|Athletes test the route of the VnExpress Marathon Imperial Huế on April 2. The tournament will be held on April 16. Photo courtesy of VnExpress Marathon|
HÀ NỘI — More than 10,000 runners are set to converge on the ancient Vietnamese capital of Huế for the highly anticipated 2023 VnExpress Marathon Imperial Huế on April 16.
From seasoned professionals to amateur enthusiasts, participants will compete across four categories, 5km, 10km, 21km, and 42km, each designed to showcase the city's breathtaking landmarks and iconic destinations, including the Huế Citadel, Trường Tiền Bridge, Tự Do Stadium and Tomb of Tự Đức Emperor.
With a grand prize of VNĐ1.1 billion (US$47,200) in cash and gifts up for grabs, this year's edition promises to be the most exciting yet. For the first time in the marathon's history, organisers will also be awarding a special prize for three-member families who complete a total distance of at least 36km.
Aside from the race itself, participants will also be treated to a three-day extravaganza, including free tickets to tour some of Huế's most popular destinations, managed by the Huế Monuments Conservation Centre.
Standing Vice Chairman of Thừa Thiên Huế Province People's Committee, Nguyễn Thanh Bình, expressed his confidence in the local authorities' ability to ensure the safety and comfort of all participants.
|Athletes check-in and take their bib for the run at the tournament's expo on April 13. — Photo courtesy VnExpress Marathon|
He hopes that runners and visitors will have an amazing experience in the city.
As one of Việt Nam's most prestigious running competitions, the Marathon Imperial Huế has attracted 300 international runners this year, setting a new record for foreign participation in the VnExpress Marathon series. Around 80 per cent of these competitors have registered for the half and full marathons.
Japan, a world-renowned hub for marathon running, boasts the largest number of representatives, with over 50 runners making their way to Huế. Among them are Akiyiki Saito, who has run the full marathon in under three hours, and Ehara Takeo and Yoshitaka Togashi, who have consistently finished in the top three in recent events.
The event will also see the participation of runners from England, the Netherlands, India, Spain, and Australia among others. Notably, African runners are also expected to make their mark and compete fiercely for the bonuses offered.
Kenyan runner Victor Chepkwony, in particular, is ready to take on the challenge and break his personal record of 2.19 hours in Huế.
"My preparation is on track, and I am ready for the first tournament in Việt Nam, targeting the top position in the full marathon," said Chepkwony.
|Kenyan Victor Chepkwony, with a personal best of 2.19hr, is the title favourite in the men's 42km class at the VnExpress Marathon Imperial Huế. — Photo courtesy of Victor Chepkwony|
"There are different factors like the track, the terrain and the weather as well as rivals and other technical issues that affect runners' PB in a marathon. Hope that Marathon Imperial Huế 2023 provides good conditions to help me to set a new PB."
Despite strong threats from foreigners, local runners are motivated by the competition, and former Southeast Asian Games long-distance champion Nguyễn Văn Lai wanted to test his skills against them.
"It is my second official full marathon, so I feel a little nervous," said Lai. "I have spent time training for this tournament. I can't predict my result, but I hope to run in 2.32hr. If the weather is cool, it would be much better.
"I have already heard about Kenyan runners who are at a higher level compared to us. I believe that having the chance to run with them would be good for us to learn from them and get better.
"I am still a newbie in marathon, so I think I can't run against them this time. But in the next event, if I meet them again, I will think about beating them," said Lai, who finished second at the national Tiền Phong Marathon.
Former national team runner Nguyễn Văn Long can not wait to run with the Kenyan.
"Running against strong rivals will help local marathoners to improve their abilities by learning techniques and tactics from them," said Long, who won the Tiền Phong Marathon's amateur category. "The presence of the foreigners will make the competition more difficult for the Vietnamese, but it will stimulate us to focus on training and nutrition regime for better running."
Time to set PB
Long's PB is 2.29hr. He said his chance to win the Huế marathon was smaller because of Chepkwony, but he hopes to set a personal best.
"Track routes in Huế are good," said Long, who ran 2,656km across Việt Nam in 34 days in 2022. "The roads are flat and long with not many turns. It is easy for runners to sprint fast to the finish. This is an easy route to set up PR."
Nông Thị Chang will run for the first time in Huế, but she wants to set her bar.
Chang's best result is 3.19hr set at the HCM City Midnight Marathon in February.
"I have trained hard for the Huế. If I can run as well as I have been doing now, I can make it 3.15hr," Chang said.
Nguyễn Thị Đường said after seven years of running, she wanted to enjoy the balance and happiness that she gained from marathons more than setting records.
|Nguyễn Thị Đường hopes to enjoy her time in Huế and set a new record if possible. — Photo courtesy of VnExpress Marathon|
"If I am still strong enough and lucky, I want to run faster than my own result of 3.22:55 last year," she said. "But overall, I want to relax and taste the romance in my beloved city."
Nguyễn Văn Thuyết and Đoàn Ngọc Hoàng also wanted to set new heights in their marathon careers.
Thuyết hoped to reach the mark of 2.50hr while Hoàng expected it was better than 2.40hr. VNS