This week ‘Corona Mania’ has reached a new high on my run route. People are continuing to wear surgical masks everywhere they go, just as they have been for the last 4 weeks. However, now paranoia has reached a new level. As I run along the roads people are covering their mouths or running away from me. Just this morning, I watched one women, whilst driving, take her hands off of her motorbike to cover her child’s face as they rode by. I have been refused hotel rooms in two different towns and heard shouts of “Corona” instead of the usual “Hello”.
At first, I was cross and offended but now it just makes me feel sad. In the towns and villages where I have caused the most extreme reactions, I have been aware of a variety of ‘corona warning’ signs and banners. I have attempted to translate these banners and think they are advising to only spend time with family and stay away from foreigners to prevent infection. Vietnam currently has zero cases of corona, so it has done a great job at containing the outbreak, however it has also made me a threat and someone to be feared and cowered from.
The reason I am running is education. This extreme reaction reflects a lack of understanding and therefore a need for education. I shall keep on running!
Naomi (aka Nam)
P.S- The kindness of strangers continues and not everyone is reacting to this extreme.
After a fabulous weekend with Jules, Ellie and Hazel it was time to hit the road again solo.
After consulting my map, which is my best friend on the road, I realised I was going to have to put in some serious kms, unless I wanted to sleep on a mountain road the next night.
So, last Monday, I officially became an ultra runner. I covered a brutal 46.5kms through a desert and over a huge mountain pass whilst tackling some serious crosswinds that battered me and my backpack for hours. The route was also really desolate with not many cafes or places to get water. So not only was it my longest run, it was also the heaviest my pack had ever been. As I lay aching in my hotel room later that evening, I felt a great sense of achievement. I’m considering attempting a 50km day but it’s very hot at the moment and will continue to get hotter, so maybe the next ultra will wait until it’s a bit cooler…
The day following my ultra run was 26kms of highway hell. I spent the day listening to music, waving at tourists on bikes and trying to push out kms until the end of the day. As I was running alongside salt flats and a power station, 3 western girls on the back of big bikes rumbled past, as always I gave them a cheery wave. However, this time one of the bikes did a U-turn and one of the girls jumped off. I knew her! It was Jess, who I had previously worked with at BIS, who now lives in Thailand. What an absolute coincidence! After a roadside chat and a hug we went in our separate directions. This chance meetings gave me the boost that I needed to get me through a tough day.
In the evening, during my usual search for food, I was frog marched (with a smile) by a local lady into her house. On which she promptly feed me grapefruit and tea. After I had exhausted my very, very limited Vietnamese, she called her son’s to come and see the foreign lady she had found in the village. It turned out the two sons, both in their twenties, had excellent English and were attending university in HCMC to become pharmacists. They were back in their home town as their university was closed due to the Corona virus. After more tea and grapefruit, the three of us headed out for street food. I was told that Hoa Phu, was the home of banh xeo (pancakes with seafood and beansprouts) and that they were taking me to the lady who made the best in the whole of Vietnam. On arriving at the street food stand, we were welcomed like long lost friends and I was handed a bowl of sardines as a welcome snack! The boys were not wrong, the banh xeo really were delicious. This was another example, of the kindness of strangers and how welcome I have been made by the citizens of this wonderful country.
The following day promised to be another brutal desert day. I would be running through the famous white sand dunes north of Mui Ne. I once again stocked up on food and water and headed off into the desert. It was a beautiful run, although very hilly as the road followed the path of the dunes. Having lived in Abu Dhabi previous to moving to Vietnam, I thought I had seen the best of the desert. I wasnt prepared for the scale or the beauty of the white sand dunes. They were stunning!
After a weird homestay, in what I can only describe as a stable, I was heading into Mui Ne. A stretch of beach that is famous for kite surfing. As I ran down from the dunes, I was once again battered by strong winds but they helped to keep me cool from the scorching sun so I really didn’t mind. My legs were crying out for a rest day and I knew I only had a short, 14km day to get through until I could stop for 36hours. I had chosen to stay at a kitesurfing hostel and was pretty sure the price of a dorm room was a misprint on their website. For 22k a night (72p), I could apparently stay in a beachside dorm room, where the sounds of the sea lulled me to sleep.
I checked in for 2 nights at Longson Beach Camp and ate as much western food as I could whilst listening to a really interesting podcast about an incident of human trafficking in Sapa, Vietnam.
On the Friday evening, I ended up in a beer pong tournament. As anyone who knows me from Abu Dhabi will know, this is one of my secret talents. My very American teammate and I, won the tournament and received a bucket of rum and coke for our efforts. So much for my chilled out rest day! On check out, I was charged 46000vnd for 2 nights accommodation! The price really was correct!
