Runners have said there is no feeling in the world like your first marathon. Months of preparation and training culminate in one pressured-filled event. Inspired by the gallantry of Greek legend Phiedippides, marathons are a true challenge and testament to the strength of not only the body but also the mind.
Marathons usually start in the early hours of the morning, as men and women gather at the starting line. The pressure is too much for some as they succumb to nausea, vomiting precious calories of energy before the race even starts. Once it begins, though, runners start to feel more at ease as the thumping of rubber shoes against the pavement provides a familiar, soothing rhythm.
You have little time to think as your heart rate picks up and your breath quickens. The increase in oxygen gives a welcome boost to your brain. Tangled thoughts give way to a tranquil mind as you run towards the horizon. Many feel these moments are best enjoyed on the open road with a scenic backdrop. The beautiful, tranquil landscape contrasting with the internal struggle; these are the moments avid runners desire.
It is quite exciting then but comes as no surprise that Vietnam has emerged as a great destination for marathons. The thousands of kilometres of pristine coastline, proud mist-laden mountain ranges, intricate mazes of rivers forming the Mekong Delta, and the vibrant green and yellow rice fields and plateaus make Vietnam a divine gift to humanity.
On days when the weather is just right, imaginative cloud formations scatter through the skies, allowing the perfect amount of light to reflect off the vibrant colours before your eyes. Now imagine running amid such a stunning backdrop with the cool crisp breeze blowing against your sweat-laced skin. This has spawned the rise of marathon races in Vietnam.
The 21 km, 42 km, and even 70 km races are popping up throughout the country. Just last month Danang city hosted its third annual marathon, along the scenic route of what Forbes proclaimed to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Participants described the experience as amazing and were certain they would return next year.
For the more adventurous souls, a more gruelling event takes place in September, in the mountain ranges of the Hoang Lien National Park - the Vietnam Mountain Marathon (www.vietnammountainmarathon.com). The small dirt roads and narrow trails took participants on a punishing course up challenging climbs and exhilarating descents. Coupled with the high altitude and erratic weather, this was an event only for experienced runners, as the organiser’s disclaimer stated.
If you missed out on these races have no fear, as an equally enticing race awaits you on 28 November. Set among the backdrop of majestic Halong Bay and its magnificent tall limestone rock formations, this beautiful course will more than suffice. The half-marathon course takes runners along Bai Chay Beach across the long single-span suspension bridge and ends in front of the sleek, black façade of the award winning Quang Ninh library. For more information you can check out the website at www.halongmarathon.com.
For those of you who can’t wait that long, October offers the chance to experience the amazing Lang Co in central Vietnam (www.lagunalangcomarathon.com). The organisers of the race promise a contrast of pristine beaches and local villages set against rugged mountain ranges and lush green jungle. If that doesn’t excite you, I’m not sure what will. So book your tickets and mark it down in your calendar, runners, because this is an event you won’t want to miss.
Marathons offer a truly unique experience in Vietnam. The immense feeling of gratification and accomplishment of completing one, coupled with Vietnam’s extraordinary landscapes, makes it a match made in heaven. If you’re looking for a new and unique way to see the country, pack your running shoes and sign up for a marathon. Good luck!