One week after conquering the Army Half Marathon 2014 in the Marina Bay area, I was in Penang to mount another challenge – the inaugural Penang 100 Ultramarathon. The Penang 100 is the first ultramarathon in Penang, and comprises 3 categories of 50km, 84km and 100km. I was registered in the 84km Round Island challenge. This would be my second ultramarathon race this year after my adventure in Trans Lantau 2014 back in March.
The 100km Challenge and 84km Round Island course started and finished in Esplanade, Padang Kota Lama and went through the Unesco World Heritage Site Georgetown. The route also passed by the Penang Bridge and the newly built Penang Second Bridge. The terrain and route of Penang is foreign to me even though this was the second time I was running in Penang, after the Penang Bridge International Marathon 2012.
The race started on a humid Saturday night at 9pm on 6th September, Chief Minister of Penang, Lim Guan Eng, flagged the race off. Once the starter horn sounded, about 400 of us trudged past the Penang Town Hall, ran past Fort Cornwallis, dodging Saturday night traffic meandering along the jetty road, and ran in the direction of Bayan Lepas. Mobile traffic police officers were on the ground manning traffic junctions to stop traffic flow and let runners ran on uninterrupted.
The first water point at 12km mark (opposite QueensBay Mall), and checkpoint 2 at 25km mark (industrial estate near airport) were reached pretty uneventfully as I maintain a comfortable pace of 7.30min/km. At both checkpoints, I downed an ice cold bottle of Revive isotonic drink and continued on.
The next leg of the journey were met with resistance as we tried to overcome a 3km long incline. We ran on an elevated highway, reaching 130m at its highest point at 33km, before descending all the way till 37km mark where checkpoint 3 was located in a school compound. Many runners including myself walked the uphill section, and ran the downhill to recover much time lost.
The route from checkpoint 3 to checkpoint 4 was a long flat stretch of road, passing by many plantations and various Malay kampungs. It was a pity it was the middle of the night, and the residents were fast asleep by then. At this point, I was feeling tired and sleepy, I was counting lamp posts and willing myself to put one foot in front of the other. Was I glad when checkpoint 4 came into view. It was the 50km mark of the race where we could retrieve our drop-bag. Kudos to the crews and volunteers, the bag retrieval process was fast. I changed my socks and decided not to change shoes and running top as it was not raining. After taking some chicken porridge and replenished my water bottles, I was on my way for the second half of the ultramarathon.
Once we left the compound, the road started on a steady incline over the next 5km on long, dark and winding mountain road and reached its peak of 228m. Similar to the first hill climb, I fast-walked the uphill, and in the darkest of dark nights on the mountain road, I could make out red blinking lights and headlamps of runners in the distant ahead. Then we started the 7km descend until we reached the Telok Bahang Dam, and checkpoint 5 was just after the dam at 62km mark.
At this point I was tired beyond words but giving up never crossed my mind even though there was over 20km left to cover. I guess it was at dark moment like this that the months of toiling, night training and sacrifice stood up to the test. I was feeling hungry but only managed to eat half a bun and downed half a bottle of Revive and I was out pushing for checkpoint 6, which was about 9km away.
This leg of the race was quite a suffer fest as we tackle the undulating coastal road of Batu Ferringghi. I was adopting the walk uphill, and hobbled downhill on this stretch. By now daylight has broken, and vehicular traffic has gradually increased despite it being a Sunday morning. I’ve never been to this part of the island before this race, and was treated to beautiful sea view along the route.
Somehow checkpoint 6 came and went in a blur, and I was hobbling along towards checkpoint 7 at Gurney Drive. With a nice sea breeze blowing and a picturesque view, the checkpoint near the waterfront was a godsend.
The sun was pretty high up by the time I left checkpoint 7, by then my quads were busted and I walked all the 5km to the finishing line at the Esplanade. I finally crossed the finish line in 14h 22m, totally spent but happy that I’ve completed another ultramarathon within the cut-off time.
I want to thank the organisers for a superbly executed event over such a long course. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire journey. I was touched by the friendly and enthusiastic marshals and volunteers who aided and guided us in the various checkpoints. I was very impressed by the challenging route, and the safety team who worked tirelessly roving up and down the route in their bicycles and motorcycles. I promised I will be back in another time to attempt the 100km Ultramarthon challenge!