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Borneo TMBT Ultra Trail Marathon - Interview with 2013 Champion Vlad Ixel

Posted by John Ellis on


Photo credit - Lloyd Belcher

This year’s Borneo The Most Beautiful Thing Ultra Trail Marathon will be an especially emotional event following the 6.0 earthquake that rocked Sabah island in early June. 19 people were killed including a group of Singaporean primary school students and as well as close friends of TMBT team including lead guide Robbi Sapinggi.


The recovery effort started almost immediately with the rescue of over 100 stranded climbers from the summit of Kota Kinabalu, and continues with TMBT, which will go ahead as planned on Saturday 29 August, ahead of the planned reopening of Mount Kinabalu next month.

We spoke to Australian rocket Vlad Ixel, who took out the 2013 event in a lightning 13:27, about his race experience and what runners should expect come race day.

GR – Thanks for your time today, Vlad. Tell us a little about the course and what sort of conditions runners will be facing.

VI - It’s a very hard course, and the weather can be the hardest part of the of the race. Most likely, it will be very hot and morning rain will make it humid too. The course has everything: road, super steep climbs and downhills, jungle running, single track and open road. Get ready for a few river crossing at the start so your feel will be wet during the day. Luckily, there are no stairs but there is a lot of technical running in the first 50km of the race.

GR – So for people doing TMBT for the first time, how would you prepare and train for this race?

VI – A lot of time on your feet will help when you train for this race. Make sure you get elevation in your training as there is 6,000m of gain and 6,000m of loss. This is not a flat ultra! Hill repeats are always a great way to get uphill and downhill running in one session.

GR – Is there any gear you would recommend? What sort of shoes will work well in such varied and difficult conditions?

VI – You’ll need a little more grip for this race so make sure you’re not running with road shoes and that your trail running shoes have a nice amount of grip. With most runners being out on the course for a long time, it can get cold at night so a jacket is a must. It will likely rain as well, so make sure you have some waterproof clothes in a bag.

GR – What about nutrition and hydration? What was your strategy? Are the CPs well stocked?

VI - When I did the race two years ago, there was only water in the aid stations, so make sure you have all the nutrition with you or in the mid-way drop bag. Being out there for a long time means that gels will not cut it and you need something more. Look for nutrition that can give you some carbs, a little fat and a little protein to keep your body going.

GR – And what about after the race? Anything you would recommend to runners

VI - I love KK and the islands around it. Make sure that you give yourself a few days to recover. You could stay in downtown KK as it’s right on the water and there are a lot of restaurants, or spend it on the islands, which are super cheap and super easy to get to.

GR – Thanks Vlad, very helpful tips as always.


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