The Grandmaster Quest

The Asia Trail Master – Grandmaster Quest is a challenge for trail runners to complete six different Asia Trail Master certified races of 100km and above within a period of two years. Runners who complete the Grandmaster Quest receive a place in the Asia Trail Master Hall of Fame, a specially designed Grandmaster Shield and other benefits.

The ATM Grandmaster has been my goal, so I am absolutely delighted to have accomplished it. It has been a very enriching and rewarding adventure, not just from the races but also the time spent training alone and with like minded (read: crazy) friends. 

The following are the six races completed in the last 15 months:
1. Cameron Ultra (100km): 16-17 Jul 2022
2. BUFF Epic Ultimate Trails of Penang (100km): 8-9 Oct 2022
3. The North Face Malaysia Mountain Trail Festival (100km): 24-27 Nov 2022
4. La Sportiva Ultimate Trails of Penang Eco (100km): 18-20 Aug 2023
5. TMBT Ultra Trail Marathon (109km): 2-3 Sep 2023
6. Ultra-Trail Chiang Rai UTCR (115km): 21-22 Oct 2023

The Asia Trail Master (ATM) is an annual trail running championship series in Asia. It features around 30 points races in 15 countries, with distances ranging from 50km to 160km. The ATM is designed to showcase the best of Asian trail running, and to provide a platform for runners of all levels to compete and challenge themselves.

Honored to receive the Grandmaster Shield (on the cap) personally from Kris Van de Velde, the founder of Asia Trail Master, at the finish of my Ultra-Trail Chiang Rai UTCR race.

Why the Grandmaster Quest?

If I were to ask you to name the most important tool of the trade that a person would use in his or her work, you would say the hammer for a carpenter, stethoscope for a doctor and whistle for a referee.

Now, how about when it comes to the work of living (or life)? For that, one of the most indispensable tool available to us all is discipline. I am a believer that without discipline we cannot live a productive and satisfying life. It is our greatest asset when it comes to achieving our goals. 

But in order to develop and sharpen this tool of discipline, we need to understand how it works so that we can apply it more effectively in our lives. 

Aim Big

The first element of discipline is the establishment of a high goal. Without a challenging goal, there won’t be a need to develop discipline. Why pay the price if it is not necessary? There is no need to bother with discipline if we are satisfied with just a passable life. 

But if we dream of fulfilling our highest potential and aspire to be more than what we currently are, then we need discipline. Every accomplished athlete, musician, writer, entrepreneur, lawyer, doctor, and you name it, has cultivated and harnessed the power of discipline. Those people could not have achieved at the highest level without it. 

There is nothing arrogant or presumptuous about dreaming big and achieving it. My work in this blog is about encouraging all to aspire to be more and fulfill all the potential that has been entrusted to us. 

This is the reason why after I have completed my first 100km trail ultra, I continue to run and work towards a bigger goal of achieving the Asia Trail Master’s Grandmaster Quest. I realised that the establishment of loftier goals actually trains and sharpen my tool of discipline.    

Delay Gratification

The core of discipline is paying the price now and delay the gratification. Delayed gratification is nothing more than arranging the pains and pleasures of life in such a way that we face the pain first so that we secure and improve the rewards of our sacrifice. 

Let’s face it. It is very difficult to deny ourselves now for the sake of a later reward. The truth is discipline is any form is painful. Otherwise everyone would excel in their studies, be successful in their business and walk around with a healthy, lean and muscular body.     

Consider how delayed gratification can play an essential role in the area of our physical fitness. It is not easy to exercise or run even three miles every day, what more to train for an ultra. I struggled almost every day, to force myself up in the morning, to put on my shoes and to log in the miles. Truth be told, I don’t feel like training and I don’t feel like doing it. I rather sleep longer, watch a movie, or just do anything else that is easy. 

But every time after I have completed a training session or race, I felt a sense of accomplishment. It is always rewarding after paying the price of working the body hard and sweating it out. My body is energised and my mind is clearer. I have more energy and I feel better as a whole. My quest for the Grandmaster title has helped me to stay discipline with my physical health. 

Decide Now

Deciding now is about thinking ahead for success. It is about carrying out the cost-benefit analysis in advance, compare the choices, weigh the alternatives and make the decision now. 

Why decide now? Because if we were to give ourselves option and leave it to a later or last minute decision, we will surely choose the easy way out. Let me give you a simple example. You know that you can benefit from a run early tomorrow morning but you choose not to decide now. You say to yourself you will decide tomorrow morning when you wake up. What do you think will happen? Yes, the run will not happen. 

This is why deciding now is such an important component of discipline. What we need is to know what we want and then follow up quickly with a decision to take actions. Discipline is about making the decision and committing towards what is necessary to get it done. 

Building physical fitness is tough and requires a lot of discipline. That was why I decided in advance by signing up for demanding trail races which scared me into committing towards serious training. The advance decision set me on the path of learning and training to run and complete the races safely and successfully. 

The principle of advance decision-making can offer huge rewards if we practice it in our daily lives. The question is whether we want to make the decision and hold ourselves accountable or not. 

So this is my take on the remarkable tool called discipline with its three components of aiming big, delaying gratification and deciding now. Focus on these three components and we can sharpen the tool of discipline in our lives. Why leave it rusting in the bottom of our tool boxes? Put it into good use and see the power of discipline transform our lives. The choice is ours. 



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