Things are looking up at Sundown Ultramarathon

History was made at the Sundown Ultramarathon on Sunday as a 33-year-old teacher became the fastest Singaporean finisher at the gruelling 100km race. Fuelled by isotonic drinks and will power, Wong Hoong Wei won the event in 9hr 5min 34sec - more than seven minutes quicker than the previous mark set by Ewin Teo (9:12:53) in 2011.

The biennial race also saw an admirable finish from 70-year-old retiree Oliver Ker, the oldest participant this year.

The Malaysian - who ran the 2011 Sundown Marathon in under six hours but could not complete the Ultramarathon that year - almost gave up at the 50km mark but dug deep to come home in 17:43:15. The cut-off time was set at 18 hours.

Said the former bank executive: "I was disappointed with my timing for the marathon two years ago and the fact that I was unable to finish the ultramarathon in the allotted time, especially as I had reached the 86km mark.

"This year, I wanted to get revenge and complete the distance, I am really happy that I was able to do it."

Wong, meanwhile, had gone in with a simple goal: beat the 111/2-hour mark he had set at the 2011 edition. In the end, he did more than just that. Smiling broadly, he said: "The experience has helped a lot. I did not expect to come in first so I feel really surprised. "Now I just want to go home and tell my wife I won!"

More than 2,000 runners took off from the Marina Barrage on Saturday evening. Around 900 attempted the excruciating individual race. The rest competed in two- or four-man relay teams - a new addition this year that allows race enthusiasts to rope in friends and relatives.

Participants ran twice around a 50km loop, stretching from Marina Barrage through East Coast Park, before U-turning at Changi Coastal Road. The Sundown Marathon, featuring the 42km, 21km and 10km races, was held in June.

In the individual women's event, debutant Jenny Huang, 40, took top honours in a time of 10:38:09. The best local finisher was Sumiko Tan (11:54:14).

Catching her breath after the race, Huang, an American physiotherapist, said: "The race was really good, especially the bike pacers who encouraged me during the last 20km.

"What got me through the pain was thinking about my dad who passed away last year and trying to impress my kids with my achievements."

Organisers said the record turnout for the Sundown Ultramarathon, which is returning after a one-year hiatus owing to cost issues, could see it expanded to more places across the region.

Adrian Mok, managing director of organiser HiVelocity, said: "With the increased popularity of distance running in Singapore, we know that by introducing the team categories, more runners can be part of this joyous occasion.

"Also in the pipeline are plans to expand into the international sporting calendar by creating more Sundown Marathon events in the region, giving more runners the chance to experience the charm of running at night."

nsanjay@sph.com.sg


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