HCMC Marathon continues to fuel passion for running

By Dennis Khng   April 22, 2022 | 08:00 pm PT
The HCMC Marathon, the country's biggest and oldest, got off to an exciting start in Phu My Hung Ward in District 7.

With over 7,000 participants taking on the challenge of conquering various distances from the full 42 km to 21 km and 10 km, there was a palpable sense of anticipation and achievement in the air last Sunday.

This popular race, into its 30th year, had a sense of history and accomplishment to it, not least because of its successful staging after the city went through a terrible bout of Covid-19 last year, as well as the Omicron variant, which resulted in the race being postponed from its original date of January 9, 2022.

Nguyen The Dung, a veteran runner who ran the first ever race in 1992 and a participant this year too, said there were 250 runners in the first year, mostly from overseas. This year, there were over 7,000 participants and the percentage of Vietnamese was much higher.

"This year's route was difficult, especially at my age - I'm 62 - having to run uphill over Phu My Bridge. Back then the track around the city center was much flatter. But the condition of the race, the supporters, the medical staff ... it's way much better now."

What about the level of competition over the years, we asked him: "Marathon running has always brought competition and pressure to win for professional athletes, and a desire for accomplishment among amateurs. I saw that before and I still see it now.

"But of course, now I don't participate in this contest to compete anymore."

The marathon motivates him to train and stay healthy and fit, and he registered for the full distance to motivate him to stay the course.

Nguyen The Dung (R) and other runners at the finish line of the HCMC Marathon, April 17, 2022. Photo courtesy of Nguyen The Dung

Nguyen The Dung (R) and other runners at the finish line of the HCMC Marathon, April 17, 2022. Photo by Pulse Active

Younger vintage

Another runner in this year's race was Tran Lai Ngoc Tuyen, 32. Of a younger vintage, she has also caught the running bug like many other Vietnamese in recent years. She enjoys the tremendous sense of satisfaction in meeting the challenge of long-distance running.

She said: "I was weak since my young age, and so when I first started running at the end of 2018, every time I completed five kilometers, 10 km, then 21 km, 42 km... I felt happy and proud that I could overcome my own psychological barriers, improve my health, and never gave up."

"Every time I practice for a certain distance, I enjoy the process. The feeling that my efforts are rewarded with personal records is an experience not everyone gets and, I'm sure, only runners understand."

Tuyen signed on for this year's event, titled Salonpas HCMC Marathon, for the 21 km race as soon as she heard about it.

Runners had their own lane, but she found some parts not very comfortable.

"It was quite easy in Phu My Hung, an urban area. But at some places like crossroads, there were many cars and so I had to stop and wait for them to pass before I could continue."

However, Tuyen decided to put competitiveness in the backseat for this race and focused on doing something different and more fun: she participated as a cosplay dinosaur to cheer and motivate other runners.

Tran Lai Ngoc Tuyen and her boyfriend in dinosaur costumes at the Salonpas HCMC Marathon, April 17, 2022. Photo courtesy of Tran Lai Ngoc Tuyen

Tran Lai Ngoc Tuyen and her boyfriend in dinosaur costumes at the HCMC Marathon, April 17, 2022. Photo by Pulse Active

"I completed the 21 km just before the cut-off time, mainly to be able to motivate runners who were about to give up. She joked that she ran with her boyfriend not to achieve a good timing but to encourage others to complete the run.

Nonetheless, she had been diligent in preparing for the race, training with her colleagues every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon after work. Whenever she had time, she would go on long runs.

The day before the marathon, she prepared the items she planned to bring to the race like her dinosaur cosplay outfit and a lipstick.

It turned out that it was not easy to run in a costume like that, she said.

"In the heat of April in Saigon, combined with the heat of the dinosaur cosplay outfit, I inadvertently created a challenge for myself.

"So, as soon as I crossed the finish line and received the finisher medal, I felt like I wanted to burst out of the outfit because I had surmounted the difficulties that occurred along the way."

For this avid runner, 2022 will be a busy year. A number of 21-km runs await, including the Da Lat Music Run and Mekong Delta Marathon.

She is also gunning for long trail runs, signing up for the 42 km Vietnam Mountain Marathon in Sa Pa in September and the 55 km La An Ultra Trail in Da Lat in December.

More runners are doing the same as the country's love affair with long-distance running continues to grow.

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