Just when you think you're tough enough


MMTF Race Director Ewegene Tan Faced The Dark Side At Tor des Geants

The Malaysian Mountain Trail Festival is synonymous with Ewegene Tan, a trail runner himself who founded the race in his hometown of Taiping, Perak.

A runner since his teenage days, Ewegene always seeks to improve himself, and therein be able to give back to the community later on. A tenacious and hardcore runner, Ewegene completed both the Tor Des Geants (TDG) 2019 and Berghaus Dragons Back Race in 2019.

According to the website, the Tor des Géants® is the first race of this kind to cover an entire region, running along its spectacular paths at the foot of the highest Four-Thousanders in the Alps and through the Gran Paradiso Natural Park and the Mont Avic Regional Park. All of these particular features help make this such a unique, inimitable race. Starting from Courmayeur, Valle d’Aosta in Italy, the race considered as one of the toughest in the world, covers 330km, over an elevation gain of 24000 meters with a cut-off time of 150 hours.

So why did return to Italy to race TDG again? ToughASIA got curious, and wants you to know too.

ToughASIA: What inspired you to run Tor des Geant (TDG)?

Ewegene: Tor Des Geants is not your everyday trail race. To partake in this race, one would need to have some basic mountaineering skill and the will to run in harsh and unforgiving condition.

Hence, I am personally inspired to run this race to test and explore my personal abilities and limitation.

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ToughASIA: We understand that you have run this race before. What does it mean to you to run it again?

Ewegene: Tor will always be Tor and for that, number 1 experience is the same experience owing to the vast distance/ elevation through some of the most spectacular mountainous territories in the world.

When I completed Tor in 2019, it’s started raining from the word ‘go’ and the snow welcomed all runners as early as the fifth kilometer of the race. In 2022, it was perfect running weather to start with only for every runner to be tested by the high heat and humidity during the following days and low windy temperature during the nights.

This turned into a snow storm and blizzard en route to Refugio Frassati which caused the race to be suspended as Col Malatra is deemed unpassable even for the professionals. Every runner who got stranded including me is re-routed to Bosses where we completed our Tor 2022.

To run this race again is a highly memorable experience for me. I not only experienced hallucinations from the 2nd day onwards but I also managed to put to rest that dark moment from Bosses – Refugio Frassati during my race in 2019.

Overall, it solidifies the fact that 2019 wasn’t a fluke (if ever completing a high milage/ elevation is).

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ToughASIA: How did your race go? Are there any proud achievements or any tough moments which you experienced during this race?

Ewegene: Preparation has been difficult from the start. Dad passed in April and work has been piling up in the process since. With the lower mileage/ elevation in training, I had to resort to starting the 2022 race conservatively.

I took the opportunity to drag along runners for the first 2 days until I started experiencing hallucinations during the race owing to sleep deprivation. This experience continued on till the very last day. The experience was surreal for me but am happy that the total experience has been positively logical in every sense of the word. That “girl” will always be there sitting by the trail overlooking the valley, someone is always throwing that party with some 80’s music down the valley, there are always those little people moving and whispering in an attempt to reach out to me. In short, for me there is a life beyond the life we know out there.

Happy that in 2022, I am able to put to rest that dark moment of my 2019 race from Bosses – Refugio Frassati. In 2019, I had to stop every 5 steps or so during this section. I felt there is a dark force that was preventing me from heading up. I had 3 French men to thank for who towed me along then. This round I am able to head up this section solo and managed to help a fellow runner who called out for help as he was suffering from a low sugar level.

The toughest part of the 2022 race is certainly the high heat and humidity during the day which changed to extreme coldness coupled with high winds in sections during the night.

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ToughASIA: From TDG, what would you like to see as a runner or Race Director in Malaysian races?

Ewegene: Race organizers in Malaysia should take an effort to create an unforgettable race experience for runners. This can only happen when one has taken the effort to explore.

I would also love to see more races giving back to the community whilst enhancing the standard of trail running from point of athlete development and race organization aspect.

ToughASIA: A lot of runners contracted Covid and it has affected them significantly. How has Covid affected you and your race preparation?

Ewegene: I contracted Covid in June 2022. Had really bad reactions which took me off from any physical activities for close to 10 days.

In restarting training, I have to restart from ground zero again to ensure that I do not stress out and damage my respiratory system unknowingly in the long run.

Therefore, I had to rebuild efforts and intensity from 20% onwards. Well, it created a panic situation for me in the end as I felt I was undertrained for the race. Hence investing more time in gaining elevation in the final 3 weeks and approaching the race with a more conservative strategy is what I did in the end.

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ToughASIA: How has your preparation for races changed in this Covid endemic – regarding race procedures, possibility of staff getting covid on race days, any refund if participants contract covid, etc.?

Ewegene: Restarting races is testing not just as runners but organizers too. As a runner, it would mean having to rebuild from scratch to cope with the distances and stress related to it.

As organizers, it would mean rebuilding the system to suit not only runners and the event team but most importantly to ensure it complies with the SOPs put out there by the authorities and to ensure no new clusters are born in rolling out the races.

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Refunding – We have provided runners 100% refund during the cancellation of Malaysia Mountain Trail Festival/ TNF 100 Malaysia 2020 and during the partial cancellation of the Salomon X-Trail Series. The question really lies if production has been made with regard to any events regarding the issues of refunding.

Runners would need to understand that there is a high cost in rolling out any races and to ensure that the race is sustainable we would not be able to provide a full/partial refund once production has started. For runners who have contracted Covid and are not allowed to start, we will provide an option/ assistance to transfer the slot in that regard.