FILIPINO bets are off to a strong start in the Asia Trail Master (ATM) championship, with Dean Perez leading the championship ranking.
The Canada-based Filipino mountaineer has 745 points from the first two events hosted by the Philippines.
Perez finished ninth in the 46-kilometer Pilipinas Akyathlon in Tinongdan, Benguet after earning 425 points with a third-place finish in the 53-K Rizal Mountain Run in January at Pintong Bukawe in San Mateo, Rizal.
Road Runners Join the Fray
HOPES for the Philippines dominating the ATM ultra-trail running extravaganza this year are pinned too on local road runners who just recently made successful forays into the trail scene. One of these early favorites is Elias Tabac, an Agusan del Sur native who topped the recent Benguet Akyathlon.
Tabac of Team Tri-Buddies Tagum, clinched the championship of the Mt. Apo Boulder Face Challenge last year in Davao del Sur.
Eyes will be on the marathon runner as the Philippines’ highest peak has also been included in this year’s ATM arena, with the Mt. Apo Sky and Vertical Race set on April 29.
Prior to the Mt. Apo run, the Filipinos will have another chance to fortify their hold on the ATM leaderboard in the Cordillera Mountain Ultra set on March 4 in Dalupirip, Itogon, Benguet. Notably, this event is one of the ATM’s six “supertrail” stops in the series this year.
This supertrail status is important in this year’s ATM points’ mechanics, with the overall championship decided at yearend by a five-best-count system — adding the points from the best five race results of each runner. This season, that one of five races has to be earned in a supertrail. If not, a runner will be penalized 250 points. Bonus points, on the other hand, are awarded to runners competing in ATM races outside their countries of origin.
More Asian Stops to Watch
ATM supertrails are also set each in Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Japan. Other countries with trail ultra runs under the ATM banner include Brunei, China, Korea, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Nepal. The last ATM points race in the Philippines this year is the Ultra Trail Mapawa set on Oct. 28 in Cagayan de Oro City.
Hoping to see action again in the CMU event’s 50-K centerpiece and ATM supertrail point-earner in March are two other accomplished Filipino road runners who are relatively new to trail racing—Akyatlhon runner-up Jeffrey Aligan of Baguio City and Rizal Mountain Run surprise champion John Ray Onifa of Antique.
Onifa has 500 and Aligan with 450 ATM points from their respective wins. Hong Kong-based Canadian Jeff Campbell, who won the ATM’s 2018 inaugural leg, the 42-K Tahura Trail in Bandung, Indonesia, is tied with Onifa and Tabac at fourth overall.
Pinay Mountaineer Charges Forward
FILIPINA trail runners are poised as well for a strong contention for the 2018 ATM crown on the distaff side. Trail veteran Majo Liao, who started her trail running career as a member of the UST Mountaineering Club, leads the local ladies’ charge as she ruled the women’s Akyathlon in a surprising performance this early in the season.
Liao, a college professor at the Trinity University of Asia, last year became the first Filipina to finish the Ultra-trail Du Mont Blanc (UTMB). Considered as the world summit of mountain running, the UTMB is raced on 103 miles of icy ridges and valley.
The Akyathlon was Liao’s first race since the UTMB, and it came on the heels of the Rizal Mountain Run which she co-organized as well. She admitted being unable to train adequately for the Benguet event, which she nonetheless won handily despite a crash that bruised her limbs on a technical downhill stretch toward the finish.
Also among the runners to watch is 21-year-old Aggy Smith Sabanal of Makati, who ruled the women’s Rizal Mountain Run (RMR), with her strength evident as she finished eighth place overall on rain-soaked trails. She earned 500 ATM points to tie Liao and Vietnam-based Kim Matthews of Australia, winner of the women’s tiara in the Bandung race, for the early lead in the ATM tally sheet.
Sabanal broke into the ATM rankings just last year with her third place finish in the Ultra Trail Mapawa in October. The 2018 Akyathlon, however, seemed too early a race for Sabanal to join just a week after the Rizal race. She did not finish the Akyathlon featuring Benguet’s 2,150-meter high Mt. Ugo, but could see action next month in the CMU supertrail also crossing Mt. Ugo but set to start opposite at Dalupirip, Itogon, Benguet.