Running the Dalat Mountain Trail this weekend has been my biggest challenge so far and also great training for my upcoming adventure down the length of Vietnam.
Myself and 2 runner friends had signed for the for trail half marathon as soon as the date was released. We had completed the 10km the previous year and loved it so decided to tackle the 21km this year.
The start line was a 40 minute bus ride from Dalat town, through beautiful rolling hills and lush, green farmland. I was full of nervous energy as we gathered at the packed starting gate. There were over 2000 runners attempting the half marathon distance. The 3 of us filled our camel packs with electrolytes, sucked our start line GU’s, wished each other luck with a wave headed off into the mountains.
From start to finish the course was stunningly beautiful and I had to constantly remind myself to look around rather than down at the trail at my feet. The route was an absolute killer, with a mix of never ending, long rolling hills, steep climbs and speedy descents, all whilst dodging tree roots, skipping over rocks and slipping on scree. I absolutely loved it! Well most of the time…
Unlike running a road 21km I found that I was unable to switch off my brain and get into the zone. Instead, I was having to think about every step and couldn’t get into a rhythm at all. “I’m strong, I’m healthy, I feel great” is a mantra a friend had shared with me during my time at Unit 27 training camp and this became my internal monologue during some of the tougher parts of the course.
From about 10km I had seen Nick and Sarah (a friend from work) running along about 200m ahead of me, it took me until the 16km mark to close the gap. On meeting them, Nick shared the the news that we were actually running 24.5kms! Imagine the heartbreak… We ran together for a while sharing our aches and pains but soon lost one another again.
At a check point at around 19km’s I was asked to sign a piece of paper showing that I was doing pretty well. As I’m pretty competitive this was great news! As well as totally unexpected! However, as kilometre 21 I entered THE PAIN CAVE! My legs decided to invent a whole new style of running and I was waving my arms around like a lunatic just trying to stay upright. Then a 70km runner skipped past me… These people are a different breed of super humans. I managed to stay with him for roughly 20 seconds before he flew ahead of me into the pine forest.
The finish line was at the top of yet another brutal incline. The shouts from the crowd, the blaring music and the sight of a friend waving a union jack flag gave me the hit of adrenaline I needed to put in a sprint finish. This propelled me past another 21km runner who I had been chasing for hours and rewarded me with 8th place female and 2nd in my age group. I remember stumbling to collect my medal and Pete handing me a much needed pocari sweat.
As an adult, I don’t very often feel proud of myself but after this run I really do. I left everything I had on the trail and feel an immense sense of achievement that I haven’t felt in a long time. I am so lucky to have met a great community of runners out here in Vietnam and they truly are my inspiration.
This experience gave me a peak into some of the amazing scenery I will experience on my long run from Hanoi to HCMC to raise funds for children’s education and health care in Vietnam. Please visit the charities tab to find out more about these amazing yet poorly funded organisations and click donate tab to help.
Thank you for reading.