|Runner Phạm Thị Hồng Lệ (right) seen at the SEA Games 2019. She will compete in the nation’s longest-running marathon, the Tiền Phong Newspaper Marathon. Photo nld.com.vn
HÀ NỘI — SEA Games bronze medallist Phạm Thị Hồng Lệ is considered the favourite for the women’s marathon at the upcoming Tiền Phong Newspaper Marathon, Việt Nam's longest-running marathon.
The event will be held in Quảng Ngãi Province’s Lý Sơn Island on July 4-5.
Hồng won bronze in the women’s marathon of the SEA Games 2019 in the Philippines and silver in the women’s 10,000m event to help Việt Nam's athletics team take top spot in the region.
In Lý Sơn, Lệ will face familiar rivals Hoàng Thị Ngọc Hoa of Bình Phước and Lèo Thị Tình of Sơn La.
“I have focused on learning about the running track, the weather in Lý Sơn and my rivals. But the biggest opponent is still me,” said Lệ.
During social distancing to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, like many other athletes, defending champion of the Tiền Phong Newspaper Marathon Lệ did not have any races to compete in.
“For the past half-year, I have not had the feeling of competing so I'm very excited about this race. I trained to get used to the weather and climate in Lý Sơn. The COVID-19 pandemic did not significantly affect my training. Just me and my teammates were not allowed to compete,” said Lệ.
In last year’s race, overcoming the challenges of sunshine, wind and sloping roads along the coast of Vũng Tàu City, Lệ and Bùi Thế Anh all showed why they are the top marathon runners in Việt Nam.
Lệ finished first with a time of three hours one minute and 58 seconds. The Bình Định Province-native led the runner-up by more than eight minutes and the third-placed runner by nearly 12 minutes.
On the men's side, the competition was more intense between Anh and Nguyễn Quốc Dũng of Khánh Hòa. Anh of the Military team won the title with a time of 2:38.36, nearly one minute faster than Dũng.
Return of SEA Games gold medallist
This year's men's race features several experienced runners who could triumph, such as Lê Văn Tuấn of Bình Dương, Hoàng Nguyên Thanh of Bình Phước, Nguyễn Văn Long of Gia Lai, defending runner-up Dũng of Khánh Hòa, Lê Tấn Hi of Lâm Đồng, Lê Quang Hòa of Quảng Trị and Vũ Văn Sơn of Ninh Bình.
All of the men know each other well and have competed in this race many times.
As defending champion Anh will not compete in this year’s event, Sơn, who won the event in 2017 in Ninh Bình Province, is being tipped to win.
The return of Thanh is a notable development. The Bình Phước Province-native brought Việt Nam a bronze medal in the men’s marathon at the 2015 SEA Games.
Thanh participated in the 2016 National Athletics Championships in Hà Nội and took a two-year break from professional competition before returning earlier this year at the Bà Rá Mountain Climbing Tournament in Bình Phước Province. Last December, Thanh triumphed in the HCM City Marathon with a time of 2:29.29.
Thanh has participated in the Tiền Phong Newspaper Marathon for six years but has never been on the top podium.
“Regarding my rivals this year, I appreciate Tuấn, Nhật, Sơn and Hi. I am very excited to face them,” said Thanh.
"My goal is to get to the top because I have failed in this race before," Thanh added.
The event will attract nearly 2,000 runners from home and abroad, including more than 200 domestic professional runners. VNS