Salomon TMBT 2018: Beauty, Brutal Or Both I’m In – Are You?

Picture credit: Salomon TMBT 2018

After my first trip to Sabah last March, I could not pass up the opportunity to visit the amazing Borneo island one more time. Just signed up for another 100km trail running event called Salomon The Most Beautiful Thing (TMBT) Ultra Trail Marathon – only this time it will take place in different part of Sabah on 1st and 2nd September 2018.

TMBT is the oldest and reputable trail running event in Malaysia since 2011. It’s part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour Discovery Race Series 2018,  and also a qualifying event for the 2019 Western States 100-mile Endurance run in addition to a qualifier for Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB). On top of that, it’s part of qualifying and championship race promoted by leading Asia Trail Master.

I’ve gathered some info including chatting with the Race Director, looking at travel plan/activities to do and did a little research on the net. Sharing them with you as below:

Interview with Claus Pederson, TMBT Race Director (RD)

1. What is the background about yourself and/or TMBT members (experience as RD, how long)?

RD: The current directors have been involved in organising races in Sabah of various types ranging from running, road and mountain biking, kayaking, triathlon and adventure races for 20 years. We have also participated or assisted in larger international races such as the Southern Traverse in New Zealand, the Raid Gauloises (1000 km) in northern Vietnam in 2003, and more recently the UTMB. The Sabah Adventure Challenge was run annually from 2000 till 2016, while the TMBT has run annually since 2011.

2. How TMBT deliver its name as the most beautiful race to runners?

RD: The TMBT acronym stands for “The Most Beautiful Thing” and makes reference to Mount Kinabalu, which hovers above the entire race course set around the base of the mountain. The race is also “fondly” known as “The Most Brutal Thing” amongst many of our participants who come back year after year to pit themselves against the challenging course. We take runners out on small trails and up steep ridges with astounding views over the surrounding jungle clad ridges and valleys and to Mt. Kinabalu (clouds permitting). It is a stark and rugged beauty.

Picture credit: Borneo Ultra. Green rice field with the backdrop of Mount Kinabalu

3. Do we know what kind of prizes for top 3 runners?

RD: The prizes will be goods from various sponsors, including Salomon, Suunto, Vitamode, Goodr Running Sunglasses . Exactly what and how it will be distributed is yet to be determined in detail.

4. Borneo has an equatorial climate. What’s temperature expected during race day and night?

RD: This is obviously dependent on the day, but generally, we would expect temperatures (degrees Celcius) in the 20s at the start, rising to early 30s mid-day and early afternoon with high humidity, and then potentially dropping if there is a rain-shower. During the night and at elevation, it can get cool with temperatures around or below 15 degrees. We do not normally have prolonged rain during the night, but at the higher elevation (1500m+), you may be in mist and clouds, which can make it chilly.

5. So, what is the racecourse expectation?

From what I gather, despite the stunning view of Mount Kinabalu this race is equally claimed by runners to have thrown exciting, thrilling and unforgettable experience –  from running pass jungle track, road, trail and the cultivated land of rice field, pineapple, rubber plantations,  and cabbage farm to multiple river crossings. It meant overcoming countless hurdles, challenges, stumbling blocks or whatever it may come on the race day which is why we keep returning to this kind of tough race. 

Picture credit: Borneo Ultra. Pineapple plantation ridges and tropical rainforest

I recommend looking at the previous race reports (listed below under Further Readings) to give more insight. Wear gripping and sturdy shoes to tackle the rocky, rooty, or muddy as you traverse the ongoing steep climb and descent. And worth donning the gaiter and mosy guard to ward off any unwanted leeches (commonly spotted along grassy area before Waterstation 3!) but don’t let this little creature spoil your race day.

TMBT Profiles & Data

Race Categories (km)Start Location/TimeFinish LocationITRA PointsElevation Gain (m)Cut-Off Time (hr)2017 Male Winner (hr)2017 Female Winner (hr)
50LingkubangPekan Nabalu32700165:529:00
30LingkubangPekan Nabalu22010104:485:29
12LingkubangTambatuannot applicable61051:192:16
7.5PerkasaPerkasanot applicable3005not applicablenot applicable
Source: TMBT Website

  According to the race director and what is published on the website, you can expect the race course to be as below:

