Penang Eco 100 - Quality field for Malaysia SuperTrail
The second SuperTrail race of the 2017 Asia Trail Master Championship series is taking place this weekend in Malaysia. The 3rd edition of Penang Eco 100 in Bukit Mertajam is the biggest so far and can sport an outstanding quality field of participants on the 100 miles and 100k races. As such, this event can again have major implications for the championship, as it did last year when Manolito Divina and Tahira Najmunisaa laid the foundation here for their respective ATM champion titles. Organiser Seow Kong Ng, himself a relished ultra runner since many years, is delighted to see his event grow so well and attracting some of the best runners in Asia. Because make no mistake, despite the relatively modest elevation gain, Penang Eco is a hard one with most of the venom in the tail. The 100 miles, especially, is basically flattish for 100k (!), before it becomes quite hilly and technical for the last 60 km, which makes this race quite unique. You need to be a solid runner, and keep enough fuel in the tank to survive the hills at the end.
When looking at the start list of the longest race distance, the podium favourites are plenty, but a few known names stick out: current ATM championship points leader Arief Wismoyono, his Indonesian compatriots Abdul Aziz Dermawan, Hendra Siswanto and Alan Maulana, Yim Heng Fatt from Malaysia, and Hong Kong's Isaac Yuen Wan Ho. We can expect an intriguing battle between these runners for the 575 points that are up for grabs in this 100 miles race, more points than in any other race on the ATM calendar. Wismoyono has prepared himself with focus on this weekend. The Bandung Explorer ace already scored a race win at Coast To Coast Night Trail this season, along with a third place in Sungai Menyala and fourth in Tahura Trail. However, these were all relatively short races. Can he keep his momentum over 100 miles in the same way that Isaac Yuen Wan Ho has proven he can. The sympathetic Hong Kong runner is a true 100 miler, winning HK 168 last year and always moving up the leaderboard the longer a race lasts. Isaac was second in Beach Bunch Trail Challenge 100 this season, and just like Wismoyono has ambition for the ATM championship. Also Hendra Siswanto is already doing his third race of the ATM season. Currently ranked 9th in the championship, he can move up a few places this weekend. Ultron runner Yim Heng Fatt is even entering his fourth race already and can find himself in second place in the ranking after Penang Eco, or even in first should Wismoyono fail to reach the finish. Maulana - 9th in Tahura Trail - and Aziz Dermawan are set to get their ATM campaign really going this weekend. Watch out for the latter - as he might as well steal the spotlights away from the others! Henry Yang from Singapore is another dark horse. Yang is in Penang to get revenge. He was running in second place last year, until a fall in the late stages of the race forced him to retire with an injury.
The women's 100 miles also sees the participation of 6 runners, who should all be applauded for their bravery. The cut off time of 40 hours is very tight, as was proven last year by Tahira Najmunisaa, who finished in 38 hours. We can expect a contest between Ruth Theresia from Indonesia and Sabah's Adelinah Lintanga. Theresia normally has the edge in terms of speed, but Lintanga loves this race and won the Penang Eco 100 k race last year in impressive style. It is unchartered territory for both, as it will be their first 100 miler. Currently ranked third and seventh, both runners can make a good move in the women's championship ranking, but they cannot catch championship leader Cheryl Bihag, who has already done five races this season. The other starters are Lily Suryani, Mila Marlina, Christine Loh and Siti Hailwa Marjunit.
The 100 km race distance also has a comprehensive list of potential winners and podium candidates. Steven Soonseng Ong is arguably the home favourite and very much in shape this season. Ranked fifth in the current ATM ranking, Ong was of course the joint winner of UTKC in Thailand and second at Sungai Menyala. At Penang Eco, he will have to try and cope with the pure running speed of Brunei's Sefli Ahar, the dominator of the Beach Bunch Trail Challenge in the past two years. A former winner of the Hong Kong half marathon, Sefli Ahar has developed an appetite for trail running. What he owns in speed, he lacks in technical trail experience. And that is what Steven Ong and other contenders may need to count on this weekend.
It is great to see Eni Rosita back in action this year and that is an understatement. Victim of an incomprehensible acid attack last October that required multiple skin surgeries on both her legs, the Indonesian runner has not only returned, she has already found back her quick pace of before, illustrated by podium places and victories in local trail and ultra road races. This weekend in Malaysia, she enters the Asia Trail Master series on the 100k. Given her pedigree, Rosita starts clearly as a podium candidate, and will likely have to deal with her compatriot Shindy Patricia and Australia's Kim Matthews for the victory. Both runners also know how to win races. Other known runners with podium chances are Siawhua Lim (MAS), Montha Sunthornwit (THA) and Jocelyn Cheung (HKG).
While the 100 miles offers extra bonus points for finishers, you of course need to finish first to score any points. The 100k may therefore turn out to be a smart tactical move by some with a view to the ATM championship.
As usual, we will be reporting live from the race via our social media channels.