Today, I was to run into central Mui Ne, via the Fairy Stream that Jules had recommended when she visited last weekend. The road into Mui Ne once again followed the sand dunes up and down. My legs didn’t feel totally rested after just one day off and have clearly had enough of hills! After 12kms I paused to visit the stream.
The Fairy Stream is a shallow stream that runs through white and orange sand dunes and rock formations. You splash barefoot through the 1km stream and end up at a waterfall at the end. As I arrived around lunchtime, the stream was very quiet and I was able to soak in the magical atmosphere.
Feeling rejuvenated after my spot of tourism, I enjoyed a cafe sua da next to the stream and headed off for the final 6km into Mui Ne. On arrival at another cute hostel, I headed straight for a massage. It was delightful and my legs now feel somewhat normal! There is a Turkish restaurant next door and I fully intend to make a spectacle of myself there this evening by eating enough for a small family.
This week was a really important week for fundraising. We hit £15000!!! An absolutely incredible figure and it will change the lives of many vunerable children and women here in Vietnam. I am humbled by people’s generosity and the kind words that I wake up to and receive on a daily basis. Thank you.
As always, thank you so much for reading. If you enjoyed this, please share it with friends and family. My main aim is to raise awareness of the existence of human trafficking and the fact that without a birth certificate, children are unable to attend school here.
I was lucky to have more guests visit me this weekend. I’ve never been so popular!
I asked them to write about their time in the road with me. They have just sent this, before flying back to Saigon.
Sitting in Cam Ranh airport, it’s time to reflect on an exhausting yet fabulous weekend with the wonderwoman undertaking ‘NamRunsNam’.
Our days were short compared to Naomi’s regular mileage (16km + 16km) but they gave is an insight into what life on the road can be like.
The biggest challenge for all of us was the heat. We are all used to running in Vietnamese humidity, but nothing prepares you for running in midday sun with the extra weight of a rucksack.
On the first day, we had a few hills to contend with, but that gave us a welcomed walk or two to break the steady jog we were managing (nothing close to Nam’s regular pace)! There was drama when Hazel took a stumble-tumble. Luckily, just a few scrapes – nothing Naomi’s first aid kit couldn’t deal with – and it justified her having carried if for nearly 2000k (first use here).
That evening, we stayed at a lovely hotel with a pool, which kindly gave ua a room for free in acknowledgement of Naomi’s epic journey.
Day two was tough after the aches that had materialised after our first day. Today saw a much flatter road along the coast passing many salt flats yet still the same sweltering heat. How on Earth does she do this every day?
At one point we passed a coach of western tourists who, confused at the 4 sweaty westerners running in the midday sun, stopped to chat. Upon hearing about what Naomi is doing, they were genuinely gob-smacked. It really brought home how immense her challenge is to someone who is just hearing about it for the first time. Their reaction reminded us of the enormity of her challenge which we have become used to through daily updates.
Running with Naomi over this weekend, has given is all an insight into the varied ways of life in a very small part of the Vietnamese countryside: from vineyards, salt flats, garlic fields, shrimp farms to wind farms. We will keep memories of friendly locals calling ‘hello’ or saying from their motorbikes with a cheerful honk of the horn.
Our weekend was only a small snippet of Naomi’s journey. We are all aching and slightly broken and have nothing but massive admiration for what she is doing.
Well done Naomi! Keep on running and we will see you on the road again soon. You are amazing to be taking on this challenge for such worthy causes.
I asked Nick to do a write up of his time on the road with me. I was expecting a slaying, instead I got my ego massaged!
Here’s what he had to say.
After the endless pestering from Nai and the numerous promises I’d made to run with her, it was finally time to get my (El’s) bag and head to Nha Trang for the weekend.
I’ve been speaking to Nai throughout her trip and always wanted to join her for a stint, to see what life on the road was like for her. I was truly honoured to be joining her and witnessing firsthand how incredible a person she is and the journey she’s on.
Friday night, as she said, was carb-loading at our usual spot and then it was time to head out. How is it that after 4 months on the road, she had a lighter bag than I did??? and I was only there for 2 nights…mental. Running out along the beach was lovely, running through local markets, dodging the drive-by shoppers and heading towards the coastal road. As you may know, Cam Ranh airport is actually about 35kms south of Nha Trang. So the night before, I’d already driven the route we were about to take, it was gonna be a slog!
