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Monday, April 15, 2013

The Orang Asli Trail Run 2013

Kinda got sick of running the same old trails in good old Singapore so when the opportunity came to do a short trail run in Malaysia, I grabbed at the chance never mind that it was going to cost me a few hundred bucks and plenty of time just to get there for a short 10km run. But the thought of running in a new environment was too enticing and after a 8 hours bus ride and a boring day in Kuala Lumpur, I found myself at the start line of the Orang Asli Trail Run with another 17 runners from Trail Running Singapore and runners from the 1st Malaysian Women Marathon and other Malaysian runners.

Unfortunately, it had rained the night before and it was still raining as we listened to the organiser briefing us on the route and safety. Finally, after a delay of almost an hour, we were flagged off. The race director, Karen Loh has promised us a exciting trail route with beautiful scenery and we got that in plentiful burst despite the rain.

We started off running a short stretch along a winding road before we entered the jungle.

It was easy going initially and mostly flat. We understand the trail was not a natural trail but a route carved out for us by the Orang Asli! I can't imagine the efforts they had gone to just for us. And they had deployed marshals all along the route to ensure that nobody will get lost.

Along the way we ran past all sort of terrain from grass stewed path, to leave covered path to mud path and rivers! There were some buildings along the way, apparently rest stops and shelters used by the Orang Asli.  It was easy going for the first part and we had to cross 3 rivers. From my place at the back and running as sweeper again, I could hear the laughter of the ladies as they waded into the water. Along some stretch of the river crossings, the Orang Asli had even built bridges specially for us to cross although one of the bridge got washed away.

At one crossing, I heard screams coming from the ladies but by the time I reached the scene, the ladies had gone ahead leaving Karen to warn us of "quick sand"! 2 of the ladies had went and sunk knee deep into the "quick sand" and had to be rescued.What drama!

At another crossing there was the more excitement when the Princess (yes, the precious Princess had decided to tag along) discovered her first leech on her foot. Which reminds me never to believe people who tell you the end of the race is only 200 metres away or there are no leeches in the forest. Because there were plenty of leeches all over. Except that I  didn't even get a single bite even though almost everybody had more than one. The leeches are supposed to attached on to the slower runners and me and another Malaysian runner were right at the back walking most of the way and stopping frequently to help the last few runners. He had 18 bites and I had none!

The rain had caused the ground to be extremely wet and certain sections especially the slopes were so slippery that everybody were sliding and crawling all over the ground, never mind the leeches and whatever other creatures there might be. At one of the "small valley" going down slope, everybody was having extreme difficulty in going down and I was no exception. My trail shoe had no grip at all and I was sliding down towards the gully. In desperation and with no branches or roots to hold on, I finally gave up and went down on my bump and gingerly slide down the slope!

And after this down slope, it was up slope all the way. With the wet ground, many of the runners who were not wearing trail shoes had great difficulty climbing up the slope. Andrew and myself had to pull and push the last few runners up the slope. And then we were out on the road!

But after a short run, it was back into the trail and down hill all the way. Again, the slippery ground and the fairly steep gradient made it difficult to run and I walked cautiously not waiting to risk a fall and a long slide down the hill. Then I found a bamboo pole and was happily using it for support. I thought I can catch up for the lost time and move faster and before I knew it, whoosh and I went sliding down! So much for the bamboo!

But the end was in sight when I spied the last river and 3 little kids playing in it. The kids gave each runner a "welcome home shower of blessing" which was really so sweet of them. I also took the opportunity to wash off all the mud from my shoe, legs and tights before crossing the finish line. 

There was a beautiful "medal" handmade I presumed by the Orang Asli which was given to al the participants. More beautiful and much better and useful than the usual metal race medal.

We were also treated to a wonderful feast prepared by the Orang Asli. It was chicken, fish, rice, sweet potatoe and some sort of jungle herb and baked in bamboo and tasted wonderful.

And  despite the wet ground, the sliding and the leeches and having to endure a long 10 hours bus ride back to Singapore and this was really really a wonderful and fun time for everybody in the group. 

And on behalf of the runners from Trail Running Singapore, I would like to thank Karen Loh and the Orang Asli for having us and welcoming us into their village and forest.

About the Orang Asli Trail Run
The Orang Asli Trail Run is an annual not for profit small scale event organised by Karen Loh, race director of Malaysian Women Marathon. Proceeds from the event are given to the Orang Asli to help them to buy fuel to power their generators and vehicles. The Orang Asli are the original people of Malaysia but like in many countries, has been ostracised and outcast and left to fend for themselves.

The race is usually held annually but this year being the inaugural year of the Malaysian Women Marathon, Karen had graciously decided to hold a run just for the first 100 women sign up for the MWM and for us Singaporean. There will be another run to be held after the Malaysian General Elections and those who are interested can contact the organiser directly or Trail Running Singapore directly for further details. 

More photos on my Facebook page here


  1. An excellent write up Chris!
    It was a great pleasure meeting you all. :)