the rising trail running accessories brand Ahon, producing stylish and quality technical items such as gaiters and running socks. And if you thought Aldean Lim is spending 100% of his time on our beloved sport? Nope, on a daily basis he earns his living as a lawyer. A busy man, and we are happy to have had a few moments this week to talk trail running with Aldean Lim in advance of this weekend's Clark-Miyamit Falls (CM50) race. 

By Kris Van de Velde

Q: Where were you born and did you grow up in the Philippines?
AL: I was born in Iloilo, Panay Island, Visayas. I spent my younger years (elementary to college) in Iloilo and spent lots of summer in the farm of my grandparents until I moved in Manila for law school. 

Was running something you have always done, or is it a recent hobby?
Running has always been a part of my life since I grew up in my grandparents farm. Plus, I was a member of my HS, College and Law School Soccer Team which requires a lot of running. As a singular sport, running started only in 2009 when i need some physical activity while reviewing for the bar exam. 

Are you member of a running club? 
Yes. I am part of the Salomon Team here in the Philippines and part of Suunto Philippines. But my regular training group is the Baboy Ramo and Co. which is composed of mostly top trail and ultra runners here in the Philippines.

Do you have any sports idols, athletes you look up to?
Yes. For trail running, I look up to Kilian Jornet, Ryan Sandes, Hal Koerner, Tofol Castanyer and Scott Jurek for inspiration. Recently, I've been reading the life and career of Mike Kloser, a north american adventure racing legend.

When did you discover your talent as a runner? Did you do other sports before?
Around 2012 when I joined my first ultra trail race (CM50), that's when I discovered that I have a knack and talent on racing trail and trail ultras. I was a soccer player since HS, College and Law School days. I have been an avid mountainbiker and mountaineer since college days.

What does your training plan look like? Do you have a coach?
It really depends on the type of race that i am preparing. If it is a 100 miles race, I usually log around 100-180km per week with significant elevation gain. I do some strength conditioning and speed workouts if I can fit it in my schedule. I do not have a coach currently but planning to have one soon, but i love to read books and research on my own. I love the experimentation during the training stage.

Do you pay attention to your food before a race? Are there any special products you take in preparation for your race?
Yes. I always make sure that I get a lot of good nutrition a week before leading to an important race. No strict diets and nothing specific, just good and nutritious food. I do take multivitamins, supplements and recovery drinks in preparation for the race. 

What is your best time on the road marathon?
3:21

What is your favourite type of trail race?
100 km with lots of vertical and technical trails. 

What do you do for a living?
I am a lawyer and a businessman.

How did AHON come about? 
Ahon is a two-man company, with a little help from close friends in the trail running community. My partner (Ronald Declarador) and I started it back in 2015. At that time, we knew that the big brands of trail running came from North America and Europe, and we want to develop a trail company born in Asia, particularly in the Philippines.

What is the philosophy behind the brand AHON? Does the word 'AHON' have a meaning?
Ahon is a Filipino word which means ascent or climb. We are a proud Filipino company. We take pride in hands-on product development and testing. The products we make were adapted for the Philippine trails (as may well be the same across Asia) which are tough, wild and raw. We want to develop products which are at par, if better than the world standards. 

Hong Kong is known as the Asian centre of trail running, but actually there are an enormous number of races in the Philippines as well. How did you experience this sudden boom of events in your area? Who were the pioneers in your country?
It all started in 2008 when TNF Philippines started the TNF 100k Philippines. It was the first ultra trail run in the Philippines. Back then what was booming was the road running events and culture. With the boom of social media and mountaineering plus the people's need for new challenges after 2010 that's when trail running skyrocketed in the Philippines. Right now, we have trail races almost every week for the whole year and the community is getting bigger. Back when i started in 2012, i could recognize all the people who were joining the trail races. Now, there are a lot of new faces. I love it because trail running is not limited to one area only (before), now there are already lots of races in the Visayas and Mindanao region as well. The Philippines is already starting to show the world how beautiful (and raw) the Philippine trails and mountains (and people too) are. 

How do you see the future of trail running?
It will be bigger and a lot of people will get into trail running. We barely scratched the surface.

Do we need more rules and guidance coming from above, i.e. the IAAF and/or ITRA or IAU? 
Yes. 

Many athletics federations in Asia do not recognise trail running as a genuine discipline. Is this holding the sport back? For example, it makes it very difficult for Asian runners to compete in the official world trail championships held every year. 
Yes. Trailrunning is still quite young in the Asian setting. As of now it will be a hard and we will experience lots of setbacks but give it time and they will have no choice but to recognize trailrunning as a genuine discipline. Just like any other sport during its younger years.

