Merapoh is about 220km from Kuala Lumpur (via Bentong and Raub) and is in Pahang – or 26km south of Gua Musang, Kelantan. It’s next to Sungai Relau, which is known as the “second entrance” to the Taman Negara national park.

For hikers, Merapoh offers the shortest route to Gunung Tahan, the highest mountain in Peninsular Malaysia.

The Merapoh Forest Run 2015 on Oct 31 was held in Taman Negara to promote Sungai Relau and Merapoh as a unique and amazing eco-tourism destination.

There is a 15km bitumen road from the park entrance to the Kelah Fish Sanctuary. This was the route for the 26km and 15km runs.

Merapoh village is a place where pristine rivers, unspoiled jungles and over 200 limestone caves sustain bountiful flora and fauna in the heartland of Peninsular Malaysia.

The night before race day, the runners were accommodated in nearby home-stays and school hostels. There was also a campsite for those who wanted to sleep in tents under the stars.

At the start of the race, the air surrounding the dense jungle vegetation was fresh and cooling. As we ran, we could hear the cacophony of sounds made by unseen monkeys, birds and insects.

A runner tired out after climbing one of the many slopes along the route.

A runner tired out after climbing one of the many slopes along the route.

A water station was provided every 2.5km, and there was a medic stationed every 500m. The tough route was one endless series of long, steep uphill and downhill slopes.

There were certain uphill portions which were so steep that even walking up seemed impossible without stopping for a breather.

Similarly, certain downhill sectors were so steep that it was not safe to run because the momentum would take you so fast down that you would not be able to stop without falling over.

At such times, I truly admired the power of the small group of elite runners who could bound effortlessly up and down the same route.

Watching the professional runners in full flight gave me the needed inspiration to keep going even though my legs were aching badly.

Sure enough, there were many runners who suffered severe leg cramps along the way, and some had to be given a ride back prematurely to the starting line in a pick-up truck.

Medals and certificates were presented to us after crossing the finishing line. However, what I will cherish most from this Merapoh trip was the chance to reconnect with Mother Nature.

This is an extract of the article which appeared in the print edition of Star2 on Nov 7 2015, with the headline ‘Taman Negara run’. Gus Ghani is a freelance HIIT Fitness Coach and a Compres-sport Brand Ambassador. You can follow him on Instagram #GusGhani.