Hoàng Nguyên Thanh believes in his chance to win a top three finish at the coming SEA Games in Việt Nam. — Photo webthethao.vn
About a hundred metres prior to the finish line, Hoàng Nguyên Thanh pulled out a tiny national flag and waived to celebrate his victory in the 2020 national marathon championship.
Thanh secured his second national title in a time of 2:36:56, marking a remarkable return to running after about two years of absence, on Lý Sơn Island of Quảng Ngãi Province in early July.
His outstanding performance secured him a berth in the national team to prepare for the 31st Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Hà Nội next November.
It was also his fourth top finish since 2019 which saw him win the Pocari Sweat Run half-marathon, the Cần Thơ Heritage Marathon’s half-marathon and the Techcombank HCM City International Marathon’s full marathon.
In late July, Thanh claimed silver from the 5,000-participant Quy Nhơn Marathon in Bình Định Province.
The unexpected letdown in Quy Nhơn, where he was the favourite, has motivated him to push harder.
“Wins and losses are parts of the competition. I could have had a better result in Quy Nhơn but a cramp at 35km prevented me from maintaining my performance, leading to an unexpected result,” Thanh told Việt Nam News.
“It was sad to lose for such a bad reason but o the other hand, it was also good as I discovered my weaknesses and will fix them for better results in the future,” said Thanh.
Now, he's aiming for a podium finish at the coming Games when Việt Nam will send male athletes to compete in the marathon after having no representation in the race at the Manila SEA Games last year.
Born in 1995, Thanh was considered a great long-distance running talent of his native province of Bình Phước and Việt Nam earlier in his career.
At the age of 20 in 2015, Thanh overcame experienced senior athletes to take the national championship title and grabbed a berth in the national team to compete at Singapore SEA Games later that year.
In the 28th Games, the unknown competitor made a bang with a third-place finish, ending Việt Nam’s 12-year marathon medal drought at the regional event.
“The success in my international debut strongly encouraged me. I felt great and believed that I would grab better results for the future if I worked harder,” said Thanh.
“However, things were not easy for me. I worked too hard and suffered knee and ankle injuries which prevented me from competing in many tournaments.
“These injuries, which pulled my spirit down, together with a conflict with my coach, caused my decision to quit. I went home and worked at a garment company near my house for two years,” Thanh recalled.
The new job did not make him happy although it brought him an easier life.
“Doing things that are not your passion is really boring. Repeating activities, going to the company in the morning and back in the afternoon, converted me into a ‘machine’,” he said.
“I really missed the track. I remembered competitions, the pressure, the atmosphere of the races and also my competitors."
In late 2018, Thanh saw the strong development of running in the country, and it sparked his passion again.
“Looking at myself, I am still young and can run well and even contribute to elite sport. My ability would be wasted if I stop forever. I decided to practice again.
“It took me time to start from the beginning but I was excited because I am myself when I live with my passion.”
Thanh received offers from Bình Phước Province and agreed to run for the team last August.
Like a duck taking to water, he easily won at all three major events of Pocari Sweat Run, Cần Thơ Heritage Marathon and Techcombank HCM City Marathon and set a personal best of 2:29:29 at the latter race.
Thanh then set a record with his fifth victory of the 2020 National Bà Rá Mountain Climbing tournament this January held in his hometown.
“My biggest target now is the SEA Games’ top three. There is no doubt that I want to challenge the gold medal and also come closer to the race's record,” Thanh said.
Hoàng Nguyên Thanh (right) receives a bronze at the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore. — Photo tienphong.vn
Việt Nam's best marathon result at the SEA Games is a silver by Nguyễn Chí Đông in 2002 Games in Hà Nội.
“My current best is about three minutes slower than Agus Prayogo of Indonesia who won the last Games’ marathon and nine minutes to level the (Games) record. Both are big gaps for anyone to beat," Thanh said.
“However, it is more than one year to the Games. It is enough for me to fix my weaknesses and improve my technique.
“What I need are suitable nutrition and strong physique as well as participating in races to sharpen my skills.
“Good form and great determination and home support would help me make my dream come true.” VNS