LEAD­ERS ON THE TRAIL

Asia’s trail run­ning scene has ex­ploded in the last few years. We talk to rac­ers and or­gan­is­ers about some of its most notable events.

Action Asia - - CONTENTS - By Steve White

Asia’s trail run­ning scene has ex­ploded in the last few years. We talk to rac­ers and or­gan­is­ers about some of its most notable events.

AS THE HEAT OF SUM­MER FADES INTO au­tumn, its time for run­ners in the typhoon belt of Asia to shape up for a new sea­son of trail races. Else­where in Asia, the events never stopped, such is the level of in­ter­est in the sport to­day. Fu­elled by the in­cred­i­ble va­ri­ety of ter­rain and con­di­tions on of­fer, and with an eye on mar­que events on the world stage such as Ul­tra-trail Mt Blanc (UTMB) and the Western States, Asia’s trail run­ning scene has never been stronger. Ryan Blair, Cham­pion Sys­tem Ad­ven­ture Team Direc­tor and an ac­com­plished racer him­self, says he feels very lucky to have wit­nessed this soar­ing in­ter­est in the sport in Asia: “The Ul­tra-trail scene and race op­por­tu­ni­ties have just ex­ploded in Hong Kong, Thai­land, Main­land China, Malaysia, Philip­pines and re­ally all over the re­gion,” he says. “I am work­ing and ex­plor­ing a lot in Burma re­cently and even there some things are start­ing to hap­pen.” An­other fac­tor in the growth re­gion­ally has been the ad­vent, in the sum­mer of 2014, of the regional Asia Trail Mas­ter (ATM) series, www.asi­a­trail­mas­ter.com. This has sharp­ened the fo­cus for the in­creas­ing num­ber of trail run­ners who like to take their sport on the road – to race hard, make friends from all over and maybe do some sight­see­ing on the back of it. It’s also com­plet­ing the cir­cle, draw­ing so-called ‘des­ti­na­tion’ rac­ers from out­side the re­gion. Kris Van Der Velde founded the ATM: “As the qual­ity of the events has in­creased tremen­dously in the last two, three years, we re­ceive in­creas­ingly more re­quests from Euro­peans and Aus­tralians mainly, to run in the events we are pro­mot­ing. In au­tumn, a Span­ish TV pro­duc­tion crew will be com­ing and film­ing at six ATM races, re­flect­ing the in­ter­est in Asian trails on the old con­ti­nent.”

City of lights – and tights

Coun­ter­in­tu­itively, to those who don’t know it, Hong Kong re­mains a fo­cal point. Its hilly ge­og­ra­phy in­spired a trail net­work which in turn in­spired many of the re­gion’s most fa­mous events. Steve Carr is a Race Direc­tor with Race­base. “I don’t think there is any­where in the world, that I have been to, where you can be in the mid­dle of “Ev­ery bit of com­mon sense tells me to find an­other race next year but I just seem to keep com­ing back to it.” one of the busiest cities on the planet and then 10 min­utes later you’re on a trail over­look­ing it. Just bonkers!” he says. The first for­mal trail race, and first ul­tra – longer than marathon dis­tance – was Ox­fam Trail­walker, www.ox­fam­trail­walker.org.hk, still held ev­ery Novem­ber. More than 30 years since it started, around 100,000 peo­ple have run and hiked its 100 kilo­me­tres, rais­ing over HK$500 mil­lion for good causes. Its or­gan­is­ers in­sist it’s a char­ity event only and not a race, de­spite the se­ri­ous­ness with which teams com­pete to win it.

FLY PAST Jeremy Ritcey ham­mers down a trail in the Lan­tau 2 Peaks.

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