Newbie Hậu stuns running community

September 18, 2022 - 07:38
Hà Thị Hậu won in the 2022 Việt Nam Mountain Marathon's (VMM) 100km ultra category, which saw her the fastest runner among 327 male and female participants on September 10.
Hà Thị Hậu has grabbed remarkable results in her two years of taking part in trail and marathon running. Photo Sparkling Quy Nhơn Marathon

Thanh Hà

It is early in the morning and cold, Hà Thị Hậu wakes up, puts her shoes on and begins her daily run.

Normally the 33-year-old runs around 15km on weekdays and 30km at the weekend as in her usual five-day-running-per-week schedule, no matter whether smoggy, sunny, windy or chilly, in summer or winter.

The single mum's simple but effective plan has helped her secure titles in almost every event she has participated in over the two years since her first day running.

The latest in her collection is a win in the 2022 Việt Nam Mountain Marathon's (VMM) 100km ultra category, which saw her the fastest runner among 327 male and female participants on September 10.


Hậu had not worked out for more than a decade, since she was a student, until 2020. She worked as a tour guide and rented out motorbikes in Sa Pa, Lào Cai Province, and started running due to being overweight and because of social distancing during the COVID pandemic which began spreading worldwide.

Hà Thị Hậu keeps smiling during all of her race as she enjoys the view and loves to run. — Photo courtesy of Hà Thị Hậu

Social distancing soon left her jobless and overweight. Following advice from a friend, Hậu began running to solve the problem.

"Gradually, running has become my joy and improved my health. I have almost no plan but to practise and compete following my ability," Hậu told Việt Nam News.

"In the last two years, running has given me a youthful and energetic life, a beautiful body and a relaxed mind. Through marathons, I enjoy the beautiful natural scenery that many people are too busy to admire."

Shortly after starting training, Hậu wanted to test herself and registered to participate in the VMM 21km class. In a surprise to herself and others, the newbie took the top position, leaving all the veteran runners behind.

She even ran 26 minutes faster than the winner of the men's category.

"Born and raised in the mountainous Lào Cai's Văn Bàn District, I moved to live in Sa Pa in 2010. The town's clean, fresh and cool environment and the beautiful steep hills and mountains give me stronger lungs and more energetic fitness than others," Hậu said.

"That moment changed my life. When I crossed the finish line, I found that I could be a master of trail running, a really good one."

In the next year, Hậu took part in six other trail running events and left everyone amazed at her natural talent when she took all titles, including a 70km event in Mộc Châu, Sơn La Province.

Her 70km victory made national headlines and a bang in the running community as it was the first time a fresh-faced debutant had won such a tough competition, leaving established trail runners such as Axelle de Feraudy of France and reigning VMM 100km champion Nguyễn Thị Đường of Việt Nam trailing in her wake.

Hà Thị Hậu runs to the finish line of the VNexpress Marathon Hạ Long in July. — Photo courtesy of Hà Thị Hậu

Hậu repeated her triumph at the Đà Lạt Ultra Trail 2022's 70km in March this year.

With a time of 9:37.40, Hậu was the best female runner and fourth-placed athlete overall.

She then set her sight on a new challenge, a full marathon.

In her debut at the VnExpress Marathon Quy Nhơn in June, the runner dubbed the 'Sa Pa Diamond', ran as well as Việt Nam's queen of marathons Phạm Thị Bình in the first 25km, before being left behind to take the silver medal.

While Hậu was a first-time marathoner, professional Bình is a former SEA Games champion who holds the national record.

"Being familiar with the harder and higher level of running, I was more relaxed when running on a flat road. I believe if I did not suffer cramps so many times, my result would have been much better," Hậu told reporters after the race.

Almost a month and a half later, Hậu won the VnExpress Marathon Hạ Long. With her strong point in trail running, she conquered hilly roads under the blazing midday sun, making it look easy.

Hậu finished first in 3hr 12min, leaving behind title favourite Lèo Thị Tình, an elite athlete, with a gap of five minutes.

Last month, Hậu was second again, finishing behind Bình, in the VnExpress Marathon Nha Trang.

Rising star

Hậu said she had no secrets regarding her success.

"To be successful, training and passion for trail running is a must," she said.

Training and listening to the body are the way Hà Thị Hậu do to win her marathons. — Photo courtesy of Hà Thị Hậu

"To get a good result, of course, it takes training. I think experience is always useful. Winning or losing in every race has good and bad sides, and has a lot to do with your own efforts and perseverance.

"The most important thing for runners is always listening to your body. That will help everyone progress and be more confident to race."

This pushed Hậu to win her first 100km race in her home town on September 10.

"It was my first time running 100km. I set no target for myself but to do my best and enjoy the race before thinking about winning," she said.

Her comfortable and confident mind helped Hậu throughout the race.

She even joked with Gaetan Morizur of France, who was in the leading position in the men's 70km category, when they met at a checkpoint.

"At the CP-103, I told him that I would beat him. It was a joke between athletes, and I could not believe it came true," Hậu said.

The duo ran neck-and-neck in the first 30km before separating in the race's later stage. She ended up as the winner of both the female and male pool.

Hà Thị Hậu celebrates the best victory in their career at the Việt Nam Mountain Marathon 2022. — Photo courtesy of Hà Thị Hậu

She finished with an amazing time of 15:15:46, 20 minutes faster than Morizur, who won the male event.

"I faced several problems, feeling sleepy and having a stomachache. But I never wanted to give up. No, never. I had fun, and this is the most fun trail race I've been in so far," she said.

Hậu, who now runs a tourism company, shared her plans after her outstanding victory.

"My next event will be the Mù Cang Chải Trail Marathon 2022 (September 24). My team also expect to participate in a mountain ultramarathon in Thailand and the final of the Asia Trail Marathon in the Philippines," she said.

"Next year, I hope to race in Europe or elsewhere. And in the full marathon, I set to make a new record for the VnExpress series, which stands at 2:53.33." VNS