Vietnam runners complete world's toughest 100 miles

By Quynh Chi   May 28, 2024 | 06:09 am PT
Lanh Le and Hung Hai have become the first two Vietnamese athletes to complete the ultra trail Rinjani 100, considered the toughest 100 miler in the world.

Rinjani 100's arduousness challenges the globe's most skilled athletes with a cut off time (COT) of 55 hours on a distance of 100 miles (162 km).

This year, at the tournament held on May 24-26, only six athletes completed the full distance.

Lanh Le finished third after 51 hours and 57 minutes, while Hung Hai finished sixth after 54 hours and 28 minutes.

Runner Lanh Lê khi chinh phục đỉnh Rinjani cao 3726m trên mực nước biển. Ảnh: Hoka Vietnam

Vietnamese runner Lanh Le stands on the Rinjani summit at 3,726 meters above sea level. Photo by Hoka Vietnam

Last year, Vietnamese runner Nguyen Dang Trung finished third at Rinjani with a time of 50 hours, 25 minutes and 56 seconds.

But he had registered for the tournament as a Singaporean.

Therefore, Lanh Le and Hung Hai are now recognized as the first Vietnamese athletes to complete the famously difficult trail.

In other competitions of different distances at the event, Vuong Dinh Anh finished fourth in the 100km race at 31 hours 13 minutes, while female competitor Bui Van Anh finished fourth in the 60km run with a time of 19 hours and 21 minutes.

Lanh Le, a 37-year-old competitor born Le Phi Lanh, is one of the southern Vietnam long-distance community’s most experienced runners.

However, he has never finished first in major domestic trail tournaments. He has also rarely competed abroad. His third place finish at Rinjani this year was an unexpected surprise success for the underdog – if not a full-blown upset.

"I want to thank everyone who followed my journey over the past two days. I safely completed the most important race of the year. Even though I didn't turn on my phone, I still knew there were many people watching me. I had a lot of luck in this race and will share more about my experience later," Le wrote in a social media post.

Hung Hai, 40, fell in love with running after breaking his right ankle in a football match at the end of 2015. After hanging up his boots and retiring from the pitch, he started training for long distance running in early 2016.

Having already dedicating his life to disciplined athletic practice regiments, Hai gradually increased his running distance to 21km and then 42km. It was then only a short matter of time before he began shining in marathon events.

Hung Hai started trail running in 2018 and finished first in the 100km at the Vietnam Mountain Marathon the same year with a time of 14 hours 35 minutes. He defended the title the next year at 14 hours, 33 minutes and 45 seconds. In the tournament last year, Hai outdid himself and everyone else by besting his previous time, finishing in only 12 hours, 54 minutes and 4 seconds.

The Rinjani 100 includes five different distance marathon races: 27km, 36km, 60km, 100km and 162km.

Each event has its own level of difficulty, but the 162km run is considered the only "ultra trail," with a gain of more than 15,000 m in altitude.

The ultra trail is in Rinjani Mountain National Park, West Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. Besides its challenging gain, Rinjani 100 is also known for its dangerous terrain, making climbing difficult. Rinjani is an active volcano on Lombok, an island east of Bali with an altitude of 3,726 m above sea level. Therefore, the athletes must traverse layers of rock and ash to top the mountain and reach the finish line at its summit.

The total gain of 15,064 m for a distance of 162 km means athletes have to conquer 93 m rises for each kilometer traveled.

By comparison, the toughest marathon in the world – the Badwater Ultramarathon – is 218 km, with a gain of 4,000 m, meaning that each kilometer on average only rises 18.4 m. Badwater is 56 km longer than Rinjani and includes extreme temperatures that can reach 54 degrees Celsius. But the court of public and insider opinion is still out on which of the two infamous races pose the most difficult challenges.

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