VnExpress Marathon: math professor, architect, consultant in the mix

By Hoang Nguyen   June 7, 2019 | 07:42 pm PT
VnExpress Marathon: math professor, architect, consultant in the mix
A member of VnExpress Marathon organization board marks the running track in Quy Nhon. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong
The VnExpress Marathon 2019 has attracted 115 foreigners from 26 countries and territories. Meet three of them, running for different reasons.

Of more than 5,000 runners participating in the VnExpress Marathon (VM) 2019 in the south central beach town Quy Nhon Sunday, very few are likely to be mixing business with pleasure.

One of them is William Cherry, a 53-year-old Californian who is currently a professor of mathematics at the University of North Texas. He joined VM 2019 because there will be a joint meeting between the American Mathematical Society and the Vietnamese Mathematical Society taking place in Quy Nhon around the same time.

"I am helping to organize one of the parallel sessions at that meeting, and I thought participating in the race would be a good way to get some exercise before the meeting opens," Cherry said.

The professor said what he loves about Vietnam is "the high value that the Vietnamese place on education and their willingness to help people from all economic backgrounds achieve success in education."

William Cherry poses at Ha Long Bay, northern Vietnam, while attending a mathematics event. Photo provided by William Cherry.

William Cherry poses at Ha Long Bay, northern Vietnam, while attending a mathematics event. Photo provided by William Cherry.

Cherry will only take part in the 5km category this year. In 2006, he participated in San Francisco’s Bay To Breakers, the oldest consecutively run in the world  since 1912. Cherry said VM 2019 will be the opposite of the marathon that he took part in San Francisco.

"I like that the track is within view of the sea and that the run will be early in the morning before it gets very hot. The warm and humid weather will be a definite contrast to my past experiences in San Francisco, where the weather is often cool for the Bay to Breakers run."

"I do not run regularly, and I will be lucky to finish without stopping to walk too much," he said.

‘More of a training’

Marcel Lennartz has a different story about joining VM 2019. The Dutch engineer visited Vietnam for the first time in 1992. His love for Vietnam made him return in 1995, and 25 years later, he is still here.

Now he is the general director of a British architecture firm in Vietnam.

Lennartz is also an Ironman certified coach, a triathlete and the host of, a website on running in Vietnam. During his time in Vietnam, he has participated in many marathon competitions.

"I joined the Da Nang International Marathon three times, HCMC Marathon two times, Da Lat Ultra trail two times, Techcombank Marathon, Sapa Mountain Marathon, Siem Reap Ultra Trail, and my own private event, a HCMC to Vung Tau run. I never receive high results, but each year I get faster and as long as I can finish with a smile, it’s okay," Lennartz said.

Marcel Lennartz (L) in the Ironman 70.3 triathlon 2018 in Vietnam. Photo provided by Marcel Lennartz.

Marcel Lennartz (L) in the Ironman 70.3 triathlon 2018 in Vietnam. Photo provided by Marcel Lennartz.

This is also the first time that Lennartz is visiting Quy Nhon, the capital of Binh Dinh Province.

"Although I've been living for a long time in Vietnam, I never visited Quy Nhon. I heard great stories about it and one of my colleagues is from Quy Nhon and she told me that it was a must-visit place. A friend of mine visited Quy Nhon recently and made pictures of the route. I am really looking forward to it. I expect it to be hot but let's face it: A marathon is not supposed to be too easy but a challenge."

Lennartz's goal in VM 2019 is to finish below four hours and 45 minutes. He is used to the heat in Vietnam, but he said that for other runners, proper hydration and cooling will be an issue.

When asked about the marathon movement in Vietnam in recent years, Lennartz said: "The movement over the last few years has been amazing. It went from almost no runners to lots of runners. People have become aware of the benefits and fun of running. I expect that many more marathons will follow. Most events have some issues but every run seems to be better and better."

For VM 2019, Lennartz has chosen the full run (42 km). But the experienced 48-year-old runner doesn’t find it very challenging.

"The only challenge usually is finding the time to join, due to my busy schedule and the second challenge is making sure that it fits with my overall training plan so that I don't over-train. VM 2019 is more of a training than a key race this time. I enjoy any distance between 5 km to 100 km and usually sign up for the longest distance available," Lennartz said.

Enjoying a long run

Another runner, Japan’s Takeyuki Yamamoto, is also a marathon enthusiast. He ran in the Omogawa Marathon and Aso Round Trail 2019 (120 km category), in which he completed in 3.25 hours, his shortest time so far. He also took part in Ho Chi Minh City Run and Da Nang Marathon in Vietnam.

Yamamoto is currently working in Ho Chi Minh City as a consultant. His friends introduced VM 2019 to him and he signed up.

"This is first time I get to see Quy Nhon. I have heard it has very beautiful and amazing sights. But I’m afraid that the temperature will be very high, so my goal is to enjoy and complete the run. To deal with the hot weather, I will wear a sauna suit while running," Yamamoto said.

Takeyuki Yamamoto at a trail marathon in Indonesia. Photo provided by Takeyuki Yamamoto.

Takeyuki Yamamoto at a trail marathon in Indonesia. Photo provided by Takeyuki Yamamoto.

Yamamoto thinks the fact that this is a charity run is fantastic because it’s for good course.

"This is a great initiative! Many organizers link their event to a charity which is really good. What’s also good is that the marathon movement in Vietnam is on the rise. Recently many people begin to join the marathons here."

"I chose the full run this year because I want to enjoy a long time of running here," he said.

VM 2019 opened for registration on January 15 for four distances: full marathon (42 km), half marathon (21 km), 10 km and five km. The highest number of participants was for the half marathon at 1,800. 700 people signed up for the full marathon.

It’s the only marathon in Vietnam that sets the course through the Thi Nai (2.5 kilometers) sea overpass.

Runners can use their record in VM 2019 to sign up for bigger events like Boston Marathon, Chicago Marathon or New York City Marathon.

For safety reasons, there will be a rehydration spot every two kilometers on the course and five mist-spray spots for runners to cool down in the hot summer weather. Medical centers and restrooms will also be set up.

After the run, the participants’ chip tag number will be raffled to select winners of various prizes including watches, running shoes and gift certificates.

VM 2019, organized by VnExpress and the Binh Dinh Province People's Committee, will have 50 prizes worth VND786 million ($34,000) including the first prize of VND75 million ($3,200) each for the full marathon male and female winners.

This is also a charity run. Organizers will donate 10 percent of the ticket sales proceeds to VnExpress’ Hope Foundation, which works to improve learning facilities for disadvantaged students.

The marathon’s goal is to spread the sporting spirit and strengthen the sense of community.

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