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Which Trail Races in Malaysia Should You Join?

Short answer: ALL! Of course, you will need time, money and good health to be racing all the races. But No, we are just kidding. What races you want to join would depend on a myriad of factors: attractive destination, race points on offer, timing and registration pricing, among others.

To simplify, we break down trail races in Malaysia into 3 categories. While they are not entirely definitive, this classification would give you a grasp of what races are on offer out there, and assist in your planning.

The North Face 100 Malaysia MMTF 2020 will carry ITRA points. (Pixeo)

1.  Races with ITRA points

In the competitive trail running world, Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB) is the pinnacle of the sport with the current heroes gunning for the multi distance categories every August. To qualify for UTMB, the International Trail Running Association (ITRA) award qualifying points to races from overseas, including in Malaysia.

ITRA issues a certification of the route and evaluates the difficulty of the races, including for the course distance and elevation gains and losses. They also evaluate the race safety aspects, and obtains feedback from participants. So, as a participant, you can have a sense of assurance that races with ITRA qualifying points have high standards.

Globally, there are almost 1,400 races with qualifying ITRA points. There are many trail races in Malaysia, but so far, only 3 have been listed on ITRA’s website (as of 30 January 2020):

  • Borneo Ultra-Trail Marathon 2020
  • Cameron Ultra 2020
  • The North Face 100 Malaysia MMTF 2020
Cameron Ultra 2020 brings you on the most scenic trail run to score ATM and ITRA ranking points. (Facebook/CULTRA)

2. Asia Trail Master Championship Series

Asia Trail Master (ATM) is also a points-based trail series that take place in Asian countries.

According to its website, “Runners score points in each ATM-promoted race that they finish and in so doing receive a place in the ATM Championship Ranking. After the final event on the annual ATM calendar, the runner who has scored the most points will be crowned as that year’s Asia Trail Master champion.”

“The rankings can also be filtered by country to determine each country’s best-performing athlete. In addition, persistent endurance runners can aim to claim the honorary title of Grandmaster by finishing 6 long distance (+70km) races within 2 calendar years.”

There are currently 4 races in Malaysia with qualifying ATM points:

  • Cameron Ultra 2020
  • Borneo TMBT Ultra Marathon
  • Ultimate Trails of Penang
  • The North Face 100 Malaysia MMTF 2020

You may note that both Cameron Ultra and The North Face 100 Malaysia Mountain Trail Festival offers both ITRA and ATM points! So, these should be your serious considerations if you are of a podium finisher material and want to maximise collecting points.

(Facebook/Conquer the Trails at Kiara)

3. All other trail races in Malaysia

There are tens of other races happening every other week, in all states of Malaysia which do not have ITRA or ATM points. Are they bad races? Not necessarily. These races may have short distance categories, flat or insufficient elevation gains, or too mild a trail for them to qualify for ITRA or ATM points races.

Or perhaps the race organiser chooses to keep his race independent and not be a part of any series. Should you join these independent race? Sure, why not?

Trail running is unlike road running. There are soft trails for beginners, and hard and technical ones that require runners to have certain levels of fitness and skills to enjoy them. In short, there are no real good or bad trail; there are bad race organisers though. Do note your fitness level before you sign up for trail races.

Article Update (31 January 2020): The article has been updated with reference link to ITRA’s website.