We did it though and Nai could easily have done more! She just motored on. Even at the end, after we officially became “Ultrarunners”, I swear she could have done 50kms, 60 even? It was the first time I’d run that kind of distance and the first time I’d been out on the road for 7 hours! But I’ll do it again. She’s an inspiration to everyone who comes in contact with her. Whether it’s the locals who look on in disbelief as she tells them she started in Hanoi, 4 months back, or other travellers who usually start with a laugh until they realise she’s not joking. We’re already planning more long runs together and if/when she signs up for Bali, I’ll know I have an incredible running partner to go with.
Thanks for allowing me to share just a couple of days with you on this journey. Stay strong, keep going and we’re all looking forward to welcoming you back home in a few weeks.
Wow, another absolute belter of a week! Running friends, fancy hotels, free hotels, birthday, free drinks, free breakfasts, my first marathon and loads of generous donations…
I was fortunate enough to have Mikey for company for most of this week. Leaving stunning Vung Ro Bay behind us, we faced two days of highway hell. Running on the highway is never a nice experience but it is sometimes the only option. It was much better with a friend, we chatted for endless hours and competed against each other to ‘guess the namrunsnam playlist song’.
The highlight of our highway days were these baby ducks!
At the end of a second long highway day, we arrived in Ninh Hoa. Kelly (who is cycling around the world), had recommended a homestay just outside the town. We were welcomed by Khiem, who runs the nha nghi and has brilliant English. I told him that Kelly had recommended his place and he promptly insisted we have our 2 rooms free of charge, in lieu of a charity donation. The kindness of strangers continues.
The following day was my birthday! We had an awesome breakfast of Cocopops and strong coffee and headed off into the mountains. We planned to run 21kms to a small fishing village where we would find a local bar to celebrate my 36 year. The fishing village was beautiful but lacked the nha nghi we hoped for. We ordered some fried rice and grilled pork and hatched a new plan. We would run 10 additional kms up and over a mountain pass that would take us into the outskirts of Nha Trang. It was the best idea we’d had all week! The pass was absolutely incredible! As the sun beamed down on us, we made our way up and up around winding roads. Each turn treating us to another stunner of a view. At the highest point was a drinks stop with an outstanding location.
After the tough accent, the decent back down the mountain was delightful. I felt like I was running on air. 2km from our stopping point was a super fancy 5 star resort that Mikey had secretly found on the map earlier that day. We ran in, hot and sweaty and were greeted with confused stares. I was treated to a couple of delicious cocktails overlooking the sea, the mountains and islands of Nha Trang Bay. As the light faded we jogged, slightly wobbly, into the outskirts of Nha Trang.
The birthday delights didn’t end there. Our cheap hotel was a few 100 meters up the road from a scuba dive bar. So we spent the rest of the evening drinking cocktails on the house (after explaining it was my birthday and that I was running from Hanoi to HCMC), singing along to cheesy songs and eating an obscene amount of pizza. Mikey also suprised me with a chocopie birthday cake! When running further north, I often had to eat these for dinner as I couldnt find anything else.
The following morning was Mikey’s last day on the road and we had a comfy 8km run along the seafront into central Nha Trang. Just before we reached our hotel, Mikey suggested ‘Last Km, Fast Km’, so we ended our time together with my quickest km of the run so far. I was once again treated to an absolutely stunning hotel on the beachfront, courtesy of Mikey’s hotel points.
The Sheraton Nha Trang, is a beautiful hotel. The colour of the infinity pool matched the perfect ocean. Our spacious twin room gave us a perfect view along the beach front, down the busy Nha Trang promenade.
After introducing myself and my challenge, we were offered complimentary breakfast and some free drinks on the glamorous rooftop bar. Thank you to the Sheraton for a luxurious stay.
As Mikey prepared for his final night, we welcomed Nick to the run! Nick is a running friend from Saigon and we have completed many races together in Vietnam. I was super excited for him to experience life on the road with me. We fueled ourselves with pizza, as is our tradition before any race. Mikey attempted to fill us with beer and wine as Nick and I had discussed attempting a 40km day, which would beat Mikey’s record of 38km.
We waved goodbye to Mikey and set off along the Nha Trang seafront. We had decided that if we were going to run 40km, we might as well attempt a marathon at 42.2km. Neither of us had run this distance before. The weather was overcast and there was a cooling sea breeze. My legs felt strong after a rest day and the first 10kms flew past in a flurry of catch up conversations and running stories.
At kilometre 20, after a brutal uphill mountain climb we spotted the Mia Resort and shuffled our way inside. We were met by a smiling security guard who excitedly explained that he had driven past us on his way to work. After some high fives, he showed us the way to the stunning bar area that looked down over the dramatic cliffs into the bay.
