The top 5 ultra-marathons you need to try - from chasing sunsets in Mongolia to Nepal’s most imposing 100km event
- As the rest of the world opens up, here are the best races taking place in Asia over the next 6 months
As most of the world leans to live with the coronavirus and normality resumes, attention turns to the things we added to our bucket lists when travel was not possible.
The thought of escaping to open spaces or taking on new challenges in far off lands was an important part of surviving the feeling of claustrophobia the developed over the past two years.
For many, the ultra-marathons that span the globe in places that might not be first on the list for a holiday became a beacon of what might be possible when restrictions lifted.
So, while Hong Kong’s strict quarantine rules make getting away more difficult than for people living in the rest of the world, if you can get a flight, and harder still a find a designated hotel that isn’t fully booked, here are five of Asia’s finest ultra trail-running events that are happening later this year and should be on your to do list.
Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset
Mongolia is a must-see destination for many of us, and yet the logistics of pulling together travel there can often seem daunting. This is where a packaged event such as the MS2S comes into it’s own.
The race is centred around Toilogt Ger Camp, which is a 14-hour drive form the capital city and airport of Ulaanbaatar, a location that makes it one of the most remote ultra races around.
Being at relative altitude (1,645m) means that you should take a few days to acclimatise, and this is all part of service offered by the organisers of the race, which has a 42km & 100km distance option.
Considered “one of the most beautiful trail races in the world,” it takes place between August 6th and 13th this year.
Vietnam Mountain Marathon
Vietnam was one of the first Southeast Asian countries to fully reopen to international tourism, and many of the more culturally curious and adventurous of visitors to Vietnam will have the northern mountain outpost of Sapa firmly on their radar.
Sapa is one of the region’s most vibrant and visited destinations and is characterised by steeply sided mountains and rice terraces. It’s also well known as being home to numerous ethic minority groups, who live and farm here.
The VMM offers several race distances ranging from a 10km amble to the full and gruelling 100-mile challenge, which has a staggering 8,400m of altitude gain.
The events are based around an eco lodge near to Sapa, and the hilly trails pass through rice fields, mountains and remote minority villages along the way, which are a real treat for sore legs.
Date: September 9th-11th
Cappadocia Ultra Trail
Cappadocia in central Türkiye is one of the most surreal and beguiling places on earth. With it’s fractured desert-like scenery, towering fairy chimneys and ancient cave dwellings it surpasses even a Star Wars film set.
The annual Cappadocia Ultra Trail takes place during the autumn, which is when the desert comes alive with seasonal colours. All of it’s three race distance options (38km, 63km and 119km with 3730m of elevation gain) pass through the Unesco World Heritage Site and the heart of the region, while the longer option also takes in a remote loop through local countryside.
The races are also qualifiers for the UTMB World Series, making this a high profile and stunning event to be part of.
Date: October 15th-16th
Annapurna 100, Nepal
The Nepalese Himalayas are home to some amazing trail races, many of which are multi-day stage race style. When it comes to non-stop events the grandaddy of them all is considered to be the Annapurna 100, a single-day ultra trail that is one of the highest and most imposing races there is.
This year the race returns for it’s 14th edition, following a two-year pandemic hiatus. There are three distance options (42km & 55km and 99.1km). The longest “classic” route is not for the faint of heart, as it gains a 5414m of altitude as it clambers high the around jeep and trekking trails of the Mardi Himal region. Along the way runners get eye -popping views of the eastern side of the Annapurna range.
From the 3900m high point (weather permitting) there’s a descent of over 6000m to finish at the Fewa Lake in Pokhara, a great place to relax after such an epic run.
Date: October 29th-30th
Doi Inthanon by UTMB, Thailand
As part of the UTMB Word Series the Doi Inthanon ultra-trail race is fast increasing in profile and significance. The route is based around the hilly and wooded trails of the Doi Inthanon National Park, which is a short drive south of Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand.
Many runners are surprised to find such high rise trails in Thailand, and the route of the distance option leading them right to the 2557m high summit of Doi Inthanon, which is the highest peak in the country, and offers up some great panoramic views.
Thankfully December also winter in the region, which makes for fairly dry yet pleasantly warm running, often with early morning chills at the summit.
There are 5 distance options all in, ranging from 10km to the full 100-mile slog with 10,045m of altitude gain.
Date: December 8th-11th