Fun on the Formosa Trail

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The start of the 75km and 104km race - yes it is 3:55am! photo by 歐欽濱/Beast Runners
If you love the great outdoors but would like to challenge yourself beyond a standard hike then how about doing a trail run? Taiwan has a rapidly growing number of trail runs with distances varying from 10km to 100km to cater to different ages and fitness levels. I ventured into the world of trail running three years ago and found it a fun way to explore new mountains.

Race Organisers

There are various trail run organisers in Taiwan. Among the Taipei-based organisers are, “瘋”啤酒健跑 , “Venture Treks“, “Runivore“, and “Beast Runners” (跑山獸) who all have races in and around Taipei. These organisers have all the information in English for non-Mandarin speakers.

The Formosa Trail

The Formosa Trail, organised by Beast Runners (跑山獸), is one of my favourites and takes place in late November in Puli, Nantou county. The trail starts on the outskirts close to a lake and there are five distances which makes it a great family race. Beginners or those with younger children can do the 8km hike, while teens and those with a little more stamina can take part in the 18km. For the more serious trail runners there is a 40, 75 or 104km to choose from. All of these have generous elevation gains from 2,400 to 5,700m.

The race is organised by Petr Novotny and Eva Lobo, along with a large team of volunteers, so it’s very well organised. Last year was my third year at the race and the weather was glorious with blue skies and sunshine. Luckily that meant the course was dry and the views were spectacular.

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We passed beautiful tea plantations on the trail
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Trail runner

The Trail

My husband completed the 75km loop, while I finally did the 40km one and it lived up to all my expectations. My start time was 5:30am, (hubby left at 4am). I left the village in the dark, but by the time I reached the forest and started my ascent, dawn was breaking. I spent the next hour or so on a relentless ascent up through the trees, on an, at times, almost invisible trail, with only ribbons to follow. Once I reached the top I was rewarded with a glimpse of Puli in the distance before the trees on the ridge top enveloped me again. At some point I descended around 4km to reach the first checkpoint and this was the hardest part for me. While I was descending, the faster runners were already coming back up and I knew that I would have to do the same.

However, close to the checkpoint the trees fell away and I could see ahead for miles with tea plantations decorating the slopes and a seemingly never-ending range of mountains on the horizon. This made it all worthwhile.

The Atmosphere

This is a competition, so the runners (more like flying goats to me!) racing to reach the podium zoomed around the course. However, many people took their time to enjoy the trail, the views and the challenge. There was a camaraderie among the runners who shouted words of encouragement or stopped to help one another.

As there were various distances, the finishers trickled in over many hours which meant there was an ongoing party atmosphere at the finish line. Runners and families stayed on to picnic and celebrate.

Eva Lobo, from the Atayal indigenous people creates a strong bridge with them which you can see in the race merchandise. The race clothing reflects Atayal cultural colours and designs. They also provided delicious food and gave traditional dancing demonstrations. The party went on all night even though the winner of the 104 km finished around 6pm. Many runners didn’t arrive until the early hours of the next morning.

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We made it!
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Let's dance! Formosa Trail runners party at the finish line

Go for it!

It took me almost 9.5 hours to finish the course so I wear my T-shirt with pride! If you love the outdoors and are looking for a new challenge, then put this event on your calendar, take the family or a group of friends and give it a go.

Useful Links

Fun on the Formosa Trail - Featured
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Lucy Torres is a volunteer at The Center but is more often found on a hiking trail. She loves exploring different routes to find beautiful views and relax in the great outdoors.

Race photos by Beast Runners 跑山獸

Photographer 歐欽濱

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