Penang Eco 100 - Top-notch field in Malaysia SuperTrail
The Malaysia SuperTrail in the 2018 Asia Trail Master Championship series promises to be another cracker this weekend as a long list of excellent trail runners from all over the region are lining up in Bukit Mertajam for the Penang Eco 100. An event with a very specific course, be it the 100 miles or the 100k (the two race distances that matter for the championship, and remember both are A-races also). Last year’s edition was full of last-minute drama with changing leads and positions in the final kilometres of what has become known as a very treacherous race.
Looking first at the 100 miles, which starts at 4 a.m. on Saturday, we see Asia Trail Master champion Steven Ong making his second appearance of the season. Ong has been busy setting up his own running shop in Kuala Lumpur and keeping a low profile after his 13th placing in the -for him- too short Tahura Trail in Indonesia back in January. However, a lot of people will bet on him to win this weekend. Ong is famous for his racing intelligence and the longer a race lasts, the better it is for him. Moreover, Ong knows the Penang course: he won the 100k here last season and with hindsight already laid the foundation for his championship win in this race. This being a SuperTrail, the competition of course will be severe. Sota Ogawa is a Japanese professional runner who is making his debut in the ATM Championship after winning a Candidate Race in his own country last autumn. Ogawa is highly motivated and left nothing to chance in his preparation for Penang Eco. The big question to be answered this weekend is: how well can he handle the Malaysian heat and humidity? Another Japanese runner seemingly has few issues with the climate looking back at his great 4th place in Sungai Menyala Forest Trail last month: Tomohiro Mizukoshi . Ranked 16th in the current ATM Championship, Mizukoshi was 8th in Korea 50K a few weeks ago as well. He came to the foreground in our series last December, when he finished 18th in the Izu Trail Journey, a performance that underlines his potential perhaps the most given Izu is almost like a national championship race in Japan. All abovementioned races are short to medium distance trails, how well will Mizukoshi fare on the 100 miles?
The Malaysians have another iron in the fire for the longest race this weekend. Milton Amat from Sabah is ready to tackle his second SuperTrail race of the season after finising the Hong Kong’s 9 Dragons in 4th place. Another great result can put Amat into the championship picture. He is the winner of Borneo TMBT 100 last year and that race is back in ATM this year on 1/2 September. With also the Magnificent Merapoh Trail still on the programme in Malaysia in August, Amat can in theory claim the spotlights for sure.
Finally, also the Philippines is well-represented with Davao’s Rexell Aguirre and also Manila’s Wilnar Iglesia - 3rd in the current ATM Championship ranking - coming back for the 100 miles as well, after finishing second to Steven Ong in last year’s 100k race here. If Wilnar scores 400 points (= 11th place on the 100 miles) he will match the points tally of ATM leader Pablo Diago Gonzales. But the Singapore-based Spaniard will be active on the 100K this weekend, too. Remains to be seen, however, how fast he has recovered from. what has been a very busy late spring campaign with the gruelling Mt Apo Sky Race and last week’s hot and fast Tengri Ultra Trail in the legs. Another Asia-based European is Alessandro Sherpa. When there’s a race, Sherpa is there. But the Italian is still suffering from his ankle injury sustained in UTKC in February so 100 miles might be a mountain of a task this weekend.
A number of women are also competing on the 100 miles with one big favourite: Australia’s Joanna Kruk. Flying in again from Adelaide, Kruk loves to race in South East Asia and has built up quite a record in doing so: winner of Thailand’s UT Chiang Rai and UT Panoramic and winner of Borneo TMBT 100 back in 2015 as well. Kruk is both blisteringly fast and tough. A former boxer and now police officer, Kruk may even put some of the top men under pressure again like she managed in UT Chiang Rai and Panoramic last December, when she finished in 3rd overall. Not being based in Asia, it is difficult for Kruk to challenge for the ATM Championship and score points in five races. But she is certainly making a name for herself here in the region. While Kruk seems to be the top favourite for the win, Grandmaster Lily Suryani - who claimed 3rd place here last year - and Vietnam’s Vy Le Phuong could flank her on the podium.
The 100k in Penang is also an A-race, meaning all finishers score 150 finisher points on top of their performance points as well. The only difference is they do not get the 50 bonus points for finishing 100 miles. Hence, a lot of top regional runners are competing on this distance, too. Highly anticipated is the participation of Hong Kong-based Australian John Ellis. Winner of the 9 Dragons Ultra and plenty of other races in Hong Kong, Ellis is thinking about challenging for the ATM Championship and push his own boundaries. Known for running bare-chested, the Australian has little experience running in South East Asia, and just like with many Japanese runners that is an open question to be answered this weekend. Ellis will definitely face pressure from many other runners. Let’s begin with Malaysia’s Mohamed Affindi. A man who burst onto the scene in the middle of last season. Affindi has scored one 2nd place after the other - also this year in Brunei and Sungai Menyala - but still waiting for his maiden victory in ATM. Can it happen in Penang? Looking at the course profile and Affindi’s characteristics as a trail runner, most definitely yes. David Gianelli is another Italian who is back on the ATM circuit and with ambition. Gianelli won the Mt Apo Sky Race three weeks ago and will aim for nothing less in Penang.
The women’s 100K race seems quite open although Vietnam-based Marieke Dekkers, training partner of Kim Matthews, could be the benchmark. Dekkers won the Dalat Ultra Trail in March and a second strong result this weekend can put her among the top performers in the ATM Championship.
The event has a new participation record with close to 1000 participants spread over four race distances.
We will be reporting live from the field in Penang all weekend during our usual social media channels.