Race Review - Kyoto Grand Traverse


Eat Pray Run

Kyoto Grand Traverse

By Govinda Finn

Japan’s ancient capital attracts millions of tourists each year. Most are set on sampling the city’s delicious food or seeking out its golden temples. A lucky few will also enjoy a hike in its hills.

I was visiting for the 3rd edition of the Grand Kyoto Traverse, a hilly 65 km ultra-marathon with 3,000 metres of elevation gain. It is the longest race in the Japan Trail Running Circuit series.

With just 21 hours in the city, I would have little time for sightseeing. Yet even in its most pared back form, Kyoto proved an enlightening experience.

My first lesson came in the form of race nutrition. I must confess Japanese food has already transformed my ultra-marathon diet. Rice balls and salty seaweed regularly featured during long runs in Scotland. However, Kyoto raised my mastery to a new level.

Breakfast was a large bowl of rice porridge and an assortment of pickled vegetables. Topped off with a sour plum. The food was served in a community area which was already filling up with runners at 6am. 

These were seasoned athletes, approaching the sport with the obsessive of ‘Takumi’, or master craftsperson. One runner reeled off a list of marathons he’d run across the world. ‘More than 1,000 in all’ he proudly declared.

I confessed it was my first trail race in Japan and the startled response proved a little unsettling.

‘Everything will come together,” I reassured myself. “And besides I was not here to win, a modest pace and plenty of breaks would get me around”. The target was sub-10 hours.

By the time the start gun fired, I was feeling more relaxed. Most of the runners were eager, and I drifted towards the back of the first wave. The lack of serious exertion on easy but picturesque terrain alongside the Kiyotaki River and a pledge to eat as much real food as possible in the first half of the race meant I was happy to stop at each aid station.

Once again the sour plum took my eye, while rice balls and rice crackers also featured heavily. The biggest find of the day was the yokan, a thick, jellied Japanese dessert made of red bean paste, agar, and sugar. Scrumptious. Unfortunately, the eating was not doing wonders for my pace. I was going backwards even before the aid station pig-outs.

Things started to improve for me once we hit the first serious hills. A prolonged climb followed by a sublime downhill section to a false valley and then a final lung busting ascent. The combination had a dizzying effect – a trail equivalent to the legendary ‘eau rouge’.

As we descended again, losing elevation and the shade from the forest, the exhilaration started to be drowned out by perspiration and the intensity of the day’s heat. A distant typhoon had pushed hot air north into Kyoto and temperatures were hitting 35 degrees.

Kyoto Grand Transverse 2

‘Walk if you have to’ I told myself. A drinks machine turned into an impromptu aid station. But I couldn’t seem to take on liquids fast enough.

At the next stop I was 37km in. It had taken me six steamy hours and I was seriously considering dropping out. As if on cue, one volunteer chimed, ‘the 10km to the next aid station are the most grueling’. We would also pass the highest point of the route, Mount Hiei.

That was all I needed. I made up my mind to stop at the next aid station. DNFs are part of the sport, I reasoned. It would still be an ultra-marathon and given the conditions it was madness to keep running.

Yet plan B didn’t last long. Again I performed well on the steep climb that led away from the aid station and took still more positions on the undulating terrain that followed.

It was also at this point the field began to noticeably spread out. I found myself increasingly running alone, with encounters with other runners brief. Most were tired and spent and I was keen not to lose momentum.

As the trail became remoter it also became quieter. A few years ago I had read of a sect of running Kyoto monks who run 1,000 marathons in 1,000 days in search of enlightenment. It seemed a super-human feat but I was now passing through the same hills on my own quest. 

Hopes for a transcendental experience proved short-lived. A sudden movement at my feet was the tell-tale signs of a mamushi, one of Japan’s most venomous snakes. Later I’d learn snakes are considered messengers of the dragon deity Ryujin.

If this one had a message it was that the Kyoto Grand Traverse is not for the feint-hearted. I laughed at my naivety, ultra-running may be meditative but it’s certainly not meditation.

I was soon facing a new anxiety. The course markers became increasingly sporadic, and with no other runners in sight I began to worry about getting lost. I wanted to check my map. However, the paper print out I was carrying had become a soggy mess of perspiration.

At the point of peak exasperation, a fellow runner came crashing through the trees. His name was Yoshi Hino. He explained he had run the course before. He had run many ultras in Japan.  It was a huge relief after the trauma of the last few kilometers.

