This annual Ezfun trail race is held at the Wenhu Elementary school, conveniently located just 7 minutes from the Jiannan MRT station. This makes it easily accessible from many parts of the city on race day. There are both 11km and 20km distances, with the 20km being relatively grueling. The longer course heads northeast, just touching the southern tip of the YangMingShan National Park, before looping back to the start through the Bishan Temple area. It boasts a whopping 30% (of total trail) being stairs. 20% road and 50% mixed trail, over 3 major climbs throughout the course.
The 2016 event was held on May 15th and while the weather can be varied in May, this year it was unseasonably warm. As we lined up for the 7am start the sun was already shining brightly, preparing us for the warm run ahead. The first 1.5km is uphill road running, sufficiently long that the runners who sprint for the trail quickly tire, leaving the more endurance-minded athletes at the back of the pack. Luckily the introduction to trail is a small section of narrow uphill trail and by kilometer 3 you are on the road again, passing runners and preparing already for the 2nd climb.
Kilometers 4 to 6 have some really nice secluded trail at the back of the Neihu hills, though you might barely notice as you struggle with the longest climb of the course. Reaching kilometer 6 allows a small reprieve from climbing at the second aid station close to Dalun Lake (大崙湖), but after stopping for a drink you’ll continue with another 4km of climbing to the highest peak, at 507m. This is also where the 3rd water station is. At this point you are halfway done, and although it’s easy to feel elated at the thought of downhills and easy running, there is still one big hill ahead.
Along the ridge the trail is mixed between stones, mud and dirt. The terrain here is technical but if you have a chance to look up you can see some great views of the city, as you pass by Kaiyan Mt (開眼山). After previously gaining a lot of elevation throughout the course you can expect a steep descent around kilometer 11.5. Hopefully by this time the field has spread out and you won’t be caught in a line of people waiting for their chance to use the ropes. Use caution this part is steep!
Reaching the bottom of the hill, at 12.5km, you are set to encounter the last hill. Be warned, although it doesn’t look daunting on the elevation chart and the thought of the finish is sweet, this series of 3 hills can seem like a massive wall of stairs. First you will encounter Carp Mt.(鯉魚山), if needed, peer at the concrete miniature replications of sites around Taiwan to distract you from the endless stairs. Reaching the summit of this tiny mountain, there is a brief downhill to your 4th water station. After that more stairs leading up to the Bishan Temple (碧山) and later to Zhongyang Mt. (中央山)(km 16) before you finally start descending to the finish line.
This last descent is swift but make sure you’ve saved some energy because the majority is on a slippery stone path, which can be taxing on your legs if you want to stay upright. Finally you are back on the road with only a kilometer left, weaving through the buildings and back to the school where you started. On a hot summer day this small road section can seem endless.
The organization for this race was outstanding. There were many volunteers at various points through out the race, both to direct people in the right direction and to cheer them on. Lots of clear marking made it difficult to get lost. The venue for the event was large, allowing for people to find shade after the race. On offer were sushi rolls, both with meat and a vegetarian option. The major sponsor was Metroasis, giving out hydration bags to the top 3 finishers for men and women. The only drawback was that the weather was unfortunately very hot, with some sections of course not offering any reprieve from the sun, if it were held just a few weeks earlier this weather could have been avoided.
You can download the GPX here.