The Magnificent Merapoh Trail 2016: Worth More Wild
Over 600 warriors from 25 countries gathered at Malaysia's largest national park - Taman Negara to conquer trail race courses of 30km, 60km or 100km, jazzed up with adventures through endangered caves, rainforests and a river.
The Magnificent Merapoh Trail (TMMT) returned for a second edition and is officially sanctioned as part of the Asia Trail Master series this year. A new distance - 100km, was introduced to pit zealous runners up against an even bigger challenge.
TMMT debuted in 2015 in a bid to save the endangered Merapoh caves that house at least 85 invaluable limestone hills and bountiful rare species of flora and fauna. The national heritage is unfortunately under the threat of destruction from man-made developments, in particular the mining of limestone karsts to provide for cement production.
The event accentuates awareness that the magnificent cave complexes of Merapoh are worthy of preservation.
TMMT is a rather fast course with few but sufficient technical sections to challenge both novice and veteran runners. Besides manoeuvring through 3 majestic Merapoh caves, participants had to also cross a river that spans over 3km in their respective trail courses of 30km, 60km or 100km. With relatively limited technical difficulties and elevation gain, TMMT appeals to beginner trail runners too.
Embarking on a trail race course is not always about achieving the best timing but to also appreciate nature in its primal form.
It was a unique race experience, especially so for trail rookies to be motivated by nature's orchestra through the course. Apart from the chirping birds and buzzing insects, native monkeys also joined the unprecedented motivator squad by posing threats to some resting participants, which was indeed effective in pushing them on to continue the trail course.
Despite the disturbing ankle-high creeks in certain sections, the ancient Merapoh caves were beautiful and magnificent as ever. The water predicament was however worsened by the heavy precipitation on days prior the event that raised the river's gage height. The waist-high water level was uncomfortable and difficult to waddle in, further exacerbated by the cold and ill-lighted setting. Termed thereafter as the "River of Despair", this component of the race left participants with memorable stories to tell.
Trail to Victory
Despite a high 43% DNF percentage for the inaugural 100km race, TMMT being a relatively fast course meant a competitive race with several contenders for the podium finishes.
Britain's Jason Robinson managed to emerge victorious from the rest in the men's 100km race with a lead of over 30 minutes. On the other hand, the women's 100km race was dominated by Asia Trail Master points leader - Malaysia's Tahira Najmunisaa Muhammad Zaid with a lead of over an hour.
Malaysia's Lim Wen Shan established a new course record in the men's 60km race and Philippines' Gretchen Felipe clinched the champion title in the women's 60km race.
TMMT 2016 had successfully concluded with compliments from participants on the rewarding and peculiar trail course, except that of the river crossing section where many thought was too long. Spanning over 3km, some participants had to dedicate one full hour to cross the cold and ill-lighted river.
The third edition of The Magnificent Merapoh Trail will return next year on 21 - 22 July 2017 to advocate for the preservation of Merapoh caves.