Just when you think you're tough enough

Trail Running

Beginner-Friendly Betong10 Introduced In Amazean Jungle Thailand By UTMB

As events evolve over the years, it is important for event organisers to introduce newness or freshness to its race categories, formats and courses.

Last weekend, Amazean Jungle Thailand by UTMB introduced the Betong10, a 17km race with an elevation gain of 550m that falls under the UTMB 20K race category index, made sweeter by the offer of the coveted 1 running stone, essential for trail runners wanting to have a chance to compete ath the Ultra-Trail Mont Blanc UTMB in Chamonix every summer.

For runners based in Singapore and Malaysia, Betong in the southernmost province of Yala in Thailand, is technically the nearest location for runners to earn these stones.

On Sunday 5 May, the race started at 8am local time (9am in Singapore). Temperature hovered around 30 deg C, but humidity was creeping up quickly with the strong sunshine. The start line was the iconic Betong Mongkollit Tunnel—Thailand’s first and largest road tunnel, a curved marvel stretching 268 metres, linking the town centre to its south-eastern expansions.

With 223 runners at the start, the atmosphere was electric. Among the crowd were a few hardcore enthusiasts who had tackled the 50km category just the day before—testament to the magnetic appeal and challenge of the Betong10. The first 2km, characterised by rolling hills on the road through the town, gave a glimpse of the local culture, predominantly Muslim, with numerous mosques dotting the landscape.

The trail section introduced next was a dramatic shift; the aftermath of a heavy rain two nights prior turned the paths muddy, though thankfully, conditions had improved by race day. Steep ascents were managed with the aid of ropes, and it wasn’t long before faster runners began lapping the slower ones.

The first checkpoint at the 4km mark in Jarohkaga was a welcome respite, offering water, electrolytes, and medical aid. What followed was a steep climb, posing a significant challenge especially to newcomers to the trail running scene. The seemingly endless climbs separated the experienced ones from the newbies, with the latter pushing through with power hikes.

As the heat intensified, likely edging towards 40°C, the endless trail segments were very testing. I had two full 600ml soft flasks with me at the 4km mark, but had emptied them way before the next checkpoint at 12km mark. Fortunately, at the 10km mark, there was an informal water point set up by the marshalls providing iced water. Godsent!

Most of the trails were in the open; not much canopy for cover. Runnable, and not requiring technical skills. Photographers were strategically positioned along the course to ensure runners get the best photographic opportunities along the course that oversaw both Thailand and Malaysia borders.

The next checkpoint at Ban Ka Pae Ko Tor School at the 12km mark was well equipped with water, electrolytes and fruits.

The final segments alternated between road and trail, culminating in a dash through the city centre to finish at the Betong Clock Tower—an iconic ending to a memorable race. 

Out of 223 starters, 207 proud runners crossed the finish line. My personal time was just shy of 3 hours, placing me in the 30th percentile at 66th position. Cut-off time was 5 hours, meaning there were about 150 people behind me that endured up to another 2 hours of heat to get to the finish line. Kudos to them.

I recommend Betong10 to newbies or anyone in the region who needs to collect UTMB stones. The course is scenic, runnable and is beginner-friendly. Nutrition and hydration needs on the course were well taken care of, including medical assistance. The main challenge was the heat and humidity, but that really is something which we have no control over.