After another wild descent, we emerged into a village and the final aid station. At this stage, the stewards were prepared for all comers. Some runners had collapsed to the floor, others stretched and moaned.

‘Will you be joining us next year?’ I asked. ‘Look at how much fun everyone is having’. It was said only half in jest. I was enjoying myself now and stopping was the furthest thought from my mind. We were 56km in.

Having filled up on the main meal, I wasn’t prepared to miss dessert: a charging descent into the twilight. The final 30 minutes were run alone and in darkness. However, I was still moving at a decent sub-7 min per km pace.

Turning a corner, my head torch lit up Bishamon-do Temple and it was only a few more steps until I embraced the finishing line. As others before me had done, I turned to face it and took a deep, silent bow. It was a low key end – with most people disappearing quickly into the night. I had run for 10 hours 55 minutes 27 seconds – 62nd of 102 finishers.

My achievement was greeted with no fanfare or medal and 20 minutes later I was stood on a train platform preparing to leave Kyoto. Despite the endeavors of the day, I was already blending into the commuters.

 

While I’d leave Kyoto that night with little trace it was not empty-handed. I had captured a satisfaction worthy of Kyoto’s finest dining; explored the spirit of ‘doryoku’, or refusal to give up; and tasted spirituality rare even in the city’s ancient temples. 

Race Review - Wulong Trail 2019 110km

Wulong 1

By Jean-Marc Philippe

19-April  2019 – I took off at 7am from Singapore with Silkair MI972. Wulong city is at roughly 2hours train ride from Chongqing in Sichuan (China). It was my first trip in China since more than a decade so it looked like I was going to re-discover China starting from the most populated city in the world since ChongQing has more than 30 millions inhabitants. 

 

The arrival at Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport was uneventful and I was able to catch a metro train directly to the North railway train station. Once I figured out how the train system works, I managed to convert my Trip.com electronic ticket in a proper train ticket: it was at time comical as the staff English was as bad as my mandarin was.

The K687 train left on time to reach Wulong city 2hours at 2:50pm to reach Wulong at around 5pm.

From Wulong train station, spotting local runners, I figured out easily that I had to take a minibus for one hour ride to the Wulong “Fairy Mountain” tourist area where the race would start from and where I had booked the YunZong hotel (via trip.com again). Despite the total lack of English (like everywhere else in Wulong as far as I experienced), the manager was super friendly and helpful: I slept there before the race and kept the room for the night of the race in order to have a place to clean up and crash once I’m done. It was super convenient and literally at 100m from the race start.

Enough of travelling, let’s talk about the race! Here are some technical infos:

  • Distance:110km,
  • Elevation: 4,825m,
  • Cutoff time: 26hours (it took me 23hrs4min – ranked 52nd…),
  • 10 checkpoints with plenty of drinks and food,
  • Weather: Rain, rain and some more rain except for the last 3 hours,

Terrain: A real mud fest – I fell twice – except whenever we were running on road

More than 300 runners (176 finished) and I don’t remember seeing any other Caucasian

Race pack collection was super smooth: it’s worth noticing that it’s the first race where I got provided with a GPS tracker.

 

20-April 2019: After the previous night of continuous rain, the race started under heavy downpour so it was on a very very wet ground that few hundreds joyful but fully covered runners embarked on a 110km journey at 7am.

The course is very scenic for the first 20-25km when we went through the Wulong karst geological to a deep canyon, passing under enormous natural bridges and waterfalls. However, the weather clearly was detrimental to the overall experience. It wasn’t much fun later on despite the occasional village crossing. There were several sections of forest trail without much interest and the worst part were the hours spent through several lengthy sections of bamboos forest where you end up running bent at 90 degrees because of the short height of the bamboos blocking the path. I’m sure that with better weather, the course could be much more enjoyable but it seems that at this time of the year, heavy rain is very common.

About my race itself. I was not shooting for a great performance but I was really in pain from km30 to km50. Somehow I started to feel much better after 80km and I finished the race in a weird auto-pilot bliss, which allowed me to overtake quite a few runners during the last part of the race. I may had that because of the terrain condition, my poles proved super useful and I relied a lot on my arms in ascents.

