Monday, October 18, 2010

Mount Kinabalu - The toughest mountain race earns its respect

An easy to climb mountain defies the toughest runners

At 4,095 metres (13,435 feet), Malaysia’s tallest mountain is easy to climb. Climbers literally walk up Mount Kinabalu in the north Borneo island state of Sabah. Almost anyone who is healthy, including 80-year-old grandmothers, can climb the steps to its bare granite peak. But running up and down its 21-km (13-mile) slope has defied the best runners. Records set six and seven years ago are waiting to be broken at the 24th Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon from October 23 to 24.

The mountain race has become known as the world’s toughest since it welcomed foreign competitors in 1995. Runners find it difficult to keep pace because of the varied terrain; slippery, bushy or rocky along the way to the summit where it is cold and the air is thin which affects their breathing.

Men have to reach the summit and run down to base in four and a half hours (two and a half hours up and two hours down) while women must do it within six and a half hours (three and half hours up and three hours down). Climbers take two days to go up and down the mountain.

In 2003, Italian Marco de Gasperi set a record of two hours, 36 minutes and 59 seconds in the men’s event while Anna Pichrtova of the Czech Republic finished the women’s race in a record time of three hours, six minutes and 54 seconds in 2004.

Ellron Angin, assistant minister of tourism, culture and environment, expects a formidable attempt by competitors from Spain and Japan to set new records. Top runners of Japan’s Mount Fuji International, Kitatanzawa and Tateyama mountain races are vying for the honour.

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