The final week! Part 2

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 running team
Laps of the gym
Still smiling
Quarentined runners

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!

Rosy, Viet and me!

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!

Me and Uncle Ho
Sharing the chocopie love with Greg

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!

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.

Unexpected suprise

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.

Socially responsible running buddies. Maria and Sarah
Nick and Mikey
Greg and Ian
Ellie and me

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.

Gary and Anita

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.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1iRKewMadPn4jHr8ZbjOMPX8YyVGghZGP/view?usp=drivesdk

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!

Lili and Rich
2 year old Luca!
Upen and Helen
Fiore
My dad! Dave Skinner

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!?

Synchronised
The best running buddies a girl could ask for
Ellie
Nick

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!

http://www.namrunsnam.com/donate

Love Naomi (aka Nam!)

#namRANnam

The final week! Part 1.

I can’t quite believe I’m writing this post! What seemed like a ridiculously daunting task 5 months ago, is over!!!

I did it!!! I’ve become the first female to run from Hanoi to HCMC, Vietnam!

Thu Thiem Bridge

It’s not been the final week that I had planned but it’s definately been an adventure!

My week started at the bottom of Can Gio, known locally as monkey Island and I had a daunting 47km of running in front of me. All local guest houses on the island had been shut down by the local authorities, so I had no other choice than to run all the way into district 7.

My route along Can Gio

I had managed to find an overpriced resort at the bottom of Can Gio that would accommodate me for the night before I started the ultra run. After a disappointing dinner of flavourless pho, I was relaxing in my room with a couple of chocopies, when at 9pm, there was a loud knocking on my door. It was the police…

In Vietnam, whenever you check into a hotel you are asked to leave your passport with reception. I had been told this was because the police visited hotels at 8.30pm to check documents. I’d never really believed it happen until I was ordered to put on a mask and follow the police as they waved my passport at me!

It became apparent that they were concerned with the stamp from my Cambodian visa run. In my atrocious Vietnamese, I attempted to explain, to the four officers, that I’d only crossed the border for 20 minutes before returning to Vietnam. Fortunately, the late night receptionist spoke excellent English and became my translator. My interigation continued for about half an hour as I had my temperature taken about 5 times. Each time they would show me my temperature and then compare it with their own. The officers were friendly and kept repeating ‘UK, number one!’, I bounced back with ‘Vietnam, number one!’. Eventually, after friendly waves and laughs, I was free to go back to my chocopie and netflix evening. What began as an intimidating experience ended with the usual Vietnamese smiles.

The 47km slog was tough! It was along one straight, never ended, sun soaked road. Fortunately, the road was almost deserted which meant I didn’t need to run in my mask.

Always beautiful scenery
Mangroves

Unfortunately, it also meant there were limited drinks stops along the way. Which in the 35 degree sunshine, isn’t ideal. I eventually found a side of the road cafe, put on my mask and ordered a coke and a water. Sadly, I was waved away as the owners ran away in fear. I was down to my last bottle of water, that was hot from the sunshine, not an ideal situation to be in with 27kms left to run!

As I trudged sadly along the road, I was passed by two ladies on a motorbike, they gave me a cheery wave and carried on their journey. This lifted my mood as in recent days the usual friendly greetings had stopped. A couple of minutes later, the ladies returned and asked it if needed their help. I explained my mission and we had a lovely chat and wished each other well. A few minutes later, they returned again! This time loaded with bottles of water and ngoc mia (sugarcane water). The kindness of strangers lives on! ‘In times of trouble, look for the helpers, there will always be helpers’. Sadly, these women will never know how grateful I am for their kindness but I will never forget them.

The kindness of strangers

With around 20kms to go, I got a phone call from my thoughtful friend Grant, who has run with me previously. He said he’d been tracking me on the map and asked if I’d like company for the final 10km of the run. I jumped at the chance!

Grant to the rescue!

Grant’s phone call and kindness pushed me forward and I ran the 10km to ferry into outer Saigon with a cheesy grin on my face.

The ferry port back to Saigon

On seeing the ferry port I was hit by a wave of emotions. I think it was a mixture of pride and relief! Grant jumped off his grab bike and we paid for our 2000VND (1p) ferry ticket and jumped aboard. The ferry takes you from the rural Can Gio district into bustling Tan Phu, in southern Saigon.

The final 10km were hot and hard but with ultra runner Grant by my side we chatted away the kms. I was due to stay at my friend Emily’s house on arrival, who lives in a large apartment block, which can be seen from quite far away. The last 2kms were some of the hardest of the whole trip. I was absolutely broken but delighted! It would have been a very different last hour of the day if Grant hasn’t picked up the phone. Thank you Grant!

The day ended with a a hot shower, a couple of socially responsible pints and sausages and mash!

Emily

Part 2 of my final week will follow shortly!

http://www.namrunsnam.com/donate

The Corona Chronicles continue…

The people below have been my rocks this week. Without them it would have been the most difficult week of the entire journey. Thank you Jules, Hazel, Ellie, Ian, Mikey, Pete, Vung, baby Lena and Emma.