21-April 2019: As it is not a very crowded event, there were many times where I ended up walking/running alone in the middle of the night but I never felt lost as the markings were very visible. I crossed the finishing line at around 6am, the square was very quiet and mostly empty… So once I confirmed that my timing had been correctly recorded, I headed straight to the hotel. After some long and thorough cleanup and packing, the hotel manager was super kind to drive me to the bus stop. And I made my way back step by step: bus to Wulong, train to Chongqing North railway station, metro train to Chongqing airport and Air China PN6357 flight at 6:30pm to reach Singapore shortly before midnight.

Overall, it was a fun experience. Despite the language barrier, the people in Wulong and the runners were super friendly and helpful. I have to admit however that the weather makes it a hard sell.

Race Review - Sundown Half Marathon Singapore

Can Sleep Wait?

sundown half marathon

By Markus Gnirck

For the third time in a row I entered the Sundown Half Marathon, this time however to pace a friend of mine, and not go for a personal best like the previous years. I guess that allowed me to observe the overall race organisation and get my thoughts together about this race. 

Before going into details about the actual race, here some key information about the Sundown (Half) Marathon. 

The race is flagged off at the F1 Pit Building and takes the runner off to Nicoll Highway to the Kallang Stadium before going on the Marina Bay course with a finish again at the F1 Pit Building. The course has some ups and downs (mostly tunnels and bridges) which one can feel over the distance. Flag off time for  both Marathon and Half Marathon was 11.30pm on the Saturday. 

More than 25,000 runners participated in this year’s edition which makes it one of the biggest road races in Singapore. The idea of a night race seems to appeal to many local runners. 

Now coming to the actual race experience…

While the race is a welcomed alternative to the typical morning road races, the organisation of the race didn’t seem to work out this time. Please note that those issues didn’t exist during the previous years. 

To start with, the flag off was delayed by over 15min apparently due to some issues on Nicoll Highway in removing cars from the street. While that is understandable and no one wants to run into fast driving cars, it kept the excited starting field waiting and apparently the waves of slower runners started over 30min late. Additionally, it is strange to flag off Marathon and Half Marathon Runners at the same time as it causes digestions along the way. 

The design of the course and the starting times of the different was wasn’t fully thought through. After the first 1.5km and water station, for some reason, the second wave headed straight towards into the first wave, without any barrier in between the runners. That caused a lot of confusion and runners were bashing into each other.

The route around Kallang and the Stadium is quite pleasant, if one doesn’t mind the bridges, tunnels and roundabouts. Those can slow down and bring some elevation into the course. At some point we had to take several stairs to get onto a bridge, which seems weird for a road race. 

There were multiple water stops along the way and as we were in the first starting wave, we didn’t encounter any shortage of water. However, many other runners later unfortunately came to water stops where no water was available anymore. Apparently many runners had to queue at public toilets to get hydrated and lost time. 

The final stretch of the Half Marathon course took us from Tanjong Ru, to Marina Barrage and Marina Bay Sands & Marina Bay Financial Centre. It did feel pretty cool to run in the night alongside this iconic skyline and hence get a last push for the final kilometers. 

Overall, a good experience to run through the night around the landmarks of Singapore. However, the organisation of the event was surprisingly bad for such a big event. That will probably hold many runners back to join again next year. 

 

Photo Credit: Ben Nevis Ultra

Race Review - Ben Nevis Ultra Race

scotland

By Govinda Finn

I had entered the Ben Nevis Ultra with realistic expectations. It was my first proper ultra and the primary goal was to enjoy myself and ‘make it to the finish’. That seemed a modest ambition once the mud-splattered, carnage of the previous day’s VK race forced organisers to enact the bad weather route, lopping off 3 kms and nearly 2,000 metres of ascent. Absent the Ben Nevis summit and the big Mamores climb this was a vastly different challenge.

There was plenty of discontent with the decision. This was Scotland after all – you expect a little rain, bogs and bruising. However, I’d dragged my family up to the Highlands with promises of fun so grumbling was not an option. I focused my energy on adapting – just by the power of acceptance I could gain a competitive advantage.

By the time I stood on the starting line I was not thinking of Ben Nevis or the CMD Arete. I was in hill race mode, stripped down to shorts and t-shirt with trekking poles cast aside. A short blast of the starting horn and we were away. I was immediately struck by the unfamiliarity of the field. The Scottish hill runner’s lot is largely one of being marginalised and misunderstood. The men and women of the Skyrunning Ultra World Championship, resplendent in their colourful, high-quality kit were more confident in their running preferences.

