New York’s got one. London’s got one. Paris, Tokyo, Berlin and Vancouver, too. On Sunday Jan. 15, after an absence of 25 years, Ho Chi Minh City is joining the exclusive club of cities with marathons.
We spoke to race organiser and director of Pulse Active, Bady Pham, to find out more.
After four years of organising the HCMC Run, why have you decided to host The City Marathon this year?
Our idea was always to organise a full-distance marathon for the city. But, in 2013 when we first organised HCMC Run, the running community was still small and not developed. We had to introduce the marathon concept step by step. So we started with three short distances; 3km, 5km and 10km. That’s why we called it HCMC Run.
Over the last few years, there have been many requests for a full marathon. We’ve heeded their call. This year marks 25 years since the first international marathon was held in the city.
How difficult has it been to set up the event?
When we first came up with the idea it was a new concept both for the citizens and for the authorities. However, they saw what we were aiming to do and we were able to get the support of the city. This year, the race will be supported by the Department of Culture and Sports and the Association of Athletics Federations in Ho Chi Minh City.
What will the route be?
All distances will run through District 7, in Phu My Hung. In the 10km, 21km and 42km races, participants will run across Phu My Bridge, the most iconic part of the race. The full marathon distance, which is a new category launched this year, will be composed of two different loops. The first one goes across the bridge and the second one will be a bit different where runners will pass by more parks.
There are no designated spectator areas — the race route goes through an urban community which has many features that spectators can walk to and find a place to comfortably wait and watch the runners pass by.
What have you got in place to help runners deal with the heat?
The marathon will start at 4am for the longer distance, before sunrise, so the temperature will be under 30 degrees. However, after sunrise, the temperatures get higher and that’s why we provide runners with cold water. We also have cooling stations with giant ice buckets that they can use to refresh themselves.
How difficult is it to promote a marathon to the overseas marathon-running community?
It’s difficult to reach runners overseas and our event is young compared to some other marathons. We try our best to promote it around Asia and Europe and we can see an increase in the numbers of international runners joining us. Last time out we had 2,500 international runners.
Running is a lifestyle activity and participants are looking to enrich their experience by making a vacation out of their races. When you participate in an urban marathon, you are no longer a tourist, you are part of the city.
How much interest has the marathon generated locally?
There has been a regular annual increase in the number of Vietnamese participants as well as in the running clubs established. Most sign up for the 5km distance, which is considered the perfect combination of sport and fun for first-timers. Many companies also use the run as a form of team-building activity.
Over the past three years, Vietnamese participants are moving from the friendly, shorter distances to more competitive longer distances. For the 2017 edition, we are expecting about 4,000 Vietnamese runners.
Many people run to raise money for charity. Are you expecting that this year?
We are supporting the Orange Initiative to help people with disabilities and survivors of Agent Orange (PWD/AOS). Participants can now give these people the opportunity to run in the city event by sponsoring them with a 5km race kit. Also, then can contribute more by donating directly.
Why is the HCMC marathon important for this city?
Hosting a city marathon is a great opportunity to put the city on the world map. There is also a positive impact on sports tourism to Vietnam. The race attracts around 6,500 participants every year, 37 percent are foreigners and tourists. We estimate that last year’s event had a positive impact of between US$6 million and $8 million.
What are your hopes for the future of the event?
We hope to be able to offer a marathon where runners start in the heart of the city.
To register for the HCMC Run or the City Marathon 2017, please click on hcmcrun.com. Registration closes on Dec. 29. Donations to the event’s designated charity can also be made on the same website. The HCMC Run is organised by Pulse Active in conjunction with Taiwan Excellence