After a sugar hit of soft drinks, we hit the road again and ran comfortably down the other side of the winding mountain pass towards Cam Ranh Airport. We had soon reached the 30km mark and I was feeling strong, as though I could keep running (slowly) forever. This was Nick’s furthest run to date and he was beginning to feel the distance. However, he assured me that he wanted to push onwards to reach our marathon goal. At 33km, we heard the shout of a loud, American accent and a flash of stars and stripes sunglasses… it was Mikey! He was on his way to the airport and had been looking out for us. He handed over ice cold bottles of fizzy drinks and water and jumped back into his air-conditioned taxi. What a lovely, thoughtful surprise! Nick who was attempting to stick plasters on his chaffing nipples was delighted!
After 41.5kms we reached our hotel for the evening. But we ran straight past, there was no way we were not going to reach our marathon target now! We ended our day at 42.36km, running up the hotel steps, like a slow motion scene from rocky. High fives and hugs, we had made it! Technically unltrarunners now!
We celebrated with a huge pile of fried rice, pork ribs, beef stew, beer and haribo! We were both elated with our achievement and I am so happy to have completed my first marathon with Nick. He showed amazing mental strength and kept me laughing the entire journey. We spent the rest of the evening discussing various aches and pains and which races we are going to sign up to next!
Today’s run was a chilled 12km into Cam Ranh town. My hotel is next door to a massage spa, so we dumped our bags, showered and treated ourselves to an excellent 90minute, full body massage. What a way to end an incredible week!
I’ve just waved Nick off in a taxi and am buzzing from this week’s adventures and achievements. I can feel a huge difference with my endurance, stamina and fitness and am already considering when I am going to attempt my first 50km run.
A huge thank you to both Mikey and Nick for being outstanding running partners and wonderful, kind, generous friends.
Thank you for reading. My fundraising total has now reached an incredible £14265 of my £15000 target! Thank you for all the birthday donations and the incredible total raised by my parent’s quiz.
As I’ve mentioned before, my parents are my biggest supporters. When I first told them about my idea to run 2200km from Hanoi to HCMC for Vietnamese charities, they understood. Instead of trying to talk me out of it, they asked questions and helped me with planning and finding equipment that I needed. I am so lucky to be a Skinner!
After weeks of planning and hard work, last Saturday night, mum and dad hosted a fundraising quiz for namrunsnam. The Westbough School Hall was packed with teams ready to quiz! Tables were made up of family members, friends and colleagues. I was blown away by the amount of support we received.
As well as the quiz, there was a raffle. I contacted some Maidstone businesses via email and was excited to be offered a variety of prizes. A special thank you to Freedom Fitness, Maidstone Fixings, Fredricks, Sue Spiel Therapies and the Curious Eatery for their prize donations. Thank you also to family friends, Maureen and Colin, who donated a bottle of whisky to the prize draw.
Woven Vietnam, run by my selfless friend Natasha, who I played netball with in Saigon, had a stall at the event. Woven’s beautiful products are handcrafted by Vietnamese women. Natasha is striving to empower these weavers to get a fair price for their skills and ensure their craft and communities can continue to thrive. Natasha kindly donated 5% of her sales to namrunsnam. Thank you Natasha! Find out more about woven by following their Instagram page @wovenvietnam
The quiz night and raffle raised an outstanding £670!!! This amount of money will truly change lives here in Vietnam. It could be used to rescue a victim of trafficking from slavery, reunite her with her family and prosecute the traffickers. It could ensure kids are no longer sleeping rough on the big city streets and are instead attending school with full bellies and a head full of knowledge.
I’d like to finish with expressing my gratitude to everyone who came to the event to support namrunsnam and most importantly my incredible parents who are simply awesome! I cannot wait to see them on the finish line next month!
The week started with Emily, Greg and myself waving goodbye to the luxury of The Crown Retreat Resort. It had been a delightful and restful treat but I was ready to get back on the road and cover some miles with my friends. We jumped in a taxi back to where I had last run, Life’s a Beach Backpackers. During my time in Quy Nhon, I had been warned that this was a party hostel, however as we were running the next day, we planned on an early night… BUT after telling the bar staff about our running mission, we were handed free drinks. Fast forward to 3am and we are drinking our 10th (ish) cheap pirate rum cocktails and playing smash ball for free shots.
The following day started very late start for the namrunsnam team. We finally dragged ourselves onto the winding coastal path around midday. The following 24kms were beautiful but we were all pretty quiet! We finally reached Ocean Beach Hostel as the sun was setting, and to my suprise, I heard my name being called. I looked up to see a couple who I’d met a week earlier in Quy Nhon City who had recommended the hostel to me. It didn’t disappoint. The rooms and the bar/restaurant are right on the beach and you can hear the sound of the waves lapping the shore as you fall asleep.