The first hill out of Kinlochleven was to be the most sustained climb of the race. It unfolded at a surprisingly pedestrian pace. I reminded myself this was an ultra and pledged to take it slow. The gleaming gear, poles, shoes of those ahead kept me in check. However, once the gradient evened out I started to pick off places. The trail steepened again. Here we go I thought.

Ahead I spotted a runner who I’d seen at the start. He had cut a striking figure in luminous trousers and a tanned face. He had also started in the elite runners’ pen – impressive credentials! I anchored myself to his progress and prepared for the pain. Onwards and upwards, onwards and upwards. However, when I reached the coll it was not burning lactic but euphoria I was feeling. A snake of runners strung out ahead of me but I was 15-20 runners to the good at the top of that hill – including one elite!

ben-nevis-ultra-scotland

The changing geography shifted my mood. The descent was muddy and wild. Trackless ground that left many feckless. However, I was grateful for the lessons of the Ring of Steall recce run a month prior and soon began to enjoy myself. Momentum only halted by knee-deep mis-steps and occasional tumbles. I passed a Japanese; short legs, sturdy and clearly perplexed. She was one of another 10 runners I ticked off on the descent.

As we emerged into Glen Nevis and flatter terrain I suddenly felt heavy-legged. I’d prepared for this beautiful glen to be a race highlight but hill running is not a predictable endeavour. As we passed the trail up to Ben Nevis that marked the original course I started to question my capabilities. Was I out of my depth?

The answer was quick to arrive. I sat in with two competent club runners and, hitting firmer trails, a more rhythmic symphony began: breathing, thudding feet, pounding heart. Before I’d left the campsite that morning, I’d attached my son’s plastic snowman cup to the front of my bag – useful for scooping up water from mountain streams and my own Swiss cowbell. Its clanging became a mantra for focus.

My strength was returning just at the point when we realised we’d gone the wrong way up a narrow ravine. ‘Flag?’ went up the cry. ‘Flag?’ the word bounced back through the field. We had missed a turn and the red course markers were no longer evident. ‘Flag, flag, flag’, the word kept echoing in my brain.

Once back on track, I swore to use the mistake as a force for good. Each subsequent flag drawing me on. One at a time I told myself as a grizzled American and I headed towards the aid station at the Glen Nevis visitor centre. A wooden bridge led us in and scattered on the other side were my family again. I was amazed at how unimpressed they appeared with my arrival. Was my efforts really worthy of so little attention?   

Interest started to pick up when they became aware of the food table. Soon I had the kids running relays back and forth for food and drinks while Mayumi helped me swap my shoes. My splits showed I lingered too long at the aid station. However, I trundled away with renewed vigour and no regrets. 

We were now on the West Highland Way. Another long hill. Unfortunately, I was backing up my lengthy stop with a sustained period of position slippage. It did not break me, just made me angry.

The next 5-6 miles were some of the best running of my life. Surrounded by skyrunners, the storied men and women of the Alps and Pyrenees, I felt strong. On home Scottish turf. When hills came, my legs responded. When my feet ached, they were soothed by mountain streams. High above Kinlochleven I felt effortless – and a closeness to physical and mental potential that runners endlessly seek.

I had prepared for a weary traverse through wooded hills. However, the tiredness stayed at bay. The final steep descent felt like a babbling waterfall. Working with a fellow descender, we picked off those ahead one by one. Two gunslingers on the trail. The final crescendo had me spurting ahead on my own. 

Out on to the road and the final purgatory of pavement. Only 20 metres left. No puff left to push. The finish line gobbled me up, confirming my first Skyrunning Ultra finish and a sub-5 hour time. Bliss, hugs and broad, lingering smiles.

So what had I learnt? Yes, I could run ultras; yes, I could compete with an international field. But secretly I already knew that. The most striking lesson took me by surprise. Ultras are indeed difficult. However, not all are tales of disaster, fortitude or mental toughness. Ultra or not, running well can bring immense enjoyment. That also demands to be bottled and preserved. I’m grateful I found the time to comply.

Photo Credit: Ben Nevis Ultra

Hong Kong Trail Videos

Hong Kong

By AMINO

Hong Kong is a paradise for every trail runner. Videos describe better than any word what the nature has to offer there. 

