Focus on a race Interview

Exploring the mountains in Northern Vietnam

16 Jul 2013 01:59
Jean-Loup Fenaux


Hello, on October 5th 2013, you’ll be organizing the Mountain Marathon Vietnam. Can you tell us where it is located?

The 3-day event takes place in the high mountains of Northern Vietnam in Hoang Lien National Park next to Fansipan (3,143m), the highest summit of Indochina. The area is famous for its many rice fields and farmers from many colorful ethnic minority groups with their own language, costumes and culture. The race is close to the Chinese border.

This is the first edition of the race. What was your motivation to create it?

I am a runner myself and live on a hilltop right in the middle of the mountains and work as the director of Topas Ecolodge. I simply wanted to create an event for adventurous runners who like running in spectacular nature, along rice fields, water buffaloes and cheerful minority children. I wanted a multiday event for all types of runners from low budget to luxury accommodations.

Credit : Vietnam Mountain Marathon

What kind of route have you set up for the runners? How would you describe it?

The Mountain Marathon is rough with a 2,240m elevation gain. The runners will be transferred to the starting point and will run through areas which are rarely visited by foreigners. The route goes along dirt and hilly trails through small minority villages, hillsides, forests and rice fields. It is NOT for beginners as the altitude is around 1,500m and because you have to carry both water and energy supplies.

How many runners do you expect on Saturday morning? What type of runners do you plan to attract?

We expect around 100 adventurous marathon runners excited to explore great nature.

Do you organize other races during the Weekend? If so, on what distances?

We have 3 distances running October 5th, 21k, 42k, and 65k. All running at the same time and hopefully finish around the same hours. The two longer routes are for experienced runners but Half Marathon is not necessarily, as you can hike your way through. There is still a +1,300m elevation gain!

Credit : Vietnam Mountain Marathon

At that time of the year, what kind of weather can we expect?

It is fall in Northern Vietnam and the rice fields are beautiful yellow and now ready for harvest. We expect around 25° C (77° F) and fresh mountain air.

Have you planned festivities around the marathon?

Yes, the event lasts 3 days. First day we explore the local and remote area around our runners’ camp located on the hilltop of Topas Ecolodge. The area is populated by Red Dao and Black H’mong minority groups. Race info in the afternoon and several optional activities.

The second day is race day, but we also have a special and optional program for following partners/children with Vietnamese cooking class, water buffalo riding and local handicraft. Campfire for all runners in the evening!

The third day is a time for relaxing or exploring the famous Sapa town before heading back to Hanoi by night train.

The race finished, what advice would you give a runner who has never been to Sa pa before? A good restaurant, a fancy sightseeing?

I recommend all to buy runners packages return from Hanoi, then you’ll have train ticket, run and food arranged. We collaborate with one of the best restaurants and cafes in town called ‘Hillstation’.

If you want to explore town I can recommend the local markets, both food and ethnic minority market. There is an old colonial church and a pretty hilltop situated next to town. All this will be announced to the participants before their arrival.

In a single sentence, what would you tell the readers of ahotu Marathons to make them register for the Mountain Marathon Vietnam?

Join if you are truly adventurous and want to explore the mountains and minorities of Vietnam.

Credit : Vietnam Mountain Marathon

Interview with Asger Køppen, Race Organizer. Asger is a Danish adventure racer/runner. He lives in the middle of the Vietnamese mountains which he loves to explore as a hobby.