The duo of Andy Neo and Winston Ng, along with runners from the various continents, will be running a total of 148km at ASICS Beat The Sun.
Running enthusiasts Andy Neo and Winston Ng will be going for a run like no other, as they, along with four teammates from Asia-Pacific and twenty four fellow runners from other continents (Northern Europe, Southern Europe, Americas and Africa), take on the ASICS Beat The Sun relay run on June 21st, the longest day of the year. Each team comprises three professional and three amateur runners, with Andy and Winston falling into the former and latter categories respectively.
The course that they will undertake is Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps. Known as the holy grail of ultra-trail running, Mont Blanc is 148km of grueling terrain and rough weather conditions. The loop around the mountain is split into 13 sections, with each runner taking on two or three of them. Each section poses its own challenge, be it steep hills or harrowing descents, and there’s a total elevation of 8,370m to conquer.
Teams will have between sunrise and sunset, or 15 hours and 41 minutes to be exact, to complete the run, and while it won’t be easy, the experience is definitely one to keep. We spoke to Andy and Winston to gather their thoughts ahead of the run.
Winston, we heard you were injured some years back and could not run. What happened?
W: I broke my right knee in a car accident back in 2002, and stopped running for four years. I got back into running so as to become fully fit and be able to take care of my two daughters and the household.
Did you jump at the opportunity to take part in ASICS Beat The Sun?
W: The moment I was told about this event, I immediately wanted to take part. Mont Blanc is the pinnacle of ultra-trail running. Everyone wants to run there but not everyone can do so. You need to accumulate qualifying points from other running events to be eligible for Mont Blanc. The financial cost is also another factor to consider, but ASICS provided everything for me.
How did you guys train for this trail run?
W: For amateurs, we were given a list of training plans with certain guidelines to follow. Because we are running at various altitudes, we need to do hill trainings to build up our quad strength. I have a base mileage of 60km per week, and run at a nearby park with a long, steep hill.
Andy: My method of preparation is to run at this hill near my place. It’s a distance of 400 meters with a 30-meter elevation; I do 10 sets of this which translates to a total of 300 meters of elevation.
Andy, in your role as ASICS Asia’s Assistant Manager (Education and Training), what techniques do you need to tackle these sections?
A: There’s eccentric loading on the legs when running downhill, which exerts a lot of force on the knees and creates a lot of impact on the quads. I advise runners to run sideways, in a zigzag motion, when running downwards. Take small steps to reduce impact on the joints and let gravity guide you down.
The best trail runners don’t train in gyms; the best gym is actually the trail itself. There are plenty of surprise elements, sometimes you run up or down, or sideways. All this stimulates and builds the muscles and strength. Because the movements are more dynamic, this makes a trail runner more agile than a road runner.
What was the selection criteria for amateur runners like Winston?
A: They needed to achieve a timing of 1 hour 40 minutes and below for a half marathon (21km). I ran with Winston to assess his capability and test his endurance. But more importantly, it was his personality that gelled with us. Winston’s story is inspirational. He picked himself up and started running again on his own. For him to commit himself as a full-time homemaker taking care of two daughters is also a very noble thing to do.
The weather conditions will be vastly different from what tropical Singapore. How are you guys preparing for this?
A: We’ll be going there one day earlier than the rest of the team to get ourselves familiarized with the environment and adapt to the climate. There will be engagement with runners from other teams, including sessions where everyone can share about their own training methodologies.
Follow the official ASICS Beat The Sun website for updates of the run, and keep a look out for the documentary set to be produced later this year.