Lantau

Twin Peaks

Tai Lum Chung Reservoir

Got also some awesome running videos to share? Reach out to get them posted.

Best Running Trails in Singapore

macritchie

By MARKUS GNIRCK

The jungle of Singapore offers some good trails for beginners and advanced runners. The training in the heat and humidity pushes the runner to his/her limits and makes sure that this kind of training is an advantage for racing outside Singapore. 

As the trail running community is growing and more runners being keen on hitting the trails, here an attempt to capture all (only ‘pure’ trails are included, so with more than 90% of running is done on trail).

MacRitchie Reservoir

MacRitchie, the King of Singapore Trails. A great trail that takes you around the water reservoir in the heart of Singapore. The 10.7km loop is perfect for anyone  – beginners who are keen to get into trail running or experienced ones that are looking for smashing a new record time.  It gets very busy on weekend mornings, so the best time is either during the week or later the afternoon on the weekend. 

Level: Beginner – Intermediate

Distance: 10.7km

Elevation Gain: 160m

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

Where MacRitchie is the King, Bukit Timah is the Queen of Trails. A famous hiking destination for many Singaporeans, it is also a good training ground for trail runners that are looking to get some elevation in. Bukit Timah is the highest hill in Singapore and can be ran up and down multiple times for hill training. Best is to start from Hindhede Drive and explore the trails around Bukit Timah. Some nice loops are Dairy Farm and Kampong Trail. Similar to MacRitchie, the weekends are busy with many hikers being around, so better to hit the trail during the week or in the evening. 

More info on the Singapore’s National Park’s Website.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Distance: various

Elevation Gain: various (hilly though)

Green Pipe Stretch / Zhenghua Nature Park

Just a little north of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and the Dairy Farm, a a green stretch opens up which takes you through Zhenghua Nature Park alongside BKE highway. It is a mostly unshaded trail that allows for some nice up and down running. Elevation gain and loss isn’t too much and it is mostly all on trail. If you are looking for some distance running, this stretch is good for some mix&match when coming from Bukit Timah and connecting to Chestnut Trail (see below).

More info on Singapore’s National Park’s Website.

Level: Intermediate

Distance: 5-10km

Elevation Gain: 100m

pipelines2

Chestnut Trails

Chestnut offers a network of various short and some longer trails. Best is to start from the Chestnut Nature Park car park (Mountainbike rentals) and explore the loops of Chestnut. One to recommend is the Butterfly Trail, a 3km loop that can be run fairly fast given the little elevation. 

Watch out to go on the designated hiking trails as mountain bikers are also racing around Chestnut on their biking trails.

More Info on Singapore’s National Parks Website.

Level: Beginner  – Intermediate

Distances: 2-5km

Elevation Gain: various (hilly though)

Mandai T15 Trail

A great, flat-ish trail down from the Singapore Zoo to Chestnut. You can get dropped at the Zoo, run back on Mandai Lake Road and find the trail entrance on your left, just before the junction with the Mandai road. Then it is a pretty straight trail down alongside BKE towards Chestnut and Bukit Timah. It is not that much elevation and it is a great way to start a long run all way to MacRitchie (>20km) and further.

Watch out for Mountainbikers who come up from Chestnut!

Level: Beginner 

Distance: 5-6km

Elevation Gain: <100m

Rumours have it that Woodcutter is another great trail, one of the most original ones apparently, but it remains unclear where it exactly is…

Other great running routes are alongside East Coast Park, Marina Bay/Kallang, Mount Faber, Bedok Reservoir, Pandan Reservoir, the Quays and Botanic Gardens. Those are not pure trail and are mostly on road. 

Happy running!

Race Review - Higashi Tanzawa Miyagase Trail Race

miyagase16

By Eric Lebrasseur

Today was the 10th Higashi Tanzawa Miyagase Trail Race, about 30km and 1500m of total ascent. There is more road than trail, but I knew it so there is no frustration. Actually there is a very good long trail downhill, really enjoyable because it’s possible to run fast but it needs full concentration, so you are really in the moment, just thinking about the next step. I did this race 3 years ago, and finished 6th in my age group which was the last position to win a prize. This is the unique time I won a price in Japan and as I could not do it anywhere else, I finally registered again this year.

