Scroll down to the bottom to find out how you can WIN yourself a free slot to run in one of the China Mountain Trails races.
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Congratulations to the winner – Kwan Boon Leong. You will be contacted shortly on redemption of your race slot.
This April, would you like to run at the beautiful snow-capped mountain peaks of Yading, in Szechuan, China?
You will be able to have your chance to do so – at the first-ever edition of the Yading SkyRun which takes place on 30 April this year.
A high altitude race and part of the SkyRunning world series
Comprising of a 29km running route, the Yading SkyRun is made spectacular by its formidable mountains, beautiful forests and brutal elevation gain. There is a cumulative elevation gain of 2,300m during the race.
Said Matt Moroz, 40, Race Director at China Mountain Trails, the race organisers, “The Yading race is a high altitude race and forms part of the SkyRunning world series. The elevation starts at 2,800m above sea level and goes to a maximum of 4,700m above sea level.”
He added, “So for this race, it does not matter if you are from Singapore or Hong Kong. You just come a few days earlier to acclimatise to the altitude. That is, unless you are from Nepal or somewhere with high altitudes. But apart from the challenge with the altitude, this race is a long, grinding climb. However, Singaporean runners can be trained for it, using a treadmill set to 15 per cent incline.”
But despite the climbs, Matt added that the views at Yading are really rewarding. He said, “It is as stunning and beautiful as anything in the Alps, the Dolomites and other places that I have seen in my entire life.”
Introducing Singapore trail runners to the natural beauty of China
I had interviewed Matt at the China Mountain Trails Launch Event in Singapore at 1-Altitude in Raffles Place, last weekend. The main purpose of the launch had been to introduce Singaporean trail runners to the natural beauty and distinctive scenery available in the trails of China, beginning with the Yading SkyRun – the upcoming race.
Said Matt, “I have travelled all around the world and done trail races myself, and I see a fair amount of Singaporeans at these races. So it seemed like an obvious place to come and visit – to market the China races.”
Singaporeans can always find ways to train for such trail races
Though Singapore is very flat in terms of its terrain, Matt is confident that Singapore runners will be able to find a way to train for such races. He said, “Yeah I have discussed that with my colleagues and it seems to me that Singapore runners who want to experience this kind of thing will find a way to train for it. There obviously seems to be enough Singaporeans who want such adventures – regardless of whether it is the North Face 100 Hong Kong race, the Vibram Hong Kong 100 Ultra-Trail or the Oxfam TrailWalker, or some of the Action Asia events, I always see a sizeable number of runners coming over from Singapore.”
He continued, “But for those who need some training tips, I would say that the more you can get out there and run to clock mileage, the better it is. If there are no hills, maybe you can head to the gym and stick the treadmill on 15 per cent incline and just grind it out. People can adapt. But if you really need real hills, then you can hop over to Malaysia or somewhere else close by that has hills and do your training there.”
Other races by China Mountain Trails
Besides the Yading SkyRun, China Mountain Trails is also organising two other races – these are the Devil’s Ridge race in Yumen, China in September 2016 and the HuangShan Race in HuangShan in January 2017.
And Singaporeans, from experienced trail gurus to beginners who want a brand new adventure, are invited to participate in these races.
Offering runners an extreme endurance challenge, the Devil’s Ridge trail race takes place at the southernmost region of the Gobi Desert. Race participants will run through a spectacular diversity of colours, vast plateaus and mountains. There are three distances – 100km, 50km and 25km.
Billed as the most difficult race in the series, this race provides runners with lots of altitude, technical trails and descents, elevation gain and ultra running distances.
Said Matt, “Due to the technicality of the trails, this race is the hardest to train for – as a runner in Singapore. But Singaporeans who come to Hong Kong and other parts of the region to race regularly, should be able to cope with this race. Coming early is also beneficial as the elevation gain is up to 3,500m.”
Taking runners through, over and down the granite peaks at HuangShan, the HuangShan Race is a winter run that challenges competitors with plenty of uphills and downhills, as well as snow and ice. However the scenery is breathtaking. There are two distances, 21km and 42km.
Said Matt, “To train for this race, Singaporeans should not find it too hard. Singapore has plenty of tall skyscrapers. So one of the best ways is to go to your office block or find any tall building for that matter, and grind it by doing up and down repeats of the stairs. That will get you perfectly fine for HuangShan.”
