UTMB World Series heads to the ‘roof of Thailand’ for first ever Asia-Pacific Major
On 8-10 December, the UTMB World Series heads to one of the most popular national parks in one of the most stunning locations in the world as part of Doi Inthanon Thailand by UTMB. This iconic destination race has already made a name for itself, and the third edition promises to be nothing short of spectacular having attracted 5,400 runners from over 64 nationalities ready to immerse themselves in the local culture and experience the inspiring views of the terraced rice paddy fields, majestic waterfalls, striking terrain and unique biodiversity.
The event will be broadcast LIVE on the live.utmb.world platform on December 9-10, with expert commentary and insights in multiple languages.
With the event also acting as the first Asia-Pacific UTMB World Series Major, runners will also have the opportunity to earn double Running Stones for use in the UTMB World Series Finals lottery, while the top 10 male and female finishers in the 100M, 100K and 50K race categories will also qualify for the Finals in the corresponding race. In total, 225 runners will be granted direct qualification, including age category winners.
Another first in 2022 includes an exciting change to the Summit 160 course which will see runners' reach the peak of Doi Inthanon at 2,565 metres for the first time. As part of the Himalayan Mountain range and as Thailand's highest mountain, this welcome addition will add both beauty and challenge to this iconic course.
Both the defending male (Jiaju Zhao, CHN) and female (Fuzhao Xiang, CHN) champions will be hoping to retain their title on the longest distance, but are all too aware of the added challenge with the increased elevation. Xiang said, “The total positive elevation of the course is about 10,000m, which is close to the elevation of UTMB. This is certainly more challenging, but the good thing is that the first runners will reach the top of Doi Inthanon during daylight meaning we get to admire a different landscape compared to last year.”
Both runners will be joined by tough competition from around the world, something Race Director, Bunjarat Suharitdamrong is looking forward to. She said, “We have runners taking to the start line from Asian countries such as Japan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia but also many from other continents with runners from France, Spain, America, United Kingdom and South America. It is a great sign that over 1,500 entrants are international runners and we look forward to welcoming them to Doi Inthanon Thailand by UTMB.”
Jiaju Zhao will face tough competition in the men's field, including New Zealand's top male trail runner, Scott Hawker. Having finished second in Ultra-Trail Australia by UTMB last month, he looks to be in good form and ready to experience the event for the first time. He will also be joined by Jordi Gamito (ESP) who is ranked just two places below Hawker in the UTMB Index and will be looking to close out his season on a high after a DNF at the CCC at UTMB Mont-Blanc.
For Gamito, the country holds a special place in his heart, as he explained, “Thailand for me is a very special country because 10 years ago I was a Thai boxer. And now to return to this country to run is a great opportunity that I'll enjoy a lot. This is my last race this season and I've trained a lot this year, so we will see what happens. The only thing that I'm nervous about is the weather and the climate because in my home is very cold now.”
In the women's race, Xiang will also be joined by 2022 podium finisher, Koari Niwa (JPN). Finishing third overall last year, Niwa predicts that the course changes will make the latter part of the race very interesting. She said, “I have had a good season and I am now back in Thailand getting ready to race, it is great to be back here! The course is completely different this year and while the ascent to Doi Inthanon will be hard, I think the descent will be brutal and might have a big impact later in the race. I love the mix between the runnable sections and the wild sections on the course and can't wait to compete and try to enjoy the suffering!”
The 100km race will also introduce an exciting new course change as runners take in two of the most beautiful cliffs of Doi Inthanon. Aptly named the Cliffs 100, the course will cover 104km and 6,107m of elevation including its highest point just before Huay Pla Kub viewpoint early in the race.
After domination in the 100km race in 2021, all eyes will be on Sunmaya Budha (NPL) who returns to defend her title in the women's race. Finishing just four seconds behind the second-placed male runner in the 100km race last year, Budha has since gone on to finish 2nd at the UTMB Mont-Blanc CCC this year and is looking forward to a strong performance in Thailand.
With three other race distances on offer, including the Pagoda 50, Terrace 20 and Tribes 10, amateur and elite runners alike will get the chance to immerse themselves in a unique UTMB experience in Thailand. From exploring the local villages, to getting support and cheers from the tribes or taking in the stunning royal pagodas, Doi Inthanon by UTMB promises to be an unforgettable experience for all.