Completing 103km of largely uphill running – with an elevation of 8,000m above sea level, is certainly no easy feat, especially if it has to be completed within a time frame of 48 hours.
But early last month, 35-year-old Henry Yang did just that. He participated in the G5N – Gunung 5 Nuang event in Malaysia.
This is an ultra running event in Malaysia that’s organised by two “crazy, evil and heartless” race directors, Jeff Ooi and Shine Teh – as they describe themselves. And runners are required to complete five loops of the highly challenging Mt. Nuang, in order to be declared as an event finisher.
In order to be eligible to participate in the event too, runners must be able to run a sub-4 marathon, as well as completing a 100km ultra with a finishing time in the upper 75% percentile.
Yang was one of five event finishers
For Yang, who works as a property leasing officer, he had completed the event in 36 hours 41 minutes and 49 seconds and this earned him the second spot out of the five finishers. Altogether, 11 runners had started the event but most of them had dropped out along the way – due to the gruelling nature of the run.
Said Yang, “When I realised I was going to complete the event, the feeling is difficult to explain. I was happy that I need not scale the summit again and can finally look forward to a good rest and warm food.”
But Yang also admitted that he felt a sense of loss when he had finished, because while he could relax, some of his fellow runners were still out there suffering on the mountain.
It was his first time taking part in this gruelling ultra
It had been Yang’s first time taking part in this gruelling ultra event. “I had always wanted to challenge myself to conquer Gunung Nuang after reading the amazing reviews from fellow ultra runners and hikers,” he said.
And now he is pleased that he has finally managed to do so successfully.
Environmental and natural setbacks
However, Yang admitted that completing the event was far from easy for him and he faced some environmental setbacks along the trails, which had included heavy rain and slippery rocks – that had threatened to make him tumble straight down the mountain.
Said Yang, “The downhill running is challenging during heavy rain. The trails were flooded with muddy water, as the rainwater flows downhill and accumulates. Most of the time, I would not be able to see beneath the water surface and gauge how deep the pool is. So I had to take a leap of faith and trust my own judgement.”
The slippery rocks and fast water currents were also a prominent problem for Yang at the stream crossings, as he would have to navigate around these in order to keep on moving forward.
As a result of these natural challenges, Yang had sustained his fair share of cuts on his calves. But he felt fortunate that he did not pick up more serious injuries.
Had underestimated his water intake requirement
Yang admitted that he had underestimated his water intake requirement during his second loop. “I brought only 1.3 litres of fluid. At the false peak, I had already ran out of water. Luckily, hikers passing by were kind enough to offer me some water,” he added.
Was not tempted to give up at any point during his ordeal
But despite all these setbacks, at no point was Yang tempted to give up and call it quits though. He said, “Before the event, I had done my own research and had mentally prepared my mind for the tough journey ahead. So I knew exactly what I was in for.”
Added Yang, “And when I completed the third loop, it was a matter of simply moving forward and thinking of the wonderful support of the race directors and volunteers at the start and end point.”
Tempted to return to Mt. Nuang again
But now that he has successfully conquered Mt. Nuang, Yang is already tempted to return there for the event again.
Said Yang, “I will definitely take part again. This event unites fellow ultra runners, volunteers and the race directors. It’s like a big family gathering with extreme exercises thrown in.”
Tips for fellow ultra runners
What tips does Yang have for fellow ultra runners who are thinking of taking on this ardours event, or any other challenging ultras of a similar nature?
“While the word ultra may sound intimidating, it is actually doable once you mentally get past the threatening label,” Yang said.
He subsequently added that it is important to read up on the different race routes and past experience of runners, in order to get a fair idea of what to expect and what you will be in for.
Give yourself plenty of time to increase your mileage
“Then once you have decided on your ultra race, you should give yourself ample time to train and incrementally build up your mileage. Prioritise long runs and hill workouts,” Yang explained.
And he did plenty of stair climbing and uphill runs to prepare for the Gunung Nuang event, together with some long runs to pile on the mileage.
Pace yourself accordingly
And finally, on race day itself, Yang says that you should pace yourself accordingly and worry about your survival rather than your finishing time.
“At the same time, simply enjoy yourself and make new friends with fellow ultra runners – especially after the race,” he added.