Should trail running become recognised as an olympic sport?
Yes. We'll get there.

From a legal point of view, which advice would you give to trail race organisers?
Medical Certificate attesting for the fitness of runners should be made mandatory on all trail races. Waivers should be mandatory. Organisers should always partner with the Local Government Units, and partner with a search and rescue team

What is your dream as a trail runner?
Short term: To run Hardrock, Western States, and Tor des Geants. Long term: To see trail running become an olympic sport. To travel, explore and see the whole world thru trail running. To join a trail running event in all 7 continents.

What do you think about the Asia Trail Master series?
For race organizers: It is a good movement to set a certain degree of standard of races in the whole of Asia. It is one way to learn from one another. For runners: A way to record and keep track of your trail running career and races. It is one way to compare your standings to the rest of the field in Asia.

You are also co-organiser of the Rizal Mountain Run, which enters the 2017 Asia Trail Master series as a points race. What can you tell us about the event? 
Rizal Mountain Run is an internationally acclaimed, challenging race, back dropped in a beautiful and brutal course in the mountains of Rizal Province which is readily accessible from Metro Manila. It would be one of the best trail running destinations in the Philippines. 

Thank you very much for this Q&A, and good luck in your defence of a top 10 spot in the 2016 ATM championship ranking!

Isaac Yuen Wan Ho is Talking Trail Running

Isaac Yuen Wan Ho has been running in the Asia Trail Master spotlights since the first race of the year, and he is a well-deserving points ranking leader halfway through the season. A true Hong Konger, Yuen Wan Ho is a runner pur sang, with a marathon PB well below 3 hours. But he can also struggle his way up the hills, which makes him a strong all-rounder and competitive in every race he starts. Two weeks ago he was again in the mix in Malaysia, finishing strong to score second place in the Magnificent Merapoh Trail, equaling his performance of earlier in the season in Brunei's Beach Bunch Trail Challenge. While Philippines' trailrunning star Manolito Divina may have an additional gear in his legs, to finish first you need to finish first, and Yuen Wan Ho has put the pressure back on. Determined to also become an Asia Trail Grandmaster, he will not give up easily. Time to get to know a bit more about Hong Kong's Isaac Yuen Wan Ho.  

Q: Are you and born and raised Hong Konger?
YWH: Yes, I’m native Hong Konger.

Q: Was running something you have always done, or is it a recent hobby?
I have run for over ten years but I started running more seriously with racing since two years ago

Q: Are you member of a running club?
No, I usually train alone

Q: Do you have any sports idols, athletes you look up to?
I would think about Kobe Brian. He is a true fighter, and never gives up.

Q: When did you discover your talent as a runner?
I don’t consider myself a naturally talented runner. But I am hard working and always look for ways to improve myself.

Q: What does your training plan look like? Do you have a coach?
I run every day, sometimes twice a day. Though participating in many ultra-distance races, my routine training doesn’t have lots of long runs. I rather have some quality training for 1-2 hours.

Q: Do you pay attention to your food before a race? Are there any special products you take in preparation for your race?
Yes, I eat plenty of vegetables and fruits. I prefer having real food for the race.

Yuen Wan Ho recently finished second in the Merapoh Trail in Malaysia, reclaiming the lead in the 2016 Asia Trail Master points championship

Yuen Wan Ho recently finished second in the Merapoh Trail in Malaysia, reclaiming the lead in the 2016 Asia Trail Master points championship

Q: What is your best time on the road marathon?
My personal best time is 2:53.

Q: At the Beach Bunch Trail Challenge, you mentioned you like runnable courses more than mountainous courses. Do you feel trail running is sometimes too much hiking instead of running?
Trail Running has many elements. I started my ultra "career" with road running and speed work is an important part of my routine training. Of course,  solid power walking or hiking is critical when you come to some more technical courses.

Q: · You must have an incredible recovery system. Seven days after the gruelling UTHK 156 you already did another trail marathon in Brunei and came second there. 
Those two races have very different characteristics. There were many stairs in UTHK while Brunei was very runnable. I paid attention to active recovery after the UTHK race, proper post-race meals, enough sleeping, massage, etc. and I did not push myself too hard in the race.

