Tuesday, September 19 2017

VietNamNews

First Asian woman to complete desert race

Update: April, 09/2017 - 09:00
Thanh Vũ takes part in the Atacama Crossing last year.
Viet Nam News

Thanh Vũ has become a famous runner.

She has become the first woman from Asia to have finished a very hard race that is held in different deserts around the world.

Now she has dreams of running a race that would involve a visit to the North Pole.

It is very cold in that part of the world.

By Thanh Hà

There are metamorphoses and there are ultra-metamorphoses.

What happened to Thanh Vũ belongs to the latter category.

A bright young woman who achieved her aim of corporate career success after leaving her native place of Hà Nội to study in several other countries, she dropped out of the proverbial rat race, out of the blue.

Not long after, she stands as the only Vietnamese ultra runner to participate in the 4 Deserts Grand Slam, an unimaginably gruelling race spanning 1000km over four deserts in different parts of the world.

She is also among only 13 women in the world, and the first Asian, to finish such a challenge.

And she has no intention of stopping there.

Ready to take on the toughest of competitions, and face the hardest conditions, whatever the odds, Vũ Phuơng Thanh wants to conquer such races held in all the seven continents and the North Pole by 2018.

Thanh or Thanh Vũ, a name well known in the international ultra community, completed the 4 Deserts Grand Slam at the age of 26 last November.

Earlier, in 2015, Vũ finished the Atacama Crossing in Chile, fulfilling her dream of becoming the first Vietnamese to do so. The crossing is part of the 4 Deserts Grand Slam.

"I immediately fell in love with the experience. You see the most beautiful spirit in the competitors, the course and the volunteers," she told 4deserts.com after the Chilean event.

Spurred by the experience, Thanh set herself "the ultimate challenge" — the 4 Deserts Grand Slam, an annual event widely recognised as among the toughest, most prestigious outdoor footrace series in the world.

The series includes the Sahara Race (Namibia, Africa), Gobi March (China, Asia), Atacama Crossing (South America) and The Last Desert (Antarctica, South Pole).

Competitors have to traverse 250km in seven days over rough desert terrain and are provided just water and a tent to stay.

Until now, 66 runners, including Vũ, have accomplished the 4 Deserts Grand Slam by completing all the four races in one calendar year.

It is said that the Deserts Race Series is life changing for some, life enhancing for most. Thanh Vu would agree.

"The races have taught me a lot about inner strength and humility. I have become bolder in the way I live my life, because the races helped me see that I am stronger and more capable than I have believed myself to be."

Her most memorable moment was at the Atacama Crossing.

"On top of a really steep hill on day two, it was insanely hot and I took a break. I couldn’t have been there longer than five minutes before I turned around and saw Camel Fung (an amputee with a prosthetic leg) climbing up the hill with tenacious force. I thought it would be a while before he made it to the top, but there he was, pushing harder than any of the able-bodied competitors. I could feel his presence exuding determination. I will never forget that inspiring sight.

“My life has changed for the better through all these experiences. Not only have I felt stronger and more confident in my life pursuits, but I’ve also felt that what I do can have a positive impact in the community,” Vũ said.

“For the next two years, I will continue to pursue bigger and harder goals, which will challenge me to break through my boundaries again and again, learning and gaining.”

The first one is The Track, a nine-stage 520km race in 10 days in Australia from May 17 to 26.

It is the longest among all the races that Vũ is going to run, and no Asian woman has finished it until now.

The second one is the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc from August 25 to September 4.

“The race course spans the mountain range in high altitude, crossing through the French Alps, Swiss Alps and Italian Alps. The cumulative elevation gain over 171km is about 10,000m, meaning it is an extremely hilly race. Out of the 2.500 runners, usually some 10 per cent are women participants, and only some 100 women are able to finish the race. It is a very difficult race to finish, and I really hope that I can make the women of Việt Nam proud by finishing it,” said Vũ.

Next year, the 27-year-old plans to run at the North Pole’s Arctic Ultra which is a 230km five-stage race to be covered in five days.

Vũ said the average temperature there was usually minus 20oC. Frostbites are a common cause of withdrawals at the race. It’s going to be the coldest race for her yet.

Following that will be the Grand to Grand Ultra of 273km in North America, which will see her running in six stages through seven days. She said the heat in Utah and Arizona will add to the challenge.

For any athlete, injuries are unavoidable. Vũ recalls her suffering, her confusion, leading to near collapse. Sometimes she could not sleep and would cry at night.

However, the image of the amputee athlete in Atacama has helped her reach the finish line.

Vũ said the time she spent living and studying in Canada was when she equipped herself with all the necessary life skills that made her strong and confident enough to join these challenges and discover herself.

Vũ, based in HCM City now, has set a target for her upcoming runs.

“I had almost no experience and talent in sports but it did not matter. What’s important is that I want to be the best version of myself and will not step back when facing a challenge,” said Vũ, who quit Singapore’s Bloomberg for running.

“I used to think that overcoming the world’s toughest races will help me discover my personal limit, and I would be the first Vietnamese woman to complete the impossible tasks.

“If my extreme runs can inspire other people, who have more potential than me, then it is the most wonderful thing for me.