  • The 100 km course follows a combination of trails and gravel and sealed roads to reach the half-way point at the Mount Kinabalu Heritage Resort and Spa (formerly Perkasa) on the top of a hill overlooking Kundasang. Note: that this half-way point is also the finishing line for 100km.
  • The trails on the first half of the 100 km (and on the 50 km and 30 km) in particular include very technical sections on small trails that are normally just cut by the local farmers and hunters to get access to. For instance the pineapple plantations on the steep ridges. In wet conditions, these can get muddy and slippery, The (in)famous pineapple ridge is a continuous climb on a small trail up along a ridge that culminates along a steep ridge with pineapples on both sides, and the steep rock faces of Mt. Kinabalu only a short distance away.
  •  The routes cross numerous streams with refreshing water on a hot day, while most larger rivers are crossed via hanging, bamboo or log bridges. In the first half, one main river which is the largest river crossing on the entire course does not have a bridge. Therefore,  a rope and safety personnel will be on hand to guide the crossing, which may involve anything from ankle to thigh deep water, depending on weather conditions leading up to and during the race. 
Picture credit: Borneo Ultra. Magnificent view and plenty of river crossings
  • The second part of the 100 km course brings competitors via a combination of trails and rough roads up to the vegetable farming areas at Mesilau. The “vegetable patch”, infamous for potential muddy and slippery trails and tracks, leads to the highest point of the course up (1750m+) close to the eastern ridge of Mt. Kinabalu. From there, a long gradual descent over a combination of dirt tracks, sealed road and trails lead to the last river crossing before the last 700m climb to the finish line back at Mount Kinabalu Heritage Resort and Spa.
  • There may still be minor changes to the course as there is always a bit of optimization every year as some trails may disappear (such as due to landslide) and we have to find alternatives. We are for instance looking for alternatives to the short bus transfer on the 100 km course (with the race time stopped thankfully) but it may not be possible to find a viable alternative. So for all intents and purposes, the above mentioned are the courses at this stage. 

Travel & More Adventures

Of course, Sabah is a special place on the travel map for is unique culture (32 ethnicities), rainforest, ocean, and wildlife. I surely would love to celebrate all the hard work of training by rewarding for a few days off exploring one of the most the beautiful part of  Asia. Generally, September still considered being a  good time to visit Sabah before the rainy season kicks in. Some suggestions for activities as below for all kind of budgets (from 5 stars to backpacking) and depending on how long your stay is:

Finding your orangutan  adventure in Sabah
  • Kundasang (finish line for 100km and about 20km away from 30km & 50km  finish) – close to the Kinabalu Park,  a World Heritage site  – which is not only the starting point for climbing Mount Kinabalu (4,095m) if your legs allow you too but also has shorter trails and walks around the Park. The Poring Hot Springs with sulfur baths for tired legs, a nice hike to a waterfall and a canopy walk is a bit further afield. And if the Rafflesia (world’s biggest flower) blooming during the visit, check it out around Poring area.
  • Sandakan – the gateway to the nature tourism for a visit to The Sepilok orangutan rehabilitation centre, the off-shore Turtle Islands, and the mighty Kinabatangan River. Taking the river cruise you can experience close-up encounters with some of Borneo’s wildlife such as the proboscis monkeys, orangutans, Borneo pygmy elephants, crocodiles, and hornbills. Staying at one of the forest huts or lodges by the riverbank is highly recommend.
  • Island around Semporna – Sipadan Island (hello Baracuda Point!) made world famous by Jacque Cousteau is one of the top dive sites in the world (subject to getting a permit)- but you can also choose nearby  Mabul Island and Kapalai Island which are also renowned for marine life and great snorkelling. Hope on for an hour boat ride to Sibuan or Mantubuan Island for better coral reefs.
  • Danum Valley and Maliau Basin – known as the “Lost World of Borneo”, comprise some of the best places to experience the full magnificence and wonders of the tropical rainforest. 
  • Kota Kinabalu for charming ‘city’ highlights, foodie delights and nearby islands visit. Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park just 20 minutes boat away from downtown made up of 5 islands – Gaya, Sapi, Manukan, Mamutik, and Sulug. Snorkelling and diving can be done here too!
  • Other cities such as Brunei, Kuching or Indonesian part of Borneo. Perhaps add on  Philippine for you itchy feet travellers.
Among many islands which Sabah is famous for

Inspirations & Further Readings

  1. Getting inspiration from TMBT Race report/interview/videos:
  2. More on Sabah:

Have I tempted you to sign up for any Salomon TMBT 2018 distance – 7.5km, 12km, 30km 50km or 100km? Don’t wait too long to register as our inside source said that official registrations to close by around 1st July 2018.  Due to its popularity, the organiser is expecting to reach the maximum capacity of the race course and have to limit the number of competitors. 

Register now at Borneo Ultra TMBT website. More info on logistics and transportation on the website too. Do check out the Facebook page here for Social Media love.

 If you’ve been at TMBT event before, any other tips you can share?

Picture credit: Borneo Ultra. Have you got what it takes?

3 months to go,  so training starts now –  see you at the start line!













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