Q: Do you know your hematocrit level (percentage of red blood cells in your blood)?
I have no idea

Q: Hong Kong is of course the centre of Asian trail running. How did you experience this sudden boom of events in the HK area?
I think it started with HK 100, the first sole hundred kilos ultra-distance race. Hong Kong has the advantage of the easy accessibility to country parks and variety of terrains. Many elite runners either station themselves in Hong Kong or come here for races, which also helps to improve the level of local athletes and events.

Q: If you were a race director in Hong Kong, what would you change? 
As you mentioned, Hong Kong is already the mecca of Asian trail running. I would like to see a concept of series races like the Ultra-Trail World Tour adopted in Hong Kong. Runner get most points in selected races and get awarded or ranked, like in the Asia Trail Master series.  

Q: What is your dream as a trail runner?
I want to be a race director at some point of time and introduce my favourite trails to people. 

Q: What is your favourite race?
Many. Currently I still focus on races in my hometown in Hong Kong. Vibram HK 100 is a grand stage for international elite runners. Yet, the North Face Hong Kong 100 brings you to the best scenery of the city. Races in South East Asia are still developing but the hospitality there is brilliant.  

Q: What do you think about the Asia Trail Master series?
Asia Trail Master not only focuses on bigger races but also incorporates relatively low profile races which is a good idea. It helps to promote the overall standard of trail running in the region and also bring runners to some secret places.

Q: You are again in the lead in our 2016 points ranking. However, some other good runners will catch up for sure. What is your plan to defend your first spot?
I feel some runners are in a better position than me. I completed three races and I am satisfied with my results so far (4th, 2nd and 2nd, kvdv) . Now I need to try and improve on some of those results to increase my total points tally a bit more.  It would be a good achievement if eventually I could stay in the top 3 in Asia Trail Master Championship by the end of the year.

Q: Would you like trail running to become an Olympic sport in the future?
Considering the rising popularity, I think Trail Running has the quality to become an Olympic Sport. It gives runners an ultimate target and promotes the sport to a community level.

Thank you very much for this Q&A, and good luck on your Grandmaster Quest and in defending your first spot in the 2016 Asia Trail Master championship!

Henry Yang is Talking Trail Running

Singapore is not really synonymous with trail running, even though there are quite a few events in the city state every year, and some very strong runners live there, too. Henry Yang is one of them. A keen ultra runner since five years who has continued to build up his strengths over time to become a podium candidate in every regional race he starts. In the Asia Trail Master series, Henry entered people's consciousness last May during the Malaysia Eco 100 miles race in Penang.  He was running towards a fantastic second place when disaster struck. This weekend, Henry returns to our series as he aims for a high placing in the Magnificent Merapoh Trail. An excellent opportunity to get to know him, and life as a trail runner in Singapore, a bit better. Henry Yang is Talking Trail Running.

 

Henry Yang's favourite running music

Q: Henry Yang, are you a born & raised Singaporean?
HY: Yes, I am born and raised in Singapore


Q: Was running part of your upbringing as a child and teenager
HY: No, but I was given the freedom to enjoy outdoor activities at a young age of 6 years old


Q: How do you become a trail runner in a city state like Singapore?
After completing a number of ultra distance road marathons, I felt the need to progress to something more challenging and I tried out trail running in 2011.   Trail running offers me new challenges I craved for, the distance and elevation gain, technical downhill running, etc.


Q: Is there a big Singaporean trail community? 
It’s a small trail community but it is growing fast


Q: Other than yourself, who are the trail " stars "  in Singapore? 
I would say Singapore runners like Jeri Chua, Chris Yeo, Ong Kai Wei.  They have extensive race experience and have some really impressive results to back them up


Q: Did you or do you other sports as well?
Soccer, cycling and swimming]


Q: What is your best time on the road marathon?
For the 42km road marathon, my personal best is 3hrs 30mins. In the Penang Ultra road marathon in 2015, I did the 100km in 12hrs 01min. 


Q: Do you feel the so-called " runner's high " ? 
Yes of course.  This “runner’s high” is like the feeling of an orgasm. The body and mind are both highly stimulated and seem to elevate a person's senses


Q: What kind of trail races do you prefer? The more runnable courses, such as Merapoh, or the high mountain races?
I like both because they offer different challenges and rewards.  Low grounds you get to cross streams and pass through interesting landscapes, while at high ground you can get to see magnificent views


Q: How do you prepare for mountainous trails in Singapore?
In Singapore, we have limited places to train. There’s a small hill known as Bukit Timah Hill in Singapore standing at 163m above sea level, i do hill repeats there.  Sometimes I also do stairs climbing repeats at a 40 store apartment block.   Most of the time about a month before my races, I will head over to Malaysia to train at places like Penang Hill, Maxwell Hill, Gunung Nuang,


Q: Next weekend you are one of the favourites for the Magnificent Merapoh Trail.  How do you see your chances personally? 
The race director has invited the champions of other Asia Trail Master races and I foresee a tough challenge ahead. I have done some quality training leading to this race and hope to secure a top 3 position!


