Courage, dedication, self discipline, and competitiveness made Ethan Stanley Wong one of the up and coming ultra runners.
The 17-year-young, Sabah-born high school student became the youngest participant to complete a 560-kilometre run in seven days under 85 hours.
Running the Malaysia Backyard Ultra must have been gruelling and back-breaking, but ultra runner Ethan managed to beat the odds. And he’s well on his way to achieving it.
Despite his name might not go up in lights as much as others, the long-distance phenom is undoubtedly a young runner on the rise.
Would you tell me a bit about yourself?
I started my running journey in 2017 when I was 14 years old. I have always been active in Track & Field and representing my school to compete in Cross Country and Track & Field events.
I was inspired by Sapirin Sumping, an elite ultra runner from Sabah, when I read about him in the newspaper in 2017, so I decided to start ultra running. I ran my first ultra event in the Jesselthon 107 Ultra Marathon 2018.
I achieved my first official ultra trail race in the Kadamaian Adventure Race 2019 and was awarded as the youngest participant and the youngest ultra runner in Sabah.
What made you decide to take part in Malaysia Backyard Ultra?
I decided to join the Malaysia Backyard Ultra because I wanted to challenge and prove to myself as a 17 year old boy that completing an almost impossible long distance event is not impossible.
Other than that, I want to gain more experience from the ultra event run events I took part in. From that I have gained experience and knowledge of ultra running. My target is to become the most talented young ultra runner in Malaysia.
What have you been your preparation, physically and mentally before the run?
Diet, race strategy, and training are the most important elements before a run. I am also lucky enough to be able to seek some advice from the experienced ultra runners.
I take vitamin B complex, multivitamins, and fish oil omega for my daily supplements to speed body recovery. I also consume a lot of high protein food like eggs, meat, vegetables and fruits especially bananas.
Training is crucial. I often train for high mileage such as tempo run, long run, LSRD (30km to 45km), uphill, and also downhill running for my ultra races. However, my training program for Track and Field event includes interval, fartlek, speed, and strength workouts to build high cardiovascular.
What challenges did you face during the 560-kilometre run?
One of the challenges was to deal with the blisters on my right leg and a tendon pain on my left leg. The tendon pain may be the result of continuous running for a long time. Before this I never had a tendon pain and it was the first time.
It was difficult for me to maintain my running pace, so I walked a lot instead of running. During the run for 7 days, I had a hard time getting up early and starting to run again as I had no enough rest. I only had merely 4 hours of sleep per day.
How did you stay motivated while running?
The support from my friends and family kept me motivated and kept me going, especially when I was mentally down while running for the distance. When I felt demotivated, I gained my confidence from watching my idol, Killian Jornet’s videos.
What did completing the 560km run mean to you?
My feeling after completing the 7 days Challenge and also my first 560km virtual race was unbelievable. It still feels surreal to me.
I am very happy and thankful for finishing it without major injuries. I was about to cry on the last day of running because it was my very memorable day in my running journey. I have also learned not only about my running technique, but also my time management and race strategy.
What races can we expect from you in the future?
I hope after this global pandemic, I would like to join and focus on ultra race events after I finish SPM (Malaysian Certificate of Education).
In my list, there are the TMBT Ultra Trail 2021 100km, Four Feathers Ultra Trail 2021 90km, Kadamaian Adventure Race 2021 70km, Cameron Ultra Trail 2021 55km, Borneo Ultra Trail 2021 50km, and my dream is to represent Malaysia in competing the UTMB 2022 at the age of 19.
What would you advice for young runners, who would like to start ultra, but they find it too difficult to start?
In my opinion, my advice for young runners who want to participate in ultra event is to have enough training before race day.
You have to incorporate uphill, downhill, strength workout, long slow distance (LSD) into your training. You also need to create your race strategy, nutrition preparation, and study the route map for all ultra events.
Sometimes, it is definitely okay to get physical injuries or DNF running an ultra event. Mental strength is vital as well. Most importantly, your food intake is very important for ultra runners to keep our body going.