Vietnam is going through a running revolution…based on the number of running clubs popping up and races being offered, thousands of Vietnamese are running recreationally, for their health and for fun.
I had the pleasure of running with the Sunday Running Club for the first time a few weeks ago, and everyone was quite enthusiastic about running, despite the fact it was evening and still in the nineties. But I survived and we all hung out afterwards and had some coconut juice.
In the last five years multiple running clubs have sprung up across Vietnam, and numerous races as well. Races span everything from 5K’s to hard-core trail runs, like the Vietnam Victory Challenge 50K in DaLat, and the Mountain Marathon in Sapa.
When I first started running in the city of Ho Chi Minh in 2011, I was unable to find any running clubs, or any runners at all. And there were no regular races that I could find. And when I checked the Internet, there was a lot of discussion about how difficult it was to run in Vietnam, and specifically Ho Chi Minh, formerly known as Saigon.
I decided to create this running map of Ho Chi Minh in 2011 to help visiting runners. Ho Chi Minh can be a bit shocking for first time visitors, especially for runners, given the motorbikes, traffic, and questionable sidewalks. I’m proud to say that the map now has over 5000 views!
Now I am the first to admit that running in Vietnam is like “urban cross country.”
You constantly have to be on the lookout for variations in the sidewalk, motorbikes, and other obstacles. You have to pay attention. You can’t just zone out because there are too many people and things that you might run into. As a runner, no one will stop for you or give you the right of way – this includes motorbikes, cars, and even other pedestrians.
But actually I think what foreigners experience is a variation of “culture shock.”
If you have never been to Asia before, just the sight of so many people, motorbikes, and cars can be overwhelming, which can lead you to believe that running is impossible.
But just like anything else, you can adapt as a runner. If you go out every day, as usual, you will soon find that the things you thought were significant before no longer bother you and you can easily run.
And of course it helps to run with a group.
In Hanoi: Chay 365
In DaNang: DaNang Runners
I have found that the Vietnamese running clubs are very friendly…just check their Facebook pages and show up for a scheduled run! Don’t worry about the fact you don’t speak Vietnamese…normally there is always someone who speaks some English.
If you do come to Ho Chi Minh and want to run, you can also always contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I commute back and forth between Vietnam and Santa Rosa for work.