|A runner trains for the Việt Nam Mountain Marathon 2022. Photos courtesy of Việt Nam Mountain Marathon 2022
HÀ NỘI — After a year-long delay caused by COVID-19, the Việt Nam Mountain Marathon (VMM) 2022 will return this weekend to Sa Pa Town, Lào Cai Province.
The event will attract the participation of 5,300 domestic and foreign runners from 48 nations who will race distances up to 160km in the highest mountains in Việt Nam.
The 160km runners will start at 4am today and the final finisher will cross the line around midnight on Saturday, 44 hours later.
“The level of physical endurance and mental strength it takes to complete a challenge like this is way beyond the imagination of most people. This event is equivalent to running four normal marathons back to back with the added difficulty of climbing the height of Mt Everest. All with little or potentially no sleep. All the 160km runners get a huge amount of respect from everyone on our organisation team,” said David Lloyd, VMM race director.
One of the 160km runners is Jean Henri Haniquaut from France. He has run six 160km races in the world, but this will be his first in Việt Nam.
“I’m looking forward to running the VMM 160km because I’ve just arrived here and I’m very happy to discover the scenic views like I saw on Instagram! It is always fun to take part in a first edition and this will be the first-ever 160km in Việt Nam,” Haniquaut said.
Other 160km contenders include Nguyễn Tiến Hùng and Trần Duy Quang, both them won the Việt Nam Mountain Marathon 100km before.
|Runners gathered at Sa Pa Square for the Việt Nam Mountain Marathon 2020 (VMM). The VMM 2021 was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the women’s side, those expected to vie for the 160km champion crown include Cung Thị Trà My, Vũ Thị Lan Hương and Lê Phương Vy.
My’s preparation for the 160km has included many races and personal challenges.
“I signed up for the 160km distance when the organiser Topas opened the registration, however, due to the COVID-19, the VMM 2021 was postponed, but I continued to train as planned and completed a 160km run on November 9, 2021. After that, I continued to train. Now I’m ready and eager for the challenged 160km event,” My said.
Singer Phạm Đức Tuấn is also one of the celebrities who will participate in conquering the 160km distance. He will run for Operation Smile.
“Conquering extremely difficult routes in Sa Pa always brings great pride to every runner. Especially this year, the 160km super-challenge event held for the first time in Việt Nam created a huge wave of excitement that spread strongly in the community of runners. As an ambassador of Operation Smile, I hope that by conquering 160km this time, I will receive the attention, encouragement and response from many benefactors to help Operation Smile complete more surgeries that change the lives of unfortunate children,” Tuấn said.
Miss Việt Nam 2016 Mai Phương Thúy will also run a 21km race for Operation Smile this year.
Another well-known first-time 160km runner is Vân Anh of the Newborns Việt Nam team. She is well known for dropping her weight from 100kg to 55kg through running, she ran 70km at the Việt Nam Trail Marathon, but adding almost 100km to that will be her biggest challenge yet.
Anh said: “As a long-distance endurance athlete and a mountain lover, I chose the 160km distance for the opportunity to spend two days in nature and experience the sun, rain and fresh air in the mountains of Sa Pa. Moreover, I want to maximise my own limited ability, to conquer this special distance.”
Chau Smith from the US has run around 100 marathons. In 2017, for her 70th birthday, she ran Triple7Quest: seven marathons on seven different continents in seven consecutive days. She competed in the previous Việt Nam Trail Marathon and is now back to run VMM 2022. She will run the 42km this year.
“This will be my second time in Hà Nội. I will continue to run as long as my legs let me. Most importantly, I want to feel good and meet new people. I look forward to seeing everyone in Sa Pa and wish everyone a happy run,” Smith said.
|Around 5,300 domestic and foreign runners from 48 nations are ready to conquer the highest mountains in Việt Nam.
All Việt Nam Trail Series races organised by Topas have a strong charitable focus and the total now raised through all Việt Nam Trail Series races for good causes is now almost US$350,000.
As well as local projects in the Sa Pa area, charities that benefit from the race include Newborns Việt Nam, Operation Smile and Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation.
Co-CEO of Blue Dragon Đỗ Duy Vị was once a street kid himself. Today as well as being co-CEO, he is a runner and he inspires the kids Blue Dragon helps to start running too via the charity’s run club.
“Having the ability to run is a priceless gift; it brings freedom, meanwhile many victims of human trafficking we rescue at the Blue Dragon Children's Foundation are locked in slavery and abuse. I run to remind myself of how lucky I am and I run to help the people who are waiting for us to set them free from slavery,” Vị said. VNS