It feels like a life time ago that I finished my 2200km run from Hanoi to HCMC, to raise support and awareness of children’s and women’s charities in Vietnam.
Covid-19 has well and truly made 2020 a bit of a disappointing year for most of us.
Whoever you speak to, they have a sad story of how the virus has affected their lives. To me personally, it prevented my ever patient and supportive parents, being in Saigon to run to the finish line and celebrate with me. It has now also stopped them from being able to come out at Christmas. All of this makes me very sad. However, I do know I am lucky that everyone I know is healthy and is able to support themselves. I also have a roof over my head, a stable income and a wealth of wonderful friends.
Unfortunately, this virus has made poverty both here in Vietnam, and around the world, worse. Young boys are leaving the safety of their countryside villages to seek work in the cities, in order to provide for their families. Saigon, is my home and I love it but I cannot imagine the fear that these boys experience having to sleep on, the often intimidating, streets at night, as they fail to find work and are swept into an ever worse cycle of poverty, hunger and loneliness.
Fortunately, Green Bamboo Warm Shelter, is working tirelessly to support these boys and young men. They are woefully understaffed and have lost many of their regular volunteers, as they have had to return to their home countries due to covid-19. Today, with your kind donations, we were able to employ two social workers who will make a huge difference to the lives of many vunerable, scared kids. With this extra manpower, the shelter will be able to support more boys to begin their journey back into education or vocational training before finding a stable, safe job. The social workers ensure the boys have a warm place to stay, clothes, food, games and friends.
I am thrilled that your donations have ensured health, happiness and a brighter future for these boys. It will truly change many, many lives.
When I visited Blossom House, I instantly fell in love with the family vibe of the home and the strong connections the girls had with each other and the staff.
Blossom House provides a safe home for girls who are victims of trafficking, abuse and neglect. The home provides a safe roof over their heads, access to education, healthcare, love and attention.
I am so pleased I am able to support the girls with funds raised from my run from Hanoi to HCMC. Below is a summery of the huge impact our donation is making and will continue to make in the future. It will ensure the girls have the bright future they deserve.
I have also included some pictures of the girls and their awesome artwork and literacy skills.
An update on how funds are being spent from namrunsnam donations.
Due to COVID-19, my chosen charities are now facing even more difficulties than usual. Due to lack of work because of lock down or loss of jobs, many families are struggling to make ends meet. The Friends For Street Children Association (FFSC) provides free education to 280 disadvantaged children, many of whom are displaced having migrated to Ho Chi Minh City from rural provinces. The majority live in a ‘not entirely legal’ slum settlement which can be found on the banks of the District 8, canal, in HCMC, in shacks built from discarded materials.
As schools closed and social distancing restrictions were imposed, these children were prevented from visiting the centres each day and were forced to remain in their shanty homes where their parents struggled to maintain a basic hand to mouth existence. Social workers from the centre reported that many of the children were facing dire conditions, with parents away for longer and longer periods during the day and food supplies very, very low. Whereas before these children were guaranteed one hot meal a day at the centre, this was no longer available to them.
With funds from namrunsnam, we have provided crisis relief food hampers for the children and their families. This small gesture will relieve some of the burden and stress caused by this pandemic.
Thank you to everyone who has donated, your money is truly changing lives!
A few days after I completed my 2200km run from Hanoi to HCMC, I was interviewed by ‘Sharing Vietnam’. Here is the final result…
The current fundraising total now stands at £23000! Absolutely life changing. I’m currently in the process of dividing the donations and contacting charities to see how we can help. It is even more vital in these current, challenging, Corona times.
It’s been six weeks since I completed my 2200km run from Hanoi to HCMC.
Just over a week after I arrived in the city, we went into full lockdown. Not an ideal way to finish six months of my own company! But with the help of the zoom app, I managed to mainly stay positive.
Adjusting to my new normal has been strange. Somedays it feels as if the run never happened and other times I wake up and am surprised that I’m in the same place again and don’t have to cover 25kms.
Since my return to Saigon, in a socially responsible way, I’ve managed to catch up with everyone who supported me throughout my challenge. It’s been lovely having face-to-face conversations rather than over messages. I’ve definately eaten too much junk food and drunk too much booze but it’s been fun.
As the schools were closed, on my return to the city, I was unable to get supply work. Fortunately, a friend put me in touch with a family who wanted to support their 14 year old son with his online learning. As primary school teacher, this was pretty daunting. But I absolutely loved it and having to use my brain again. I’ve not done statistics in maths since I was at school, and I wasnt very good at it then! I learnt that students are expected to do so much more than I ever did and the level of work is hard! After a month of intense tuition, my student was caught up on all subjects and I could see a weight of worry had been lifted from his shoulders. He’s now gone back to school full time and is going to smash it! And I’m also sure he’s super glad to have gotten rid of me!
After 13 weeks of school closures here in Vietnam, schools are gradually beginning to reopen. Sadly, one of the teachers at my old school here is stuck in Australia and is unable to return to work. This means that until he can, I am looking after his Year 5 class. I’ve only worked for 3 days and I am absolutely knackered! Although, tired I am loving being back in the classroom and will hopefully get used to the early mornings again soon.
Talking of early mornings, I’ve been setting my alarm for 4am on a Saturday to get up and do a long run. Yesterday I covered 34kms with my mate Pete, who is training for a marathon. Whilst on the road during namrunsnam, 34km would involve many Vietnamese coffees whilst lying in hammocks and a lunch stop. However, 34km here means actually running it and only quick breaks to grab a bottle of water. Yesterday almost broke me! I now have my sights set on my first official marathon and will sign up to one as soon as race life returns to normal.
As you may have gathered, I’ve not been put off running and am still covering about 30kms a week (this was just over my daily average a couple of months ago!). I’ve signed up for two trail races over the summer, one in Dalat and another in the mountains outside of Danang. I am also planning on running from Saigon down the the southern most point of Vietnam over the course of a few weeks too.
Since returning to the city, I’ve become very aware of my lack of strength and super slow running pace, so am using these races as a motivation to get stronger, fitter, faster and back into decent shape. I’ve signed up to a gym as well as a personal trainer and doesn’t my body know it! I’ve not had DOMS (muscle aches) like this in years! Bring it on!
I’ve begun the process of connecting with charities to find out how the namrunsnam money will be used to help the kids and women. My next blog post will update you more on this. What I do know is that this money will be life changing for so many Vietnamese, as sadly life has got even harder due to the virus outbreak.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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)