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!
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.
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.
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.
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’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.
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!
Part 2 of my final week will follow shortly!