Monday, October 24, 2011

SkyRunning SuperCup 2011 Kinabalu Race Report

What a weekend. The Who's Who in the world of SkyRunning was in Kinabalu for the last race of the year, which happened to be the last race to the summit of Kinabalu after 25 years.
Name such as Kilian Jornet, Marco de Gasperi, Luis Hernando, Toru Miyahara and Malaysian own Safrey Sumping were at site yesterday morning to be the Best of the Best Skyrunner.
As there was no official posting for this race yet, I've decided to bring forward this post to share with those not at the mountain yesterday and i am dedicating this to the superhuman that has ran a full 21km over 2,300m elevation within 8.5km in awe-inspiring time of less than 2:45. While many says it is not humanly possible, the mere proof that these elite-runners exploit in the sports proved that it is possible if we committed to what we do.
The SkyRunner SuperCup is a new title that was added by the International Skyrunning Federation (ISF) that is to be held once every two years as the last race where the European races are held. Those that raced yesterday was indirectly racing the SkyRunner SuperCup, how lucky!
As the organizer of Kinabalu Climbathon has decided (painfully) that this will be the last year that the race will reach the summit (Low's Peak), the ISF has decided to award the SuperCup event to commemorate this extraordinary race, which has been known to be "The Toughest Mountain Race" in the world.
I went up on both days of the race; Saturday on the "excuse" to accompany wifey (report coming up) and Sunday for the Men's open, which i stopped at KM2.5 (but with 1hour to cut off to spare). Call me lazy or whatever, but the real reason was that i want to capture how these elite runs down the steepest stairs on the last 500m to Timpohon gate. Each steps averages about 30cm high or 12 inches high, with most as high as my Camelbak length.
I recalled i saw Marco flying down at KM2.5 last year as i made my way up. The race has been tauted to be "Kilian's taking" and with Marco's course record of 2:33: in 2010 to be broken. Kilian at 22, is 13 years younger than Marco's ripe 35. While many says that men typically peaks in their 30's and Marco jestingly mentioned that Kilian has "age advantage", we all know experiences play a big part in any top notch races.
I feel sorry for the other famous SkyRunners that was in attendance as the attention was on both of these men only. However, to be fair, many came all the way to see these two battled this out as well.
I was at KM2 when i heard over the radio that "peserta 001 sudah melepasi Sayat-Sayat" (participant 001 has passed Sayat-Sayat) which was KM7.5 of the race route. That was in 1:25 when i saw my watch. I continued on and in the time it took for me to cover the measly 500m up the mountain, Marco (001) has touched Low's Peak in 1:41. I know i have to start making my way down as it will be in less than 40minutes before he will be reaching Timpohon Gate should he raced at the same record setting pace as last year.
I ran down as fast as i could over my lactic acid laden thighs and calves and the location has been decided to view this battle to be the last staircases that sits on a 45 degree gradient slope. Daunting 80meters.
Does not look steep until you compare it to my Camelbak photo resting on the stairs above!
True to their speed, at about 2:20, i heard stomping coming down from the top of the trail. GREEN JERSEY - that's MARCO!
The 100m long (estimated) stairs was cleared in less than 20 seconds. In about 5 seconds, Kilian was hot behind! They flew down the trail with their hands waving to gain balance and their legs movement swift. The muscles on their thighs and calves were bulging out waiting to explode. It was a hot pursuit. Earlier on, Kilian was trailing Marco by a good couple of minutes at Low's Peak. Kilian managed to close the gap coming down and what i supposed that Marco was injured on his way down (knocked the right side of his head).
Coming close behind them was Luis Hernando, the newly crowned World SkyRunning Champion (based on point system). He was fast too.
In fact, Luis almost tripped and fall halfway down but regained his composure. Coming close behind him within 2 minutes was the Nepal top Skyrunner (I've forgotten his name).
With such stout petite body, he was literally floating on air as he ran down the stairs. Inspiring! The top 5 was wrapped up with Miyahara-san flying down in the same manner as the Nepalese. Miyahara-san was the Fuji Mountain 2011 champ!

Malaysia's Safrey was placed at 6th Position and there was no shame with that when placed against these elite runners. In fact, Safrey might be the least exposed runner (international race wise) and it is sad that we do not have allocated budget to help these talents in Malaysia.
As i completed taking the five videos above, i received an SMS from wifey that King Kilian has finished the race in 2:41:08 (or something like that) with Marco about 40 seconds behind! They covered the last 5km tarmac within 15minutes! That's a freaking 3:00 pace that would shy any fast runner on flat!
My race ended very much at 1:30 hours at KM2.5. I managed to touch KM5 last year. So, this year was a really bad achievement. I have no excuse for this apart from myself not being fitter than i was last year and I was feeling lightheaded with a lingering gastric from 0300hours. Best to know my ownself limit too. I was actually sad i quit, but i was happy that i saw these men running down.
There is no shame in DNF-ing this race - as the biggest draw of Kinabalu Climbathon lies with the fact that not many will successfully reach the summit AND finish the race within the cut off. Next year, the race will be called an "Adventure Race" where it will bring runners up to Layang-Layang and down through Mersilau trail.
In my humble opinion, that takes away the novelty of the whole race.
To all FINISHER (i.e. reached the summit and down within cut off), congrats, you all are admirable and an inspiration.
To all PARTICIPANTS (there was medal for us too, it's called PERTICIPANT medal ;-)), there is no shame in DNF-ing the toughest mountain trail race in the world with ridiculous cut off!
Wait up for my race report dedicated solely to the friends that has participated and finished the race next!


  1. Thanks for putting out this race report so quick! Awesome writeup, really enjoyed the videos too!

  2. wait up for the otehr report that i will (try) to pay tribuite to our local heros and heroine i.e. friends we all know!

  3. I saw these five runners coming down on my way up to Raban Lata. Watching your videos again and they never failed to amaze me. I didn't reach the summit, but it was an exhilarating experience.


  4. Shine - your effort in 2:30 to try reaching i already an inspiration. :) I was in awe last year, i am in awe and amazement this year.

    Sorry i did not say hi this time around!

  5. Thanks for recording them flying down!!
    Really amazing!

  6. Stupe:

    Great reports..tks for sharing all.

    Mesilau ,not Mersilau...



  7. Thanks for this great report.
    BTW, the Napalese runner is Sudip KULUNG.
    I love the videos ! Incredible speed.
    Would you mind if I re-used those videos in a article on my blog (in Japanese) ?
    Thanks !

  8. Tomato - :) pleasure all mine!

    PMTey - thanks for pointing out. Will be corrected!

    Erwan - please do so! If you dont mind, just point it back to this blog :) runners speak only one language and that is of determination to finish all races!

  9. Thanks
    I did write a small entry on my blog, with a link to this article.