Fitness friends fighting against Corona stigma
Being treated like a queen
Nothing beats a seafood dinner with friends

Vietnam has done a great job stopping the spread of the virus, known as ‘Miley’ in cockney rhyming slang. (I wonder if you can figure out why)

The streets here in Vung Tau are super quiet and the majority of locals are wearing masks. I have found myself fighting a losing battle to find accommodation, in the local cheap guest houses that I have used throughout this journey. Sadly, the friendly welcomes I had become accustomed to have long since gone. I am now a source of fear in this country. I absolutely understand that people are cautious but being treated like the enemy and a social outcast, leaves me feeling lost and upset. Especially when I am not given an opportunity to explain that I have not left Vietnam for the last 7 months and definately do not have corona. “Khong Corona!”

Last night I found out that my legends of parents, will no longer be able to join me on my 5km finish lap of Thao Dien Loop. As Vietnam have stopped entry into the country for many European countries. Again, I understand why but I am absolutely gutted. My dad, who turns 65, on 25th Match, my finish date, has been secretly training to run the last 5km with me. I am heartbroken that this is no longer going to happen.

Team Skinner

On Monday, I will now be running my longest distance of the entire trip. I have to run 48km into outer Saigon, as the island of Can Gio, known locally as Monkey Island, has closed its doors to tourists so I will be unable to find accommodation. I will embrace the challenge and know that I can do it but it’s not the ideal end to this trip!

The long way home!

As my wise mum said, we are lucky that we are well and everyone we know is ok. I need to remember this when I’m feeling sorry for myself.

This run has been about kindness and together we have raised an unbelievable, life-changing amount of money for vunerable children and women in this country that I call home. My chosen charities are struggling more and more each week that this virus continues to be an issue. They are unable to attend fundraising events to raise the money they so badly need to help improves the lives and futures of the community.

More than ever, please dig deep and donate as much or as little as you can.

http://www.namrunsnam.com/donate

At the moment, my finish line events are still going ahead. 21st March at Saigon Sports Club In District 7 and the final 5km on the 25th March in District 2. More information on these events can be found on my Facebook and Instagram pages @namrunsnam

Thank you so much for reading
Love Naomi (aka Nam)

Daphne and Casi chat about their experiences on the road.

Two weekends ago, I was joined by my friends Maria and Sarah and their kids. On international women’s Day, I asked the 11 year old girls to write about their experiences.

Daphne’s reflections…

My weekend with NamRunsNam
Running with NamRunsNam was an incredible experience because it felt
amazing running for all those charities and even just supporting Ms Naomi.


On the 1st night we stayed in quite a fancy place where each room was a little Beach shed and they had a little bathroom attached to it. We ran 15km the next day and stopped at about 11 to have a rest break and sat in some
hammocks. Later we went to a small motel and a seafood place for dinner.


When we woke up we headed down the road for breakfast and ended up
having egg banh mi and then soon started running. That day we only ran 10km but it was still great fun!


What am I proud of?


● Supporting all the charities
● Running overall 24km
● On the first day the 12th kilometre was the fastest and I had a
personal best of running a 6 minute kilometre
● On the second day I ran a continuous kilometre and a half
● I had a lot of fun!


In the future I would like to join the school athletics and running teams.

Daphne (08.03.20)

Feeling proud

Casi’s reflections…

I loved running with Ms Naomi. I especially liked the food on our last meal. There where so many story’s to tell but this is probably the most craziest.

We where almost at the first hotel on Friday and we where talking about what we brought and Ms Sarah (my mum) and Ms Maria both forgot the passports and the law in Vietnam is you need to show your passports and the motel we stayed at needed them and then we sorted it but then 2 hours after they came worried saying we need the passports now because the police where coming because they needed the real thing not pictures. Then the taxi man Tam went and got them. And that’s the end of the story.

I had the best time with Ms Naomi from the drama about passports to baby buffalo to guinea pigs to the running.

Casi (08.03.20)

http://www.namrunsnam.com

Mui Ne to Binh Chau

Before arriving in Mui Ne, the kite surfing capital of Vietnam, I had not been in a town or city that catered for western tourists since celebrating my birthday in Nha Trang, about 300km before. So upon arrival in Mui Ne, I headed straight for a Turkish restaurant that I had been to on my previous visit a few years ago. Full of kebab and hummus, I felt revitalised for the weeks running.

Sinbad’s, Mui Ne

Finally, after about 800km of hills, I was now running on the flat again. The quiet roads ran parallel to the ragged coastline, where I was able to watch the impressive skills of the kite surfers whilst being cooled by the crisp sea air. Bliss! There are plentiful oppertunities for drinks and food stops all along my route now. Such a contrast to the chocopie days of the northern districts.

Ke Ga lighthouse

This week I am running through the Binh Thuan Province, which is famous for growing dragon fruit. To start with I thought the spiky plants, growing in fields along the roadside, were aloe vera. On closer inspection, I noticed the pink fruits growing on the plants and the many stalls selling them on the side of the road. My fruit intake this week has consisted of purely dragon fruit. Sitting on tiny plastic stool, munching on a juicy fruit, just picked from the tree, and chopped in front of me has been a common event this week.

