Vietnam mountain marathon adds 160-km distance

By Xuan Diu   September 9, 2022 | 03:00 am PT
Vietnam mountain marathon adds 160-km distance
A runner in Vietnam Mountain Marathon. Photo by Vietnam Trail Series
The 2022 Vietnam Mountain Marathon (VMM) starting Friday is the first trail run in Vietnam to include the 160-km distance.

The tournament features over 5,300 athletes from 48 countries and territories, competing in seven distances: 10, 15, 21, 42, 70, 100 and 160 km.

This is the first year VMM organizes the 160-km run, the longest of any marathon in Vietnam. VMM was also the first tournament in Vietnam to include the 100-km distance in 2016. Previously, the longest distance was only 70 km, at Vietnam Trail Marathon in Moc Chau, Vietnam Jungle Marathon in Pu Luong and Da Lat Ultra Trail.

At the 2022 event, the 100- and 160-km distances will see 327 and 178 runners respectively.

The 160-km athletes start the earliest, from 4 a.m. on Friday. They are also the ones who will finish the latest, according to the cut-off time (COT) at 11:59 p.m. Saturday.

During those 44 hours of competition, 160-km athletes will have to run over a distance four times longer than a typical marathon, with a series of mountains at a total height of 2,369 meters.

"To ensure finishing in time, athletes will have to overcome their own limitations in terms of willpower and physical strength, having little to no sleep during the race," said Quang Chan, the champion of the 100-km distance at VMM 2017 and 2020.

Quang Tran is the first Vietnamese to conquer the 246-km Spartathlon run in Greece. He is also a strong contender for first place in the VMM 160-km distance.

"It's raining, so the track will be very slippery and the weather will be cold at night. Athletes have to be very careful in the downhill sections, but the hardest part is from km 20 to 40. They have to drink water every 15 minutes and eat every 30 minutes, but only have liquid food like porridge and soup," Quang told VnExpress.

"I'm very excited to run 160 km at VMM, partly because I want to explore the beautiful natural scenery that I have only seen through Instagram," said Jean Henri Haniquaut from France. The 43-year old athlete emphasized that he is proud to participate in the first 160-km run in Vietnam.

Haniquaut has run six 160-km races in the world and is considered a champion contender at this year's VMM. But he will have to compete with the top trail runners in Vietnam like Hung Hai and Quang Chan.

In the women's event, the champion contenders for the 160-km distance are Vietnamese Cung Thi Tra My, Vu Thi Lan Huong and Le Phuong Vy.

"I registered for the 160-km run as soon as the organizers announced it, but because of Covid-19, 2021 VMM was postponed. But I continued to practice as planned to attend this year’s tournament," My said.

Before 2022 VMM, My and her fellow runners practiced a lot of simulation runs including in the night, on concrete at noon and on high-sloped terrain.

"I'm ready to conquer the 160 km," My said.

This year's tournament also features a special athlete, Chau Smith, an American runner born in 1950. She has run more than 70 marathons, and to celebrate her 70th birthday, since 2017, has done the Triple7Quest challenge: seven marathons on seven different continents in seven consecutive days.

2022 VMM is the second time this 72-year-old runner comes to Vietnam for a trail marathon. This year she aims to compete in the 42-km distance.

"I'll keep running as long as I can. And it's always great to see everyone," Smith said.

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