The 5th Penang Eco 100 in Bukit Mertajam once again caused quite a bit of drama in its two longest distance races that are labeled as the Malaysia SuperTrail in our Championship series. The very long flattish beginning and the very technical ending combined with heat, humid air and occasional downpours create a mixture that makes this race exciting to follow and quite special indeed. While the male winners on the 100 miles and the 100 km were probably not a big surprise, John Ellis and Alessandro Sherpa ran it in great style and most of all in a great finishing time!
T8 Ace John Ellis only required an incredible 22h 18 for the 170k course in hot and humid conditions for most of the second part! It was certainly one of the best and even aggressive runs of his trail career, proving every bit of the pre-race rumours about his training volume for this race. From the beginning, Ellis was amongst the top contenders and kept a close eye on Hong Kong’s Law Kai Pong, who took the lead early on with great speed and confidence. However, he never got more than 20 minutes. Mizukoshi, Kitamura, Ellis and at first also Sai Kit Cheng. Law Kai Pong began to feel the efforts and by km 100 he got reeled in by Ellis, Mizukoshi and Kitamura. They crossed the 100k barrier in just over 10 hours! Someone was going to pay the price for that. Hisashi Kitamura had never finished a 100 miler before and was first to let go. The ATM Championship leader admitted the pace was too fast for him and he began to focus on “just finishing”. Law Kai Pong began to suffer from stomach cramps, and dropped back. Mizukoshi resisted but Ellis just was in a class of his own. At the km 116 checkpoint, it was already clear that Ellis had the race under control (see video on facebook). Tomohiro settled for a superb second place, which is a great achievement after his ankle issues in the beginning of the season. The Tokyo runner got really fit again just at the right time! Law Koi Pang, unfortunately, did not make it to the finish. His digestive system a total mess, he had no chance to complete the final 35 kilometers. As such, Kitamura inherited third place, and that’s a great result for him in the context of the ATM Championship. While John Ellis takes over as points leader, the gap is just 75 points. For Ellis it was the second ATM race victory of the season after Dalat Ultra Trail, and he also beat the Penang Eco 100 course record set by Law Chor Kin last year by an incredible 4 hours, although even Tomohiro Mizukoshi said that this year’s course modifications made it even tougher. Ellis has cleared the important five-race-barrier for the ATM Championship and will now be taking a welcome break before returning to action in October. By being in the lead, he can see what the others championship contenders are doing before he plans his next move. In any case, his points total of 2475 is most likely not enough for the championship win at the end of the year. Alessandro Sherpa won it last year with 2600.
The women’s 100 miles race developed into a thriller at the end. Hong Kong-based French ultra runner Habiba Benahmed led the race for no fewer than 156 kilometres. Yet, Adelinah Lintanga from Sabah had a fantastic day and was able to keep up even on the flattish 110 kilometres. Lintanga is a Grandmaster and a known mountain goat, but her speed on the flat surprised many. She was never more than 25 minutes behind and stayed focused throughout. Going into the technical hilly jungle sections, Lintanga crept closer and closer to a fading Benahmed. Meanwhile, another Malaysian, Siokhar Lim proved to have recovered well from the Moon 100 in Thailand and also kept her chances for victory as technical trail suits her well. And then there suddenly was Hong Kong’s Macy Li, too. Li had started out slowly and didn’t really feature at the top of the leaderboard until passed 116 km when she took a shortcut - unwillingly - and ended up leading. Thanks to the excellent service by Dot Track Asia, the race director could intervene immediately and Li was told to return to the section where she went off course, similar to the situation with Sri Wahyuni a week ago in Thailand. However, while Wahyuni refused to go back, Li did… and then began a ferocious chase! Behamed had hurt her hip around the halfway mark and gradually became a bird for the cat named Narna. At km 156, the popular Sabahan runner from Team Malatra caught her and left her. Lintanga on the way to the biggest race win of her career. But then… the Macy Li dot on the map began to move ever quicker and with about 12km to go, the Hong Konger passed both Siokhar Lim and Habiba Benahmed and had 20 minutes to make up on Lintanga at the last checkpoint with 7km to go. For sure, Lintanga would not immediately know someone was chasing her down. And Macy Li was: the gap continued to narrow down. With just under 3k to go, the map interface from DTA showed that the difference in distance between the two was just 600 metres, coming down from over 1 km at the last CP. Eventually, Adelinah Lintanga was so fired up by emotions that - luckily for her - she kept on running herself whenever possible. And so she kept Macy Li at bay. Lintanga won the 100km of this race in 2016 and finished 4th in the 100 miles 2017. Now she wins it against two established Hong Kong race winners and Siokhar Lim. A great leap forward in performance, especially on this type of trail event. Afterwards, Adelinah explained how she had prepared for this 100 miles basically since new year. Well, dedicated training certainly paid off for her!
On the 100 km we witnessed the first ATM race victory of the season for Alessandro Sherpa in 14h 53 (approx). A relatively easy win, as he led from start to finish. Kwok Lun Ng from Hong Kong was second in a great effort as well. Alex Ang from Singapore took third, one week after doing Moon 100.
Lo Chin Ling - another Hong Konger - was third overall and first female. A fantastic ATM debut for the energetic young woman. Malaysia’s Faherina Mohd Esa was an impressive second. Esa has returned to form after being plagued by a hand injury last year. Sarah Pemberton claimed third place ahead of Izzah Hazirah.