|More than 2,200 runners will have a chance to see beautiful sightseeing in Sa Pa when they compete across Việt Nam’s highest mountains at the Việt Nam Mountain Marathon this weekend. Photo courtesy of the organising board.
HÀ NỘI — More than 2,200 runners will race up to 100km in Việt Nam’s highest mountains at the Việt Nam Mountain Marathon (VMM) 2020 in Sa Pa, Lào Cai Province this weekend.
Việt Nam’s top homegrown talent will face off with strong French expat competition, while celebrity runners include singer Đức Tuấn, writer Trang Hạ and traveller Trần Đặng Đăng Khoa, who travelled across 62 countries and six continents on his motorbike.
Usually held in September, the race will be held for the first time in autumnal weather following a postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also the first time the race will not welcome any athletes from overseas, but the wealth of talent now based in Việt Nam means the race still promises high-quality competition.
The nation’s top ultra runners including Quang Trần, Nguyễn Tiến Hùng and Nguyễn Thị Đường will compete against French expat talent including Romain Berion and Nathalie Cochet.
In the men’s 100km distance race, two-time VMM 100km champion, Hùng will go head to head with 2017 VMM 100km champion Quang Trần for the first time ever at the VMM.
While Quang has multiple trail wins including the 2017 VMM 100km, his compatriot Hùng has won the VMM 100km for the last two years and has been training in Sapa for weeks pre-race. Both are very focused on winning, so this battle promises to be hard-fought, but they must also compete with two strong contenders from France, namely Romain Berion and Gaetan Morizur.
Just a month ago Berion took one hour off Quang’s personal best at the Việt Nam Jungle Marathon (VJM), so this weekend might produce the first non-Vietnamese 100km winner since 2016.
In the women’s ultra field, one of Việt Nam’s top ultra female runners, Đường who is the current Asia Trail Master series leader, will compete with the VMM 100km champion, France’s Nathalie Cochet.
Vietnamese celebrity runners
On the 42km start line this year will be singer Đức Tuấn, Operation Smile’s Ambassador, who is famous not only for his voice but also his running talent.
A new name to the running community at the VMM this year is Trần Đặng Đăng Khoa who travels the world on his motorbike. He will also run for Operation Smile Vietnam.
Also in the 42km is Trang Hạ, the ‘running writer’ who has finished the Boston Marathon.
Việt Nam Trail Series Championship
The Việt Nam Trail Series champions will be crowned in Sa Pa following the VMM.
Việt Nam Trail Series is comprised of three races, the Việt Nam Trail Marathon (VTM), Việt Nam Jungle Marathon (VJM) and Việt Nam Mountain Marathon (VMM).
On the current ultra leaderboard, Trung Nguyễn (a Singapore-based Vietnamese) and Đường of Việt Nam are now in the lead, while Quang Trần of Việt Nam and Axelle de Feraudylead of France lead the marathon ranking list.
Kick-off event at Sa Pa Square
The event kicked off with an expo event in Sa Pa Square yesterday with live music, talks and sponsor booths from many brands including Garmin, Hammer Nutrition, Decathlon and Salomon
The 100km race started at 9pm yesterday, with the participants running through the long, dark night in the highest peaks of Việt Nam. Throughout today runners in the 70km, 42km and 21km contests will join them for a race through stunning rice terraces and ethnic minority villages.
The race finish line is the Topas Ecolodge, voted No 1 on the National Geographic list of places to stay if you care about the environment.
Topas races have a charitable focus and hundreds of thousands of dollars have been donated to good causes since 2013. Up to now, Topas Việt Nam Trail Series has given around US$300,000 to charity thanks to the donations that come from every long-distance race fee.
In the past eight years, the race has funded school and bridge-building projects in Sa Pa, the work of Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, life-changing surgery for children through Operation Smile, and saving lives through Newborns Việt Nam.
This year funds will be allocated for local projects in Sa Pa, Operation Smile, Newborns Việt Nam and Blue Dragon. — VNS