The third Vietnam Mountain Marathon took place over the weekend with almost 1000 runners from 45 nations descending on the mountains of Sapa to take on trails of 10, 21, 42 and a monstrous 70km in length.
The race was organised by Topas Travel and sponsored by Salomon, Lloyd and Deboodt Photo Tours and the American Chiropractic Clinic.
This was no ordinary trail race – the buffalo beaten paths took the runners into remote parts of the Sapa hills, across rice paddies and even right through villagers’ front yards as local kids cheered them on. Conditions were hard with rain falling throughout much of the event, making the paths slippery and the going tough.
Winner of the male 70km was Thailand’s Sanya Khanchai, while the women’s 70km was won by Hanoi-based American, Samantha Young.
Samantha has history with this race, having won the 21km event in 2013 and back that up with the 42km in 2014.
After finishing the race (and doing a handstand on the line to celebrate), Sam said: “It was doing the 21km race here in 2013 that made me fall in love with trail running in the first place, so it was incredibly special to get to try the longest distance this year. Doing the full 70km meant I got to see even more remote parts of the course and being in the mountains as the sun rose is something I will never forget.”
In the 42km race, another Hanoi-based runner, Graham Knight, took out the top spot, making it a very good day out for the capital’s Red River Runners.
Graham said: “It was a real pleasure to take part in the Vietnam Mountain Marathon this year. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to run in a beautiful part of the world. The rain made it quite slippery underfoot and definitely contributed to sorer legs that usual, but at the same time it added to the aura of the race. What struck me most though was the camaraderie between individual runners, every competitor was clapped and cheered across the line and out on the course everyone was supporting each other. The sense of relief crossing the line knowing there were no more hills to run up was huge.”
The 10km race was held on Sunday, starting in Sapa before dropping down into the stunning valley and passing through Cat Cat village. Runners then faced a brutal climb back up to Sapa town where huge crowds cheered in the winners. In the men’s race, local runner Sùng A Tỏa triumphed for the second year in a row.
Last year a young H’mong boy stole the show by turning up and running the entire 21km route in over-sized flip flops. This year he was back, standing on the start line shouting ‘let’s go, let’s go!’ before tearing off with the main pack. Once again, he completed the full distance, albeit in better fitting sandals this year!
This year the race supported Operation Smile, a Vietnam-based Operation Smile. VND 200,000,000/$9100 was raised to provide surgery for children with harelips and cleft palates in the northern mountainous province of Lao Cai.