On Tuesday, we waved goodbye to Emily and after a huge breakfast on the beach, Greg and I hit the road again. We followed the Song Cau coastline through small fishing villages built around natural harbours. We waved at the local fisherman paddling their coracle boats and attempted to chat to a group of women who were drying tiny shrimp in huge piles of salt.
Our day ended at a cheap nha nghi (Vietnamese homestay), eating street noodles with a crowd of local onlookers.
Thursday was our final day together, our route took us through more tiny villages alongside the rough, crashing sea. Sadly, the beaches were full of rubbish and we quickly passed on by. Litter has been prevalent everywhere throughout this run and education is the key to change.
The highlight of the day was crossing the longest bamboo bridge in Vietnam. It was roughly 1km long and took us across an estuary. As we wobbled along the bridge, that swayed in the breeze, motorbikes zoomed passed with the usual friendly shouts of ‘HELLO!’.
My journey with Greg ended in the small town of Chi Thanh, which happened to be the end of the bus route where he could catch a ride back to Quy Nhon for his flight back to Saigon the following day. On our last evening, we found a ‘cook your own’, street BBQ restaurant and sampled many of the local dishes as well as the local beer, Bivida.
Friday morning started with a street coffee and a ‘hen gap lai’ to Greg. He had learnt this Vietnamese phrase for ‘see you later’, whilst on his namrunsnam journey and was using it at every opportunity.
It is always such a motivation to run with friends and I am super grateful to Emily and Greg for sacrificing their Tet holidays to come and run with me. Such kindness, generousity, fun and enthusiasm!
Friday’s run was a hilly, highway route into Tuy Hoa where I was to meet Mikey. He is the first person brave (or silly) enough to be joining namrunsnam for the second time! Last time it was cold, rainy and highway focussed the whole time. I assured him it would be prettier second time around. Mikey sent me a confirmation for a hotel he had booked using hotel points and I was thrilled to arrive at Rosa Alba. A beautifully quiet, luxury resort, that once again had me skipping around the room feeling like a queen. After washing my sweaty, running clothes in the scorching, rainfall, power shower, I relaxed on the huge balcony chairs, overlooking the palm tree lined swimming pools, ate the free fruit platter and waited for Mikey to arrive.
On Saturday, Mikey set another namrunsnam record as we ran 34kms to Bai Mon Beach. This is the second longest distance I have covered with a friend. Mikey was there for the 38km longest distance too! This time, instead of following busy highways, we headed into the mountains. Climbing up steep, curving roads, passing huge sand dunes, to stunning view points, above the dramatic rocky coastline far below. Eventually, we dropped down towards Bai Mon Beach, at the end of a triangular bay set between two headlands. We arrived just before sunset, hired a tent and headed down to the sand.
Unfortunately, our need for an early night after the long run, was somewhat ruined by several groups of young locals who turned up to party! By 1am, the thumping techno music, mixed with karaoke finally came to an end and I managed to catch a few hours sleep before a 5am sunrise alarm call. We sleepily hiked up to the Mui Dien Lighthouse, where you can witness the first sunrise in Vietnam. It is the second most eastern point of this country and the most easterly point of my journey. Sunrise was blocked by a few clouds but I was still glad to have visited this stunning area. I would recommend a visit here but maybe try and avoid weekends, unless you are a techno/karaoke fan.
After our early start, we hit the mountain road again. This time to cover a much more civilized 23kms to Bai Bien Dai Lanh Beach. For most of the day we hiked up steep roads that navigated around Vung Ro Bay. During the Vietnam/American War a ship, delivering ammunition, was sunk on the Bay and there is now a museum and memorial to remember the event.
Vung Ro Bay is simply stunning, turquoise water, surrounded by mountainous forest. The rumour is, that this area is primed for huge development. I can’t decide if this is a positive or negative move.
I am writing this from a sunbed at a cheap, cosy beach resort, watching the locals take selfie after selfie, whilst Mikey reclines in his hammock. There are signs scattered around the resort instructing you to dispose of litter correctly and there is even a fish structure on the sand that encourages people to keep the beach clean. At the moment, is is beautiful white sand, I hope it continues.
My legs are hurting but my heart is full! I have the best friends and supporters!
Thank you so much for reading about my challenge. Please consider donating as much or as little as you can to help children in Vietnam access education and to prevent human trafficking. I am currently just under £2000 away from my target of £15000. I am humbled and so so appreciative of this generosity. It will truly change so many lives.