Runners in the Vietnam Mountain Marathon cross a stream in the mountains around Sa Pa by Vietnam Mountain Marathon
Vietnam is now home to an array of world-class outdoor races that take advantage of the country’s abundant natural beauty. Throughout the year, one can take part in exciting, challenging competitions that allow participants to experience a different side of the country.
Pulse Active was one of the first companies to bring large-scale fitness events to the country. In 2013 they organised the first HCMC Run, which included 3K, 5K and 10K races. Since then, Pulse Active has introduced the Colour Me Run and Prisma Night Run, aimed at bringing running events to younger crowds, as well as the Đà Nẵng International Marathon and the Challenge Vietnam in Nha Trang.
The Red Bull Champion Dash, organised by Dragon Adventure Race Events (DARE), has also become hugely popular since its inaugural race in April of 2015. Similar to international events like the Tough Mudder, the dash sends racers through an extensive obstacle course laid out over several kilometres. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City currently host yearly Champion Dashes, but Russel Johnson, DARE general director, says they are looking to expand in the future. “We want year-round engagement, and starting next year we’ll be having much more frequent events, and we’re looking into mountains and more hardcore environments,” he shares. “People have the drive here, they just need an outlet. Once they taste that place where they can go nuts, they love it.”
Two particularly unique races are the Vietnam Mountain Marathon and the Mountain Bike Marathon, both of which are held in the mountain town of Sa Pa. The Mountain Marathon, which includes ultra-distance races, has been held for the last four years, while the biking marathon was introduced this year. David Lloyd, director of sport at Topas Travel, the race organiser, explains that the beauty of the area is a major draw for the events. “People absolutely love it,” he shares. “You go to these areas you’d never normally go. Everyone wants the off-the-beaten-path experience, and that’s what you get on these trails.”
The VNG IRONMAN 70.3 Vietnam, held in Đà Nẵng, has also taken off over the last two years, quickly establishing itself as a mainstay of the country’s adventure sports scene. Roughly 1,140 athletes from 60 countries took part in the 2016 IRONMAN. Bang Trinh, managing director of Sunrise Events Vietnam, one of the race’s organisers, says they expect even more participation moving forward. “I expect next year to be explosive in terms of growth,” he shares. “A lot of people who have held back have said ok, I’ve heard so many good things about it, I’m gonna come.” Bang believes the event’s location is a primary factor in its popularity. “The great thing about Đà Nẵng is that is has great roads and hospitality, it has these important ingredients,” he shares.
Bang also stressed the importance of making sure such races are seen as a positive benefit by locals. He says, “we point to the media attention, both locally and internationally, which showcases Đà Nẵng and Vietnam overall.” The organisers also support a local charity and involve city businesses in the IRONMAN process. Ultimately, he hopes that the race will be seen as a local event powered by local involvement.
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