This time I was 5th/186 in my age group. What a progress. However, 3 years ago, I was very lucky to be 6th because I was only 40th overall. This year with a 17th/502 position overall, it feels more “right”. Surprisingly my time was 2min36s slower. I guess that the sudden and fierce heat today explain the slower results.

I was happy because I had a bottle of wine for prize, while the 4th place had some tea (I don’t like tea). Unfortunately, when I got back home Yuki told me that it was grape juice…
I was really exhausted after goal, maybe even worst than after a marathon. The last portion of road in the heat, after a probably too fast downhill was hard. It was a road along the lake with many small ups and downs and not always protected from the sunshine. It’s runable and you have to run or you will lose a lot of time here. It was feeling like the end of a marathon where you know you can’t make you initial goal anymore but you are struggling to keep running in order to do a sub something…

Anyway, it was a great day. No nambanners there, but I met for the first time a Strava friend, Arai san (thanks for the pictures), that I should see again at Fuji Mountain race.
Bye the way, in 2015, I stayed in a hotel near Hashimoto station, because the first train was arriving only 5min before the shuttle bus departure. This time I took the rist and went on the morning of the race. It went well, so go and return in one day is possible from Tokyo.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1523680684

 

Find more of Eric’s Race Reviews here.

The Top 10 Most Scenic Races in Asia

Indonesia

Bromo Tengger Semeru Ultra Run race is a unique event that aims to challenge your inner spirit and physical state, as well as to provide race participants with magnificent natural beauty and environment of Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park in East Java – Indonesia at various altitude level. Running at the high altitude region of Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, you will experience tracks with various sceneries in the background, such as sea of volcanic sand (2.200 masl) with low temperature and strong wind.

Distances: 30km, 70km, 102km, 170km

Saturday, 2 November 2019

More Info

Vietnam Mountain Marathon is the result of a lifelong love of running and a fascination with Vietnam. Oubeautiful route will take you through the inspiring mountain range of Hoang Lien National Park and its remote valleys near Sapa that are usually closed territory to all but the few.

Run between villages, through rice terraces, across bamboo bridges and past water buffalo and cheering ethnic minority people. Prepare for an extraordinary adventure!

Distances: 10km, 15km, 21km, 42km, 70km, 100km

Saturday, 21 September 2019 & Sunday, 22 September 2019

More Info

 

The Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji is an unparalleled event that challenges the human spirit through the outdoor sport of trail running. By connecting mountain trails, local footpaths and forest roads around the foothills of Mt. Fuji, this 100 mile course allows participants to enjoy majestic views of Mt. Fuji while experiencing the stunning natural beauty and culture of this region.

Distance: 167km

Friday, 26 April 2019

More Info

An incredible journey through the forests, trails, beaches and bluffs on the beautiful Cape to Cape coastline in South West WA.
You will run past famous surf breaks, iconic wineries and charismatic coastal villages in a journey that is as magical as the Margaret River region is beautiful.
Tackle the race as a solo competitor and run the full 80km course or team up with a group of friends and complete the course as a relay team of up to 5 people doing one (or more) legs each.
Whether you’re an ultra-marathon rookie or long-distance devotee, make The Margaret River Ultra Marathon your next goal! 

Distances: 80km Solo, 80km Team Relay

Saturday, 4 May 2019

More Info

Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset is organised on a non-profit basis. The central feature of the course is Hovsgol National Park and its pristine alpine lake. At an elevation of 1,645 meters (5,400 ft) and with average depth of 245 meters (800 ft), it is one of the largest single bodies of drinkable fresh water in the world. In late June, the surrounding area is at its peak for wildflowers and wildlife. The region around the lake supports a widely dispersed population of mostly nomadic Mongol people who live in gers (Mongolian yurts) and tend herds of horses, camels, cattle and yaks. 

Distances: 42km, 100km

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

More Info

The 50km Cordillera Mountain Ultra turns around Mt. Ugo in Benguet. Topping out at 2150m it features long ridge lines covered in Pine forests as well as superb views of the West Philippine sea, the entire Agno River Valley as well as the Cagayan Valley of Nueva Vizcaya. While shorter distances are also available in this event, the 50 km – is a great opportunity for beginning trail runners to get a taste of ultra or mountain running. It is tough, yet not excessively so.

Distances: 47km

Sunday, 10 March 2019

More Info

 

The Ultra-Trail Chiang Mai is designed by one of Thailand’s best trail runners, Jay Jantaraboon, who made sure that the various courses take you through the mountainous area of Northern Thailand. 

