Scram­bling to stay the course

Action Asia - - EVENTS -

THE LAT­EST IN­STALL­MENT OF THE UL­TRA Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) se­ries of moun­tain races brought trail run­ning to the Ara­bian Penin­sula with the 137km event, Oman by UTMB. On Novem­ber 29, 2018, run­ners lined up at the start­ing line near the his­toric city of Nizwa, in­clud­ing Hong Kong’s own Sa­man­tha Chan. The or­gan­is­ers’ aim was to pro­vide “an aut hen­tic ex­pe­ri­ence of t he rugged­ness of Oman moun­tains”. To do that, the race course fol­lowed an­cient trails used by vil­lagers to travel across the canyons of the Al Ha­jar moun­tains. Some sec­tions were so re­mote that Royal Army he­li­copters were em­ployed to sup­ply check­points. The dif­fi­culty of the race course – an el­e­va­tion gain of 7,800m with very steep, tech­ni­cal des­cents and as­cents – was com­pounded by ex­po­sure. Some parts re­quired scram­bling and the trail was of­ten etched into cliff faces. The crux of the race, at 116km, was the climb of Bi­lad Sayt, where the run­ners gained 1,200m in el­e­va­tion over just 3.4km on an ex­posed trail. The sheer dif­fi­culty of the race led to over 50% of con­tes­tants drop­ping out. Af­ter t he race, pro­fes­siona l Lit hua­nian run­ner Ged­im­i­nas Grinius com­mented, “This is not a race a be­gin­ner trail run­ner can do. Af­ter I fin­ished, I said ‘never again’, but now I think I would ac­tu­ally like try it again.” Among the women, Hong Kong’s Chan fin­ished sixth, ham­pered by swollen and bruised feet. UK’S Anna-marie Wat­son took a dom­i­nant win in 26 hours and 20 min­utes, with Hun­gary’s Ildiko Wer­mescher com­ing in sec­ond (27:09) and USA’S Mered­ith Ed­wards third (27:49). The joint win­ners (in 20:45) of the men’s race were Ja­son Sch­larb from the US and Diego Pa­zos of Switzer­land, while Rus­sia’s Alek­sei Tol­stenko came third. Next year’s Oman by UTMB has al­ready been an­nounced. It will fea­ture mul­ti­ple dis­tances, but en­try will be re­stricted for the even tougher 167km full-dis­tance event, while shorter op­tions will be avail­able for less ex­pe­ri­enced moun­tain run­ners. – Pavel Toropov

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