If I had to pick one word to describe this whole experience, I would without doubt say ‘kindness’. Friends, family and strangers have been there for me every step of the way. Some running by my side, others with a text or a phone call, some with a wave, a grin and a bottle of water.
Throughout this final week, I have once again been blown away by the kindness of others. Due to the current Corona carnage, my two finishing events were cancelled. I was disappointed but knew it was the right decision. I took comfort in the fact that we have raised so much money and that it will truly change lives. At the time of writing, we have over £20000! The finishing events were purely for my ego!
However, on arrival in Saigon, I received texts and phone calls from both BIS and BVIS, wanting to celebrate my arrival, in a socially responsible way.
From Emily’s, district 7 apartment, it was an 8km run to BVIS. The school sent out 5 representatives to run with me to the school gates. Whilst we were running towards the school, the other members of staff were covering the same distance in the school gym!
BVIS staff covered a whopping 793 laps of the gym, equalling around 80kms, in the time it took my small group to run to the school. On arrival, I was greeted with waves, smiles and a round of applause from staff members (all at a socially responsible distance!) As well as being filmed by an overhead drone! I returned my smelly mascot, Viet the water buffalo, to his home with Ms Rosy!
The following day, I ran 10km solo from District 7 to District 1, to stay with my friend Greg. Greg, had played a super important role in the journey by being part of my safety group. I would message my location every evening to the group. If anything were to go wrong, Greg, Chris (owner of The Fitness Village in Hanoi) and my mum had a plan of action! They only had to put this plan into action once, when I took a extra rest day, drank too much and forgot to let them know I wasn’t running! Sorry mum!
As I ran through the deserted streets, I realised I’d actually done what I had set out to do. I’d become the first female to run from Hanoi to HCMC! Running up Nguyen Hue I even felt a little emotional!
As I’ve mentioned before, my mum and dad were unable to come out for the final 5km due to the dreaded virus. However, my godparents had flown into the country a few days before the visa ban. They had experienced quiet streets and cancelled tours at each of their destinations. Their flight had been moved and it meant they were going to be in Saigon for 2 days only. I contacted my kind friend Jon, from BIS, who had organised my final 5km party at a pub and asked if we could do a finish line so that my godparents could be involved.
Jon, did an outstanding job of surprising me. I had mentioned a couple of friends who I’d like to join me for the finish line run. However I was met and cheered by many of the people who had run and supported me throughout my journey.
To ensure we acted responsibly, we each grabbed a running partner and ran in teams of two towards Thu Thiem Bridge, which was to be the finish point.
The short run was along the Saigon canal under the bright blue, pollution free sky. After about 30 minutes we arrived at the top of Thu Thiem Bridge, just as the sun was setting over the beautiful Saigon skyline. This is one of my favourite spots in the city and was the perfect place to officially end this epic adventure.
A huge thank you to everyone who came out to clap me in and run with me. I felt like a celebrity! After drinking a few glasses of champagne, Jon gathered us around to watch a video he had made. I am so lucky to call these people my friends. Click this link to watch the video.
After inhaling a posh carbonara, the meal I had been dreaming of for the whole run, at Ciao Bella’s restaurant, a few of us enjoyed an evening drinking cocktails at Mikey’s home bar over looking Nguyen Hue. Thanks for hosting us Mikey! A totally stunning end to an epic adventure.
The next morning, after waking up with a slightly sore head, I received a message from Hue, who was the producer of Vietnamese TV show, ‘Sharing Vietnam’. She invited me down to their studio for an interview for a segment of the show. Over a couple of cafe sua da’s, we talked about my journey, the charities and the highs and lows of the last 6 months. The show will be screened sometime in April, watch this space!
A few days later was the 25th of March and my dad’s birthday. As I’ve previously mentioned, he had been secretly training to run the final 5km with me on his 65th birthday. As the event had to be cancelled, I decided to create a virtual 5km event, where people could log a 5km run, walk or crawl from anywhere in the world. The number of photos and videos I received throughout the day was absolutely mind-blowing! Below are just a few of the many photos I received. Thank you to everyone who joined in!
I think I lost count at around 50 people who had covered the 5km distance! Donations rocketed and I was stunned to receive an anonymous donation of £1500! Thank you to this kind soul. This donation alone will ensure a street kid can attend school, be homed and eat 3 healthy meals a day for… 5 years! Or, it will rescue at least 6 victims of human sex trafficking, bring them home to their families, provide education and counciling and prosecute the traffickers.
The film crew from ‘Sharing Vietnam’, joined me and a couple of friends to capture our final (final) 5km along the canal. Followed by street food and a few beers. How lucky am I!?
I’ve loved (almost) every moment of this journey and wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of so many people. I would like to dedicate this blog to the kind people along the way, these small acts meant the world to me.
I’ve loved writing this blog so much, that I’m going to continue. Look out for a blog detailing my top 5 runs coming soon!
As always, this journey is about the kids and women who without our help will continue to suffer and not be able to live the life they deserve. Please donate as much or as little as you can afford. Thank you for everything!
Love Naomi (aka Nam!)