Competition is getting hotter as new winners rise through the ranks of the 2016 Asia Trail Master championship in the recent Malaysia Eco 100 race. Held in Bukit Mertajam near Penang, the 100 miles (161 km) ultramarathon is one out of five annual SuperTrail events which award finishers 50 bonus points.
Marked with extreme heat, humidity and rainfall—even for tropical Malaysia’s standards, the gruelling competition pushed several athletes to the limit. And like all good races, exciting results ensued and new heroes and heroines outshone the rest.
Who’s in The Lead?
The Philippines’ Manolito Divina was a true class of his own. Quickly leaving other established runners like Jan Nilsen far behind, Divina claimed the SuperTrail race victory in just under 30 hours! With an incredible time of 29:47:08, the victor was in fact, more than four hours ahead from the next finisher.
After his joint-second place with Jan Nilsen at UTHK earlier this year, Divina is now the new points leader in the 2016 Asia Trail Master championship. With 1050 points, he’s ahead of Hong Kong’s Isaac Yuen Wan Ho (900 points) and China’s Xu Xiutao (800 points).
Over in the women’s ranking, a clear winner emerged from the tropical rainforest. In fact, Malaysian Tahira Najmunisaa was the only woman to finish the SuperTrail race!
With a competitive time of 37:17:49, she finished 5th overall. Her second victory of the season, this is also her third ATM race title of her still young career.
After winning Brunei’s Beach Bunch Trail Challenge, Tahira also climbed up the Asia Trail Master championship rankings with 1050 points under her belt. She is followed by Hong Kong’s Yuen Kit Shan and China’s Ma Yanxing, both with 550 points.
Who’s the Very First Grandmaster?
The Malaysia Eco 100 race also marked another monumental achievement: Aleksis Capili, who’s from the Philippines and currently residing in Thailand, became the first ever athlete to complete the Asia Trail Grandmaster Quest. That is, finishing six races of 70 km or more within two calendar years.
And wow, did he complete his Quest in style. Earning second place in the 100 miles race, Capili finished with a commendable 34:41:14 time, his best Asia Trail Master race result to date.
Starting with Borneo TMBT last August, the avid triathlete has since consistently conquered six ultras in less than a year. His track record includes the Vietnam Mountain Marathon, CM 50 in Philippines, Bromo Tengger Semeru Ultra in Indonesia, UTHK in Hong Kong, and finally, the Malaysia Eco 100.
As a Grandmaster, Capili has earned an esteemed badge of honour—the Grandmaster shield with one star. Besides having the first honour of entering the Asia Trail Master Hall of Fame, he will also receive a host of other prizes.
Now that Capili has reached the all-important first level, he can continue adding stars at his own leisure without time pressure. He would earn a second star after completing another four ultra-distances.
What Happened in This Neck and Neck Race?
Capili is a superb example of the tough ultra-runner who somehow always makes his way to the finish. Although he’s not the fastest, his resilience, stamina and body have not let him down when others, on occasion, take a fall or get injured.
Jan Nilsen, for instance, is a protagonist wherever he starts, and has also been in excellent form lately. Unfortunately, he is blister-prone. After 100 km and with a quasi-guaranteed podium place in sight, the Norwegian runner had to retire from the race, just like he was forced to in the Bromo race last November. Nilsen was disappointed, but his feet tend to recover quickly and he’ll be back as a strong competitor again soon.
At this point, Divina was already two hours ahead by himself and Singapore’s Henry Yang became his closest chaser. Unfortunately, the latter hurt himself when he slipped on a wet rock at night. After receiving medical care at the next refreshment station, Yang gave another go at trying to finish the race, but to no avail. And so Capili moved up to second place.
Meanwhile, Malaysia’s own Abdul Rahman – Tahira Najmunisaa’s husband – suddenly had a podium finish in his grasp in his debut ultra-distance race. Rahman, a navy seal, ran with his wife for most of the race, but later went ahead to secure third place with a remarkable time of 36:08:04.
The next runner to cross the finish line was compatriot Thean Sin Bong (37:16:35), who was slightly ahead of Tahira (37:17:49).
Only eight runners in the 100 miles SuperTrail race reached the finish out of more than 40 participants. So watch out for these Malaysian SuperTrail finishers in future races too: Kian Philip Yong Yeo (38:34:17), Meng Piow Low (38:49:26), and Chin Tat Lim (39:16:24).
Malaysia Eco 100 did not have excessive number of elevations (approximately 4500 hm). Nevertheless, it proved to be an arduous physical and mental feat.
The DNF (Did Not Finish) quota on the 100 km race distance was also very high with just 24 finishers out of roughly one hundred. Despite of the unforgiving race conditions, Malaysian runners Alan Toh and Adelinah Lintanga emerged as the first male and female runners in the 100 km race.
The next points scoring race in Malaysia for the 2016 Asia Trail Master championships will be the Magnificent Merapoh Trail at the end of July.
Have these dedicated runners and their experiences inspired you to give trail running and ultras a shot? Stay tuned for the next race report!