I always knew that getting back out running after a couple of rest days in beautiful Tam Coc, Ninh Binh, was going to be hard but woah! It was really tough! My legs felt like they had forgotten how to run. Luckily, it didn’t take too many kms to get back into the groove.
After a lovely countryside run on the first day, I knew I was going to face 3 days of highway hell running. There were no other routes so I was just going to have to get my earphones in and sing myself down the mega roads. Over the next 3 days, I managed to cover the distance I needed to and only took about 3 photos. Not much to see apart from trucks, trucks and more trucks!
I eventually exited the highway and reached the town of Thanh Hoa for a well needed rest day. The town was a total dream!!! Quiet streets, amazing food (so so many carbs!), coffee shops and really friendly people. I treated myself to a slightly nicer hotel and spent a lot of time lying down on the soft, clean bed binge watching netflix! I also took myself on a date to the cinema, to watch ‘Joker’, it was the first time I’ve done this and I loved it. Especially as there were only 2 other people in the whole screening with me! Seems like I am now brave enough to go to the cinema alone as well as attempt to run a country.
Feeling well rested after two days off and wearing lovely new socks, I ran towards the sea! The run was an absolute stunner, 20kms of running alongside rivers and along the coast. I was in such high spirits and everyone I met was so friendly. I’m continually being offered lifts on the back of bikes but am still managing to resist! When I eventually ran onto the sand I had a moment of pride. When speaking to the kids in schools, I’ve said that as an adult you don’t often get to feel proud of yourself. But I’m managing it and it feels great!
Sadly, my elation was short lived, the beach I had arrived on was a bit of a dive. It reminded me of England’s many dying seaside towns before they’ve been gentrified. Think Margate pre-2015! I had the worst nights sleep so far on the journey with karaoke, door knocking, sweeping and drilling all being the soundtrack of my night!
The following day I had images of running down the beach with the sand between my toes. Again my dreams were dashed! I hit my first big mental wall and it was the 30km day from hell. I trudged through deralict villages with stinking fish scattered over the roads with my bottom lip dragging along the floor, feeling utterly sorry for myself. I’d absolutely lost my mojo and was having a very difficult time locating it. I sent out a social media SOS and received an outpouring of encouragement and advice. “I’m strong, I’m healthy, I feel great” (thanks Jill!). At the 20km mark, after a stop for a coke sugar rush, I plugged my headphones, listened to a podcast and pushed out the final 10km. It was a really tough day, especially hard after the elation of the previous one. However, I did it! I made it to a random highway hotel and was coincidentally greeted by a teaching assistant who works at BVIS Hanoi (one of the schools I spoke at before the start of my trip). It was great to speak English for the first time in a week and a great morale boost to hear that people in her school have been following my progress.
After a lovely nights sleep, I woke up with a spring in my step, I only had 14km to run until I was meeting my travel buddy Guy. What an absolute motivator to get myself moving! The run itself was really pretty and people were, as always, friendly. I met a family at one tiny shop, where I stopped for a drinks break. Via the power of Google translate, the father explained to me that his youngest son had downs syndrome and he was worried about him being allowed to go to school. He said he would work hard to make sure he could. This is why I am running!
I reached Hai Hoa beach around 11am, found a beach cafe and ordered a coconut. At 12.30pm I saw a white dude in bright red shorts wandering down the beach. It could only mean one thing. I have a friend!!! I’m so excited for Guy to join me for the next few days and experience this crazy, wonderful journey with me. For now, we are having a few beers and watching the rugby. Happiness.
Thank you so much for reading. Please donate as little or as much as you can. It will really make a difference to the lives of kids.
Love Naomi (aka Nam)