Offering something in a different location
Why should runners take part in at least one of the China Mountain Trails races?Explained Matt, “There are other great races in other parts of the world. But we offer something in a different location. China has beautiful parks and at the moment, there are some decent trail races in China but none of those have a professional elite field. You have a couple of great Chinese trail runners such as Yan LongFei and Dong Li but they just go in there and win everything because they are not getting challenged. What we want is to create a more international field and at the same time, to showcase more of China, to people from all around the globe.”
He added, “While the elite runners will add that little bit of spice and competition to the front of the pack, the races aren’t just for them, though. Personally, as a runner myself, I like challenging myself against some of these top guys. Of course the average runner can’t keep up with the elites but how amazing would it be, to line up at the starting line with these people and run the same course as them, on the same day? We cannot ever play tennis against Serena Williams or kick a football with Lionel Messi, but in our sport, we can all be at the same starting line and cheer on each other regardless of our status in the sport.”
Continued Matt, “For example, when Scott Jurek won the Western States race in America one year, he did not leave the finishing line till the last runner had crossed it. He was there, cheering everyone on and it is so beautiful to know that as trail runners, we are all so supportive of each other – because we are all experiencing the exact same thing. It’s just that some people are slower than others.”
China is more beautiful than many people realise
But apart from the camaraderie among trail runners, Matt also hopes to change the perception that many people around the world, have about China.
Explained Matt, “I think that a lot of people especially those in Europe or America, picture China as this grey socialist utopia, and nobody realises how beautiful China can really be. But if you get away from the big, overcrowded Chinese cities, it is so incredible and beautiful.”Indeed, the scenery is one of the most important things to Matt, when it comes to running a trail race. He said, “It is important for a race to have great scenery to attract the runners, but ultimately as the race organiser, I want the runners to have fun. Personally for me, the two things that I look most forward to in a race, is the beauty and challenge of it all. All three of our races have just that.”
He continued, “HuangShan may not be a race for the purists, because it has a lot of stairs. But in my head it ticks all the boxes because it is both challenging and beautiful. The races are also in very different parts of China. Sichuan, where the Yading SkyRun takes place, is famous for its spicy food. Then in Yumen, we are stuck out in the middle of the Gobi Desert so that will have a very different feel for the runners. Finally, HuangShan is more of a tourist area and thus not as culturally diverse as the other two areas. But it is still very cool too, and coming to these races will provide our runners with a brand new cultural experience.”
Taking careful measures to prevent runners getting lost out there
As a race organiser, Matt is also taking careful measures to prevent runners from getting lost out in the trails. He explained, “Some race organisers have been guilty of this – they get a little lazy and assume that because they are so familiar with the running course, they expect all the participants to be familiar with it too. They lose the perspective that the location may be completely new to some runners.”
Added Matt, “So for us, we are going to over-mark the trails with signages. If it feels that we have done too much, then that would be about right. Even if the route takes you through a single track, and it seems that there’s no other direction to run, even I want to be reassured myself, as a runner, as the mind can easily play tricks on you. For example, I would not want to not spot any markings for about 3km – as I may imagine myself having missed out on a marker. So we will reassure people constantly along the running routes, and if there is a real decision to be made, then we will have a marshal pointing people in the right direction We will go over and above with the markings and signages.”After all, Matt stressed that trail running races are not supposed to be orienteering races. He said, “It is a race organiser’s job to mark the trails thoroughly and we need to do a very good job. I stand by that. If people get lost during my races, I will quit my job straight away – as that is the thing that I hate most, whenever I run trail races myself.”
Tips for runners who want to sign up for his races
What tips does Matt have, for runners heading to the China Mountain Trails races?
He said, “The same tips apply, as for anyone signing up for any running race in the world. Just run as often as you can. There are plenty of people out there who talk about how important it is to do two hours of yoga a day and do some cross training.”
Continued Matt, “But most of us are not pro athletes and we have a finite amount of time per week to train. So you can just spend as much of that time as possible running – run as much as you can, on as many terrains as possible – to keep progressing and improving as a trail runner.”
For more information on China Mountain Trails and the Yading SkyRun, you may email firstname.lastname@example.org
How to WIN A Slot
PrisChew.com has ONE free slot to give away to a lucky reader, to experience the beautiful mountain trails of China, for yourself. You can choose any one of the three races and any distance category to participate in.Just follow these three simple steps to enter in the lucky draw.
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This contest closes on 31 January 2016 at 11.59pm.
And it is only open to residents of Singapore.