Runners from 47 nations are set to run up to 70km in the Pu Luong Nature Reserve this weekend. With some top ultra runners coming from overseas going head-to-head with Vietnam’s best, this year’s race promises to be the most competitive yet.
This will be the fifth edition of Vietnam Jungle Marathon and the biggest to date. The area is home to ethnic minority villages, stunning limestone mountains, some of the most beautiful rice terraced valleys in Vietnam, waterwheels, and waterfalls, welcoming locals to cheer on the runners.
|The Vietnam Jungle Marathon is held in Pu Luong Nature Reserve in Thanh Hoa province |
“Many runners tell me this is their favourite Vietnam Trail Series race, and it also holds a special place in my heart”, said David Lloyd, founder and race director.
“Vietnam is full of incredible locations, but there is something very special about Pu Luong. Logistically there are certainly way easier places to create a race and there are more famous places too, but every time we come back to Pu Luong, we remember why we chose it despite the challenges – it is unlike anywhere else and the atmosphere at this race is something unique,” he said.
This year, three Vietnam Trail Series race champs are going head-to-head with two newcomers. Past VJM 70k champion Hisashi Kitamura of Japan is returning to defend his title. He won with a time of 8:28:49. Vietnam’s Hung Hai has previously been on the podium of VJM. His previous VJM time was 8:58:34. This year’s VMM 100k champion Gaetan Morizur of France will also be on the start line alongside Arnie Macaneras and Jeff Campbell, both very strong runners with podium results.
Hitashi said, “I’m happy to come back to defend my title at VJM. I liked the race in Pu Luong because of the beautiful trail and race village atmosphere. Many runners get together at the homestays and enjoy the race and also the time before and after the race. The course is not super tough, but it has very spicy steep hills. I hope everyone enjoys the suffering there and makes good memories.”
In the women’s ultra field, three champions will be racing each other for the first time. Vanja Cnops of Belgium is returning to Vietnam, having already won both the Vietnam Jungle Marathon and the Vietnam Trail Marathon.
Vanja has strong pedigree in 42km races, but this year she is stepping up to the ultra distance at VJM. She will be racing Vietnam’s Nguyen Thi Duong and Nguyen Thi Nho Hoai.
Vanja said, “I did the Vietnam Jungle Marathon 70km in 2019, and it is still the longest and hardest race I have ever done. It is a beautiful remote area and I love the authentic Vietnam-experience. I am a little nervous, but very excited to be back this year.”
All Vietnam Trail Series races organised by Topas have a strong charitable focus, and the total funds raised through all races for good causes is now almost $364,000.
Charities that have benefited from the Vietnam Trail Series races include Hue Help, Newborns Vietnam, Operation Smile, and Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation.
Funds over the past two years from VJM have been used for drowning prevention programmes in the areas surrounding the VJM race course.
This year, alongside other charitable work, a group of 50 people from Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation is being supported to join the Vietnam Jungle Marathon, with their trip from Hanoi and the race fees fully funded. This gives the kids a great experience for the weekend and has also provided them with a target to train for over the past months.
Co-CEO of Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, Do Duy Vi, was once a street kid himself. Today, along with being co-CEO, he is a runner and inspires the kids at Blue Dragon to start running too via the charity’s run club.
Vi said, “The young people who are part of the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation Running Club are excited to be part of this race. They come from hardship and running has a huge positive impact on them, giving them confidence, health benefits, and the chance to be part of a team.”