The race is also close to the city of Chiang Mai so it is an ideal race for a weekend trip with family and friends. 

Distances: 20km, 33km, 65km, 104km

Saturday, 31 August 2019

More Info

The Tengri Ultra, also called the Marathon of the Great Steppe, starts 120km of from Almaty and takes you through the vast lands of the beautiful country of Kazakhstan. The race is organised by Athlete.kz who offers packages for a smooth race experience.

The various distances promise a challenge for every runner. 

Distances: 15km, 35km, 70km

Friday, 10 May 2019

More Info

Kazakhstan

The most ambitious course design yet in the Himalayas. Nepal Action Asia sets the bar. You don’t want to miss this. Himalayas, stupas, dirt roads, dirt single track, stone stairs, leaf forests, not terribly high (2000-2500m average), incredible Nepali local food at well run guest houses, etc etc. And of course the course.

Kathmandu to Pokhara flight included in entry fee as with all accomodation.

Distances: 60km, 100km

Saturday, 2 November 2019

More Info

2019 Ultimate TsaiGu is located in Mount Kwotsang of Zhejiang Province in China, 300 km distance south from Shanghai, with most natural wonderful mountainous trail along with full range of 110 km running distance.

The course is composed of most rural trails with only 4 km road passage (including 2 km running on the Great Wall). The organizers would like to remind all runners to pay attention to any danger to keep you safe.

Distances: 50km, 80km, 110km

Saturday, 20 April 2019

More Info

This list is curated by amino and is based on personal experience and word of mouth recommendations.

Please reach out to add beautiful races to this list. 

Run Review - Around Singapore (125km)

Vietnam Trail Marathon

By NED PHILLIPS

Back in 2004 I ran round Singapore. 125km. 17hrs 48mins. Started from the Fullerton Hotel at 5am finished back at the same place at 10.48pm.>

9 months before that I went for a run from my work in Singapore. I had planned to go for a 2 hour run. 1 hour out and then turn round and come back. Well at the hour point I was on the East Coast Park and I just decided to carry on running for the next hour in the same direction. Well in just over two hours I got to the airport. After I got in a cab to take me back to where I started I thought ‘well why don’t I, on my next run, start where I just finished the last run and run for another two hours’. And that idea germinated into ‘well why not find a route all the way round Singapore and then run it all in one day’. Quite how my brain decided that I am not sure. Maybe it was the lack of blood sugar after a 2 hour run in 34 C heat.

So about one month ago I choose the date of 26th Feb. to do the run. By then I had found my route all the way round. I wanted to run it all in one calendar day so I started at 5am and hoped to finish by about 10pm. But the best laid plans, not that mine were laid particularly well anyway, went wrong straight away when I got lost in the dark 40 mins after starting. For those of you who know my navigation skills this loss of way will be no surprise. I blame the fact that what was once a forested area in Marina East is now devoid of trees and on its way to becoming Singapore’s biggest new development area. After 15 mins or so I got myself right and off along the East Coast to the airport.
Along the way the greatest thing happened. The sun didn’t come up. Well not so I could see it anyway. After 36 days of a Singapore heatwave the rain finally came on the day of my run. By 9am it was pouring down and I was singing in the rain. Perfect day. I met my kids at 10am out at Pasir Ris in the far east of Singapore, where they drank my Pocari, ate my Power gels and then ran with me for a 100 yards.

The next 5 hours until I met Jackie and the kids again were hard. The sun was winning its battle with the clouds and I was losing my battle with my mind. It never quite convinced me to stop but it had a good go at about 1pm. I still had 2 hours till I met Jackie and I just wanted to have little walks here and there. These walks got more frequent and longer. But then something-clicked upstairs that walking was not going to get me all the way round by midnight, so I got going into the full speed of a slow run again.

