The Vietnam Mountain Marathon (VMM), the country’s biggest ever mountain race, is scheduled to start on Friday in Sapa, Lao Cai Province.
From just a small handful of Vietnamese runners who took part in the first edition, the event has grown to include 3,400 runners from 54 nations this year. Organisers expect 40 per cent more runners than took part in the previous edition. VNS reports.
“We created this race because of our love for the mountains, so it is fantastic to see more and more runners from Việt Nam and all over the world, including elite ultra running champions, enjoying the beautiful landscapes of the north and sharing our passion for the area,” said race director David Lloyd.
The event kicks off with an expo in Sa Pa Square on Friday with live music, talks by experts and booths from sponsor California Fitness and international brands Salomon, Garmin, Hammer Nutrition and Decathlon.
The 100km race starts at 10:00 on Friday evening, with participants set to run through the long, dark night among the highest peaks of Vietnam.
Throughout Saturday runners in the 70km, 42km and 21km contests will race through stunning rice terraces and local villages.
The finish line is at Topas Ecolodge, recently named the best place to stay if you care about the environment by National Geographic.
Last year, Trần Duy Quang took first place in the 100km category and became the first Vietnamese runner to win the ultra distance race. However, with a host of top class runners coming from overseas this year, victory for Việt Nam will not be easy.
Home-grown talent Nguyễn Minh Tuấn, the Vietnam Jungle Marathon champion, faces strong competition from a host of runners including Italy’s David Gianelli, champion of the Mesatsila Peak Challenge 100km race, Great Britain’s Robert Butcher and Regis Caberet of France.
Competition in the women’s 100km field will be just as strong, with no fewer than five ultra champions facing off.
Nathali Cochet of France, winner of the 2016 VMM 100km race, will be up against Marieke Dekkers of Holland, champion of Malaysia’s Penang Eco 100 km. Other contenders include Agustoralin Sabanal of the Philippines, winner of the Rizal Mountain Run 50km and Evelyn Lek of Singapore, winner of the Magnificent Merapoh Trail 100km.
The host nation also has a champion in the mix – Nguyễn Thị Đường, winner of Vietnam Jungle Marathon. Her compatriot Lê Phương Vy will also be one to watch.
In the 70km race, famous South Korean runner Jisub Kim will attempt to repeat his fabulous performance from 2017, when he set the record time on the 42km course. He said he aims to take the record for the 70km race this year before returning in 2019 to tackle to 100km course.
VMM has a charitable focus, donating thousands of dollars since 2013. This year’s race will see more than US$38,000 divided between Operation Smile and Newborns Vietnam, local charities around Sa Pa.
Founded in 2013 by Topas Travel, VMM is one of the biggest ultra-running events in Asia and the landmark event on the South East Asia calendar.