Never Been Wearied: An Interview with Yang Jiagen
To complete The North Face 100 (TNF100) on a solo run within the stipulated cut-off time is already a complimentary feat in itself. To come up tops would simply be unfathomable by most. But to win TWICE in a row, we're lost for words! That’s what Yang Jiagen, a 26 year old undergraduate from China, accomplished a couple of days back at MacRitchie Reservoir.
In a race marred by several directional hiccups and lost markers (caused by sabotage), somehow, Yang managed to stave off the flurry of odds stacked against him to win the Singapore leg of TNF100 in 10hrs 04min 55 sec – some of us don’t even sleep that long. Nonetheless, the "added" obstacles came at a hefty price. He was approximately two hours slower than his time of 08hrs 01min in China.
RunSociety had the honour of chatting up with the Champion after the race to learn about his experiences both on and off the trails. Here are excerpts from the interview, translated from Mandarin. (They are rather succinct and straight to the point 'cos he was quite a 'goner' by the time we spoke to him. But we really have to thank him for making the effort.)
First time racing in Singapore?
Yes it is.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Which part of China do you originate from and what do you study?
I’m from Beijing and I study Outdoor Sports at the local School of Physical Education.
How did you get started on trail running? Was it a conversion from the ‘road’?
No, it wasn’t a conversion from the road. I used to run on my school field during my younger days. Then I started again on both road and trail at the start of university but I must say I enjoy the trails more. Climbing the hills and mountains has become a hobby for me.
Tell us about your training regime and how you make time for it.
I try to cover between 10 to 20 kilometres everyday if my schedule permits me to do so.
We understand Singapore’s climate is more humid than China’s. Has that affected your race performance?
Not only humid but hotter too. Yes, I’m two hours slower than my time in Beijing. But weather wasn’t the only factor. The dark terrain at night accompanied with the lack of visible signs got me lost around three to five times. I had to backtrack in order to regain my footing in the race. Otherwise, I’d have finished 40 minutes to an hour faster.
If you were to compare the terrain here in Singapore with those back home, which is more challenging? And why?
I’d say those in China are more challenging. Here, the trails are marked out rather distinctly perhaps from urban works and such. Back home, you can barely make them out.
With regards to personal safety, would you care to share with us (and for the benefit other trail runners) what you do to steer clear of possible dangers on the trail?
I don’t have a definite answer for you actually. Gear prep is of the utmost importance. Your shoes, apparel and even your hydration packs have to fit nicely in order to avoid abrasion.
Any serious mishaps so far?
I sustained a right ankle injury way back in secondary school which has haunted me since.
Trail running in Singapore has become increasingly popular in recent years. How’s the scene like in China?
Oh yes. It’s picking up too! More and more people are joining races.
Just curious, what’s your personal best for a marathon?
Two and a half hours.
Any plans to go professional in the near future?
No, I don’t think so. There are already many runners in China. It’s just a hobby for me.