A marathon returns to Ho Chi Minh City for the first time in 25 years


While infrastructure developments in Ho Chi Minh City attract all the attention from the media, and keyboard warriors citywide seemingly vent their spleens on a daily basis online, one healthy aspect of Vietnam’s development is quietly taking off in leaps and bounds and continues to grow: marathoning.


The HCMC Marathon returned for the first time in 25 years this January. Staged as part of the annual HCMC Run, the overall event attracted over 7,000 runners.


Because marathons are a relatively new phenomenon in Vietnam — the first ever timed running event in HCMC was in 2013 — participation in the full (42.2km) and half (21.1km) marathons still remains more popular among foreign participants. However, Vietnamese participants represented 70% of runners overall in this year’s event. It’s an encouraging sign for the organisers, Pulse Active, who are also behind the Danang International Marathon and Color Me Run.


Marta Solanas from Pulse Active expects 15,000 participants for Color Me Run’s next edition in the new year. That’s a big gig to organise.


While those numbers remain impressive, they don’t include the number of people involved behind the scenes that have got the events like the HCMC Marathon to where they are today. This year’s event deployed 800 university student volunteers, 450 security and police officers, 1,000 staff connected to sponsors and partners, 200 government representatives, and an estimated 20,000 people who lined the streets to cheer the runners on.


No Finish Line in Sight


The stats above are impressive indeed, but not only that, they measure the sense of community that huge events like these engender.


But it’s the growth in the number of Vietnamese participants in the longer distance events making up the HCMC Run that’s most impressive. In the first edition in 2013 when the longest distance was 10km, just 468 Vietnamese runners completed the race. In the four years since, that number has increased 142%, with this year’s 10km race attracting 1,135 Vietnamese runners. Vietnamese participation in the full and half marathons is showing excellent growth as well.


This is not only encouraging for the organisers but also for the community at large, especially given the coverage lifestyle diseases such as Type-2 diabetes have had recently, and the escalation in the number of diabetes (among others) diagnoses predicted to come in the decade ahead.


To read the other articles in this series, click on the following links:


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Matt Cowan

Managing Editor of Word Vietnam. Destined to be a dairy farmer until he accepted a spur of the moment job offer in Japan in 1998. After making it big in Japan, he now finds himself wrangling stories in Vietnam instead of cows in Australia. Matt has been living in Saigon since 2010.

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