My Romance With Running

Stories about running


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Running in Vietnam – Hoi An & HCMC

Hôi An is a lot smaller than Hanoi with a population of 120,000 it’s about the size of Dunedin. Hanoi had 7 million people and about 5 million god dam scooters so arriving in the relative peace of Hôi An gave me the opportunity to re-prioritise; to stop eating three ice creams a day and start doing some training.

The day after we arrived it was raining and not so hot so I went for my ‘long run’ out to the beach, Ben was in tow riding a faded green bicycle named Martin (Said in a Spanish accent) who protested the entire way.

Benjamiin and Martiin

Benjamiin and Martiin

It was a lot easier to run here without battling crowds, scooters, rickshaws, the pungent leaky bum-like smell of durian mixed with authentic human poo and wee and a heavy helping of trash and exhaust fumes like you have to in Hanoi. In Hôi An you can run along the canals or near the beach, the main roads are well use to cyclists ambling along so a runner is not a problem! It’s very flat here which can get boring, but when its 28-35 degrees I doubt that I would have enjoyed hills very much.

Yay I done running

Yay I done running

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This waterway wasn’t obviously polluted, zero corpses!

I loved running alongside the fields here, this is why!

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Two little dogs followed us along most of this path, aside from the trash it’s pretty idyllic

I attempted a speed session at the hotel on the treadmill. She’ll be right, no air con no worries. What a fool. I managed 5x 1km repeats at a 4.29min/km pace and I was struggling to hit that! Pooh pooh. Struggling so much my iPhone got carried away playing Daft Punk trying to haul my ass faster and faster and hit the deck and flew out into the gym equipment across the room. Struggling so much that there was not a dry place on my whole body, I have never been so sweaty in my life (This was true at that point, it got worse later).

That's me in the conical hat cleaning the river while watching a girl in orange shorts run by

Look closely see if you can spot me! CLUE- I’m wearing a conical hat

I managed one 20km run here, I stopped around every 5km with my scooter support vehicle for water and had a gel at about 16km which gave me a huge boost otherwise I would have jumped on the back of the scooter for a ride home. I was sweating so much that my shorts were constantly dripping on to the back of my calves, have you ever felt that? No? Oh it’s lovely you should try it.

That face you make when you thought you would die but you pulled through and you're still alive for Season 6 #JonSnow

That face you make when everybody you thought you would die but you pulled through and you’re still alive for Season 6 #JonSnow #TheNightsWatchCanGoDie

We went to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) after leaving Hoi An. I’ll call it HCMC because that is more insta-friendly and acronyms make you look like you know things. I got up at 5am to join the Run Club VN running group on a 15km run. I got utterly lost on the way there but thankfully as it’s daylight at 5.15 there are heaps of people to help with directions! I ran with a local Architect named Hung and an expat Swede named Chris. With their help we got lost again and I got to learn from locals about HCMC and what it’s like to run here.

I was excited

We just met each other, lead me in to the depths of Saigon and across a motorway in peak traffic after escaping from a stray dog, it will be fun!

Running in Vietnam has made me realise that while holidays in hot places are nice, running in hot places is a bad time. I would much rather run where humans don’t like to go, where it’s too cold, too windy and too steep. Where you won’t hear the sound of another person much less the commuting of tens of thousands. I really appreciate how clean the air is in New Zealand, and that to get soaked on a run you need to jump in to a body of water and can’t rely on litres of your own perspiration for that ‘just showered’ look. I am really looking forward to cold weather running; mistaking my nipples for wine gums, being sprayed by huge grey surf, having numb fingers and a numb arse and only smelling something even mildly fecal when being crop dusted on a pack run.

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Running in Vietnam- Sa Pa

Sa Pa is in Northern Vietnam in Láo Cai, the highest mountain in Vietnam is here – Fansipan at 3143m. It is also the location of the Vietnam Mountain Marathon, which from my research is perhaps the only trail race in Vietnam (yet!).

We caught a sleeper bus to Sa Pa from Hanoi, named ‘sleeper’ for the reclining seats that should make it easier to sleep. Not conducive to sleep for the constant tooting, the smoking bus driver, the not-properly-washed backpackers and the 36 degree temperatures. With the aid of snapchat and sleeping pills we made it to Sa Pa at 6am on what day I don’t really care to remember and checked in to a hotel with a view of the mountains. 

View from the hotel

 

I used Strava to search segments nearby and could see where other people had run here, this was a huge help! I Scootered down to the Sa Pa Athletics Track which was busy with several soccer games happening and had a crack at a speed session.

I wanted to do 1km repeats but dropped it down to 500m because I’m on holiday and its 28 degrees AND Sa Pa is at about 1500m elevation. Three excuses is enough without adding that it was my Birthday that day and I should be sitting down to one of several cakes.

  

Two local boys chased me around the track, they could run better than I could. I managed to run in to (or over?) a small child in the last hundred metres of my fourth rep and he flew across a couple of lanes and rolled in to the dirt. I picked him up off the ground and he looked like he was about to cry. Everyone was staring at me mutely while the boy sulked and I felt like a monster so I called it a day and ran away from the scene, at pace.

Look at that stride and how freely he runs while I look like a caricature

 

I did one short trail run in Sa Pa, there is an unmarked road of sorts just near the Athletics Track. The road starts out as the kind you could drive a car down then turns in to a goat track, with little brown and black goats on it, that isn’t a figure of speech.

   

I got quite lost on this run but it was so much fun! People will wave you back towards the road if you make the right confused expressions at them. Enough chat just look at some of the photos I took on my run.   

    

the inevitable ruin of the pretty Zoom Pegasus

 I will be back to run in Sa Pa, with more research on where to run, more time, less food poisoning and perhaps coming at another time of year as July and August are the hottest months here.


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Running in Vietnam- Ha Noi

Taking a three and a half week holiday from work; glorious! Taking a three and a half week holiday from running; terrifying.

I knew when we planned this trip that I would be able to squeeze in a few runs, and doing my favourite thing while travelling has been an challenging and rewarding experience so far.  

Our first destination was Hanoi, a city of seven million people in the North of Vietnam. Our hotel was near Hoàn Kiém Lake, and it turns out this is a hugely popular spot for the locals doing their morning exercise. From 5am (likely even earlier) the path around the lake was packed.

Before my run, 5.45am and 28 degrees C

 
I aimed to go for a 6km run but cut it short because I was sweating more than I do I hot yoga (which is litres) and breathing like I was running 400m sprints.  

I am sharing this so you know how hot I am (in temperature and also sexiness)

 Most people that were running just ran on the roads because of how crowded it was. You wouldn’t do this in the day or night time though because the traffic is chaotic and you would become a speed bump for the scooters.

 
There were a few groups that looked VERY vaguely like the Vietnamese version of Les Mills BodyJam classes happening around the lake including this one, it was brilliant, perfect for a warm down.

After uploading my run to Strava I saw that I was a good 30 seconds behind the course record for a lap of Hoàn Kiém. Like any Strava addict I went back the next day and ran it faster so I could claim it for myself, take that other Strava tourist. 

I look like I really enjoyed that, right?

  

The lake and surrounding foliage

 

Because we were off to Sa Pa that night, and sharing the sleeper bus with other travellers I thought I should be considerate and attempt to clean my horrifically sweaty running gear. Ben I swear I didn’t use your toothbrush for this…  

Ha Noi was really hot, very polluted and very dirty. It was cool to get outside and see how the people who live here exercise but not a very pleasant experience. If I lived here I would definitely opt for the group fitness classes, or perhaps become a Xích lô (rickshaw) driver. Anything to avoid all the treadmill time!