A dragon fruit plantation

Due to Corona virus paranoia, the schools in Vietnam have been closed for the previous month. My friend Grant, who has previously run with me, was given a last minute holiday from work. He is a keen cyclist so decided to hop on his bike and pedal the 180km from Saigon to Ke Ga for a beer and a catch up. I ran south to Ke Ga and arrived just in time to have a shower and wash my clothes before Grant arrived. We had a fantastic evening catching up on the events of the last few months and continuing to order ‘one last beer’. The next morning, after a couple of banh mi’s, I ran alongside Grant for about a km and then waved him off for his 180km journey home. An impressive distance to travel for a beer! This time, up a great example of the kindness of friends!

Did he pick a winner?

The heat is really ramping up in this area of the country and the sensible thing would be to be on the road by 5.30am to get a cool start to my running day. However, this has yet to occur. It is as hot at 8am as it is for the rest of the day, so I have decided that sleep is more important and I will just run in the heat. Luckily, in this part of the country, there are no shortages of hammock stops and I’ve been taking full advantage.

On Thursday, I arrived at coco beach camp in La Gi. I treated myself to beach hut style accomdation as I was taking a rest day on Friday, before the arrival of friends from Saigon. I spent my day, swinging in hammocks, sitting in the quirky coffee shop, eating piles of fresh seafood and too many cakes to mention!

Coco beach camp

Friday evening saw the arrival of, Jon, Sarah, her daughter, Casi, Maria and her daughter’s Winnie and Daphne, as well as taxi driver extraordinare, Tan. Maria has run with me before, achieving her distance personal best but this was the first visit for the others. Sarah is on a fitness drive, having signed up for the ironman sprint triathlon in May and having just completed her first 10km race. The girls are all outdoorsy and would be experiencing road running for the first time. Jon is also on a fitness campaign and can often be spotted walking around the Saigon streets, with his fancy camera.

Girl power!

After a hearty breakfast of pho and banh mi, our entire group hit the road, including Tan the taxi driver, who was super excited to be part of the team. We spent the first 3kms doing running/walking intervals. All the while, Jon taking some great action shots (I will publish these once he has finished editing). After 3km we waved goodbye to a tired Tan, who jumped on the back of a motorbike, when he thought we weren’t looking!

Tan

Our merry crew continued our intervals for another couple of kms until Jon and his flipflops had had enough and he headed back to chill by the pool with Tan. The rest of us covered a total of 15kms, a personal best for everyone (apart from myself and Maria). I was so so impressed with the girls and the perseverance and grit they showed, even when they were tired, achy and hot.

Daphne, Casi and Winnie my

That evening, we waved goodbye to Maria and Winnie, who were heading back to Saigon. The remaining members of the team walked down to the beach, through local villages to splash in the sea, climb sand dunes and find dinner. This put out daily distance to 21km and Sarah achieved her goal of covering a half marathon distance!

We stayed in a road side home stay for the night. This is the norm for me but was a new experience for the others. Both Sarah and Maria mentioned they thought it was important for their girls to experience all sides of Vietnam, not just their fancy expat lives down in the city. (I won’t mention the drama that leaving your passports in Saigon causes…)

Tires but proud

Sunday started with sleepy faces and tired legs. However, Casi and Daphne were determined to cover as much distance as they could that day. Using Tan as their support vehicle, the girls ran through the heat with me for much of the day. All the while chatting about the new sights and experiences of the weekend. It was great to see them buzzing with pride at their accomplishments.

For the final few kms it was just myself and Daphne. She has been bouncing all weekend as she ticked off achievement after achievement. She ran her first continuous km, then her fasted km and finally 1500ms without stopping, in the heat of the day, after running over 25kms in two days!

Smashing goals!

“Ms Naomi, I’ve seen so much more of the real Vietnam this weekend and I love it. The people are friendly and happy, even through they don’t have much. Maybe money isn’t the best thing for people, as I don’t think if people in Saigon are this happy…” (Daphne, 1st March, 2020)

Before heading back to Saigon, we decided to hit the beach for an ice cream. We found a delightful, hidden beach located on the other side of a pine forest.

Jon and I showing off out tan lines!

As I was waving the team off, disaster struck! The taxi got stuck in the sand! After much digging, pushing and team work (the kindness of strangers in action again). Tan and his taxi were free to hit the road back to Saigon.

Teamwork!

Taxi gate ended the week in dramatic style, I found a hotel and fell asleep the earliest I have in a long time. Having kids around is full on! But utterly worth it for the pride I saw shining out of them after every achievement and high 5!

As always, thanks for spending the time reading about my adventures. Saigon and the finish line is looming and I’m no sure how I feel about it!

As much as this journey is an adventure, it is also a mission to end human trafficking and improve education in this wonderful country.

Here’s the donate button: https://namrunsnam.com/donate/

Thank you, love you

Naomi (aka Nam) XXX