Q: Last May, you were on the verge of a second place finish in the Malaysia Eco 100 miles, but then something happened to you. Can you describe what caused you to drop out of the race? 
I was descending Tokun Hill in heavy rain. Many trees had fallen down blocking the path and I had to take some detours.  I was trying to get past 2 big rocks at knee level when I slipped and hit my left knee onto a rough rock surface.  I lost a lot of blood and had to use my jacket and tie it tightly around my open wound to stop the bleeding, and tried to get to the next checkpoint to seek medical attention.    After cleaning up and bandage my wound at the checkpoint, I continued on but 3km later I felt a sharp pain at my left knee area.  I tried to walk a bit and even rest a while, but the sharp pain remained. As the following week (about
5 days later) was my maiden 100 miles race – H1 Hardcore in Philippines, I decided to DNF rather then risk further injury. 

Q: What did you think of Manolito Divina's victory in the 100 miles. How long were you able to keep up with him? 
Manolito fully deserved his victory in the ECO 100 miles races.  His timings at the check points were amazing, he managed to clear the tough elevations in the 2nd half of the course at a constant pace, a strong display from him!  Before I got injured, Manolito was about 2 hours ahead of me.  I was confident I could have given him a good fight in the last 40 km of the race, though. 

 
Q: Do you have any sports heroes? If yes, who and what is so special about him / her?
I was inspired by the feat of Marshall Ulrich.  He ran the Badwater route in the US unsupported in the toughest conditions.  Kilian Jornet is also one of my idols, the races he won and the running projects he accomplished are an inspiration for me


Q: Do you often travel to other countries to take part in trail running events? How do you select the races? 
Yes I do.  My selection of races is based on the distance, elevation gain/loss as well as the overall event organisation.   


Q: Do you have a specific objective in trail running, or you just wish to run for fun? 
Yes I have a specific objective as well as having an informal factor.   Firstly, I want to gain more 100 miles race experience as my stepping stone towards the big races such as Hardrock 100, UTMB and maybe the PTC (Pacific Crest Trail)


Q: What was your best trail running experience so far? 
I would say the H1 Hardcore 100 miles in Philippines.  You get the combination of a tough course, 100 miles mountain trail with challenging elevation of almost 11 000m gain, as well as the beautiful mountain views and mossy forest


Q: Trail running in Asia has developed very fast in the last few years, how did you experience that in your country?
 More local runners are aware of trail running and there have been more trail races being organized, such as MSIG50, TNF100, MR25 Ultra.  I look forward to more development of trail running in Singapore


Q: In your opinion, what are the biggest issues facing the sport of trail running in the near future? What is it you would not like to happen?
I would not like to see trail running becoming commercialised.  For road marathon, you can already see this is happening and it is losing its identity.   I hope to see more sponsors supporting trail running but allow the respective Race Directors the administrative freedom and not be tied down to the sponsors' requirements


Q: Would it help if trail running became an olympic sport? 
In my personal view, this would be great and really raise the profile and status of trail running.  At the moment, I feel that trail running is under-rated and overlooked


Q: What do you think about the Asia Trail Master series? Wouldn't the Grandmaster Quest (6 races of +70km in 2 calendar years) be a nice additional challenge for a runner such as yourself? 
The Asia Trail Master Series is a good platform for trail runners and I am very supportive of it.  The Grandmaster Quest is in my bucket list of things to accomplish!


Q: Have you planned any other ATM races already for later this year?
In fact I am considering the Bromo Tengger Semeru Ultra 170 in Indonesia, as well as the CM 50 Ultra in Philippines in November


Q: Which race in Singapore would be a nice addition to the Asia Trail Master series?
 In my personal view, there are no races which are worthy of being part of the Asia Trail Master Series, part of the reason being the lack of elevation in our pancake flat Singapore


Q: Do you have any tips for race organisers? Things every organiser should pay special attention to?
There is n
o need for a fancy set-up of a race site, checkpoints and finisher medals or T-shirts.  On the other hand, important are the race markings, the design of the race course and elevation profile,  and a GPX file should be made available to all runners


Good luck to Henry Yang in the Magnificent Merapoh Trail this weekend! 

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