Thailand turns on the heat at inaugural Amazean Jungle Thailand by UTMB as Sherpa (NEP) and Xie (CHN) take victory in the BETONG160
Over 1,600 runners took to the start line at the inaugural Amazean Jungle Thailand by UTMB® over the weekend of 16-19 February, ready to take on a real jungle race complete with challenging climbs and packed with local wildlife and culture. Sange Sherpa (NEP) and Wenfei Xie (CHN) came out on top, storming the BETONG160 to finish first male and female, with Xie also taking third place overall.
Set deep in the jungle on the border of Thailand and Malaysia, and taking runners on an adventure through untouched nature, broken by river crossings and up steep climbs above the clouds, there were impressive age-category and stand-out women's performances throughout the different distances. Sherpa, who crossed the line in 25:03:28, one hour ahead of his teammate and second-placed Xiao Lin (CHN) said, “It was a very tough and challenging race but I enjoyed it a lot and have never seen wildlife and nature like it. I even spotted some elephant footprints!” In the women's race Xie's blistering time saw her finish almost two hours ahead of second-placed Chen Rongrong (CHN), and third overall. She said, “I am used to hot weather but I found the heat a particular challenge here. The course is challenging with some big steep climbs but I will definitely be back to defend my podium next year!”
Proving a popular race with Asia-Pacific runners looking to earn their place at the UTMB World Series Finals, 60-year-old Somyot Puangjit (THA) also stamped his ticket for UTMB Mont-Blanc, after rounding out the men's podium. Having raced the 100km here in 2022 during the test event, he had experience on his side as he crossed the line in 31:01:18. In the BETONG100, Gediminas Grinius (LTU) had his sights firmly set on the top step after recently missing out on the win at Doi Inthanon Thailand by UTMB due to a mid-race injury. The pre-race favourite was unstoppable throughout and he crossed the line in 13:53:40, with Hisashi Kitamura (JPN) and Valentin Orange (FRA) rounding out the podium in times of 15:07:00 and 15:33:53 respectively. Anita Rai (NEP) smashed the challenging 5,517m of elevation over the 98.3km to cross the line in fourth place overall and taking the top step in the women's race with a staggering time of 17:29:32. She was joined on the podium by Jinhee Kim (KOR) and Hien Tran (CZE), who all earned their place in the CCC® race of the UTMB World Series Finals as their reward.
In the BETONG50, it was all to play for in the last 9km of the race. While Nhon Throng Do (VNM) looked unbeatable throughout, a bad stint of cramp forced him to slow down in the final section of the race. Like the tale of the hare and the tortoise, Michal Lesniak's (POL) steady pace from the start paid off and with plenty in the tank towards the end, he overtook the leader to take victory with a time of 06:37:09 while Andres Olivera (PER) held second place from start to finish. In the women's race, British runner Jo Meek handled the conditions well to win in 07:14:10, establishing a huge gap of just under 2 hours over second-placed Danielle Perry (USA) and Rackchanok Sutammajarn (THA) in third. The 24 hours of travel to discover this incredible location proved worth it for 46-year-old Meek. After crossing the line, she said, “That was a great mix of muddy jungle trails, single track and road. I am amazed at what the body can do!”
Whether completing the BETONG160 or the BETONG25, it proved an unforgettable day out for all runners. Nobuhito Kubo (JPN), who was one of nine Japanese runners taking part, said, “The 25km route was really fantastic! On the first uphill we had a breathtaking view of the sea of clouds!” An exciting triple header weekend awaits UTMB World Series, with Istria 100 by UTMB, Ultra-Trail Ninghai by UTMB and Desert RATS Trail Running Festival by UTMB all taking place over 14-16 April. From the USA to China and Croatia, runners can look forward to an epic weekend of racing, with each event offering its own local experience. View the full Amazean Jungle Thailand by UTMB results here.