“I hope to share my journey, my process with others, especially the youth. Perhaps they will find that their big challenge is not running ultras in the deserts but something as practical as moving away from family for university, changing jobs, marriage, raising children, etc.

“Whatever the challenge may be, I want to encourage them to conquer their personal fear and anxiety to break through their boundaries,” she said.

Vũ knows big obstacles await her ahead.

“The difficulties will be tremendous, including injuries, fatigue, and sometime, even acts of Gods in these locations with extreme climate. The only way to minimise the difficulties is to focus on having the best preparation, both mentally and physically,” she said.

“Training and rehabilitation will be the priorities. Though the physical preparation is the obvious challenge, I also owe a lot of support to my friends, family and the running community in Việt Nam. Such preparation requires a disciplined lifestyle.

Vũ, who wants to organise ultramarathons in Việt Nam for the Vietnamese, says she cannot do what she does by herself.    — VNS


GLOSSARY

There are metamorphoses and there are ultra-metamorphoses.

Metamorphoses are changes in nature.

What happened to Thanh Vũ belongs to the latter category.

If two things are mentioned, one after the other, the first is the former and the second is the latter.

A bright young woman who achieved her aim of corporate career success after leaving her native place of Hà Nội to study in several other countries, she dropped out of the proverbial rat race, out of the blue.

A corporate career is a career working in big companies.

Proverbial means well-known.

The rat race is the environment in which everyone is trying to be better than everyone else.

To do something out of the blue means to do it in a way that is without warning and surprises people.

Not long after, she stands as the only Vietnamese ultra runner to participate in the 4 Deserts Grand Slam, an unimaginably gruelling race spanning 1000km over four deserts in different parts of the world.

Gruelling means extremely tiring.

Spanning means covering a distance.

And she has no intention of stopping there.

Your intentions are what you plan and want to do.

Ready to take on the toughest of competitions, and face the hardest conditions, whatever the odds, Vũ Phương Thanh wants to conquer such races held in all the seven continents and the North Pole by 2018.

Odds are challenges.

You see the most beautiful spirit in the competitors, the course and the volunteers," she told 4deserts.com after the Chilean event.

Volunteers are people who do jobs without expecting payment.

Spurred by the experience, Thanh set herself "the ultimate challenge" — the 4 Deserts Grand Slam, an annual event widely recognised as among the toughest, most prestigious outdoor footrace series in the world.

Spurred means encouraged.

An annual event happens every year.

Prestigious means respected and highly regarded.

Competitors have to traverse 250km in seven days over rough desert terrain and are provided just water and a tent to stay.

Traverse means to travel across.

Terrain means countryside.

It is said that the Deserts Race Series is life changing for some, life enhancing for most.

Enhancing means increasing the quality.

"The races have taught me a lot about inner strength and humility.”

Humility means being able to be humble.

I have become bolder in the way I live my life, because the races helped me see that I am stronger and more capable than I have believed myself to be."

To be capable means to be able to do something.

"On top of a really steep hill on day two, it was insanely hot and I took a break. I couldn’t have been there longer than five minutes before I turned around and saw Camel Fung (an amputee with a prosthetic leg) climbing up the hill with tenacious force.

Insanely means madly.

An amputee is someone who has had a limb removed.

A prosthetic leg is an artificial leg.

I could feel his presence exuding determination.

Exuding means giving out.

I will never forget that inspiring sight.

If something is inspiring it makes you want to go out and do something positive.

“Not only have I felt stronger and more confident in my life pursuits, but I’ve also felt that what I do can have a positive impact in the community,” Vũ said.

Pursuits are goals you try to achieve.

“The cumulative elevation gain over 171km is about 10,000m, meaning it is an extremely hilly race.”

The cumulative elevation gain is the amount of metres you climb, all added up to make a total.

Frostbites are a common cause of withdrawals at the race. It’s going to be the coldest race for her yet.

Frostbite is an injury people get when they are in very, very cold weather.

“If my extreme runs can inspire other people, who have more potential than me, then it is the most wonderful thing for me.

If you have the potential to become a runner, you have what it takes to develop into one.

“Whatever the challenge may be, I want to encourage them to conquer their personal fear and anxiety to break through their boundaries,” she said.

Anxiety means feeling anxious and worried.

“The difficulties will be tremendous, including injuries, fatigue, and sometime, even acts of Gods in these locations with extreme climate.”

Fatigue means tiredness.

 “Training and rehabilitation will be the priorities.”

Rehabilitation means getting back into your original condition after being injured or damaged in some way.

Priorities are things you put on the top of your list of what you need to do. In other words, the things you must do first.

WORKSHEET

State whether the following sentences are true, or false:

  1. Thanh Vũ left the capital city to study in other countries.
  2. Athletes can always avoid injuries.
  3. The Atacama Crossing is a race in Chile.
  4. Mountains called the Alps are in France, Switzerland and Italy.
  5. Thanh Vũ now lives in Ho Chi Minh City.

 

ANSWERS:

© Duncan Guy/Learn the News/ Viet Nam News 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. True; 2. False; 3. True; 4. True; 5. True.

 

 

 

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