I met Jackie at the Kranji Dam in the north west of Singapore, which overlooks to Malaysia. Jackie had laid out a feast of goodies and after 10 hours of running and 10 power gels the sight of real food was joyful. Oranges, pasta, dried mango all went down fast. Also the block of ice on my head and wrists was very welcome. My friend Rob, who was in town from HK, met me at Kranji as well and he ran on with me for the next three hours down Lim Chu Kang Road. Rob and I have run 1000’s of km together and he did a great job of keeping me running rather than walking. At about 4.30pm a huge thunderstorm broke all around us. At one point there was no time difference between the lightning then the thunder, and based on our schoolboy calculations that meant the storm was right over us. Then this huge bolt of lighting came down very close to us. Frightened me enough that I had to have a quick walk break.
At 6.30pm Rob left as he was on an evening flight to Boston. I was now down by the Singapore Discovery Centre out past Jurong. I still had about 28km to go along the West Coast. I plodded on for a bit and then after a double caffineted power gel my energy lifted and I started moving along quite nicely. I was now running through the industrial area of Singapore but since it was now evening there were very few lorries on the road and it was surprisingly one of the nicest bits of the run. I ran through West Coast Park and was getting hungry; almost hungry enough to go into the McDonalds but luckily I came to my senses in time to run on by.

I knew that when I saw the cable cars going to Sentosa I was only about half an hour from finishing. Normally you can see the cable cars from quite a distance. But as I ran on I just couldn’t see them. After 17 hours of running I started to fixate on seeing the cable cars. I was even starting to think I had somehow gone the wrong way. It wasn’t till I was 1km passed them that I realised it was night and they were all stored in the cable car stations so I couldn’t see them anyway. By the time I realised this I only had about 2km to go. Jackie was waiting for me at the end by the Fullerton Hotel. As I passed the Singapore railway station and turned up into Anson Road I had the biggest smile on my face. I knew I had finished. I almost had that cliched moment when you don’t want it to end I felt so good. But it was time to finish. So I ran up Shenton Way and Jackie was there and we ran in the last 1km together. Very cool. Finished at the exact spot I started 17hours 48 mins later. An excellent day out.

I think because it wasn’t a race I hadn’t run as hard as I could, so the next day I really didn’t feel as bad as I thought. And now 4 days later I am thinking about going for a run again.

As Rob writes about his mountain adventures.
Key take aways;
1. If you want to run round a country choose a small one. Like maybe Liechtenstein

2. Having your wife and kids support you on the way round and meeting you at the end is the best.

3. Get a pair of five toed socks from a company called Injinji. www.injinji.com. they are amazing for distance running. I had no blisters, no hot spots, just totally happy feet.

4. You can’t live on Power Gels alone.

happy running

Race Review Vietnam Trail Marathon

vietnam-trail-marathon

By MARKUS GNIRCK

The first edition of the Vietnam Trail Marathon took place on Saturday, 19 January 2019, in the area of Moc Chau in Northern Viet Nam. After a 5h bus drive from Hanoi, a beautiful mountain region opens up and exposes a great landscape for running. The race was organised by TOPAS Group who runs the series of Vietnam Trail Marathon, Vietnam Jungle Marathon and Vietnam Mountain Marathon. They do know how to organise those!

An estimated 20,000 participants came to do either 10km, 21km, 42km or 70km. I participated in the 42km race as Christmas was just happening and training wasn’t ideal during that time 🙂 Many, many runners seemed to do their first run ever and it was impressive to see how many actually straight went to do their first 21km or 42km race. The 42km and 70km distances are also eligible for UTMB qualifications and ITRA points.

Race / Route

The route takes you through a fairly hill region, mostly trail, some times crossing streets. The 42km had around 1900m elevation gain. After a 4km jog through some fields, it takes you up a steep hill for around 1km with 500m Elevation Gain – that warms you up for sure. After that it is another nice run for over 30km, slightly up and down, until another steep hill gets your legs challenged. The temperature was pleasant with around 18 degrees, mostly sunny, sometimes foggy. 

The most amazing part was to have lots of spectactors alongside the route. It seemed like that everyone from young to old from the nearby villages was outside to cheer up the runners, take pictures and videos and have a good time. That also gave great insights how the locals were living and was a good way to connect to the local culture. 

Organisation

The race was very well organised. Pick up was easy a day beforehand, the start was on time and the route well marked.  Plenty refreshment points were well stocked with water and fruits. The volunteers were friendly and helpful and seemed to enjoy their time. 

Scenery

What landscapes! For someone who hasn’t been to that part of Vietnam before, it was the best way to get to know the nature. The trail takes you through vast fields of blossoming plumb fields, tea plantations and bushy forests. As race start was 7am the sun rising through the hills gave some very nice views over the region. 

I highly recommend this race!

Bitnami