After months of social distancing and restrictions, Vietnamese and expats across the country have taken to the roads to experience a new and exciting Vietnam.

But the new Vietnam is more than just a place to see, it has become a place to experience.

Have you ever heard of “running tourism”? Probably not!

However, the running and triathlon community in Vietnam has seen an unbelievable explosion in events and participants in different towns and cities.

Ticket sales are at an all-time high and residents of Vietnam are traveling the country to fill the starting lines of running events, trail running events, duathlons, and triathlons in some of the most inspiring locations.

You too should give it a go and explore something unique.

Expats’ holidays in Vietnam are no longer days spent sitting in a bus looking out the window and stopping at a few pagodas, or endless days hanging out at bars.

Modern holidays are full of memory making experiences, and the latest unforgettable in Vietnam include such things as trekking, bicycle adventures, and sporting events that run almost weekly in all parts of this amazing country.

By far the newest and most exciting experience is to join a running event.

You don’t need to be super fit or a professional runner because all events have short run/walk options, as well as the big half and full marathons.

It is also a safe and exciting adventure for children to try the thrill of competing in an event.

Here is a guide to the running events you may find across Vietnam.

A supplied photo shows Ray Kuschert (red T-shirt, center) participating in a run in Thu Duc City, Ho Chi Minh City on July 3, 2022. Photo: Vu Thi Loan

A supplied photo shows Ray Kuschert (red T-shirt, center) participating in a run in Thu Duc City, Ho Chi Minh City on July 3, 2022. Photo: Vu Thi Loan

Charity run events:Every few weeks somewhere in Vietnam there is a charity run. Vietnamese people are some of the most generous in the world and charity runs are often overfull and a lot of fun.

With short distances of 2.5km or 5km, and some having a 10km run for a bigger challenge, you can walk or run with hundreds of local and international participants.

It’s relaxed and fun, and for the small entry fee you will receive a T-shirt that you can’t buy in a market, and maybe a medal that you can hang with pride on your wall at home knowing you have made life better for the poor in this country.

Trail runs:Get into the jungle in the outer parts of the country like Da Lat and Sa Pa. Trail runs are designed to allow people to run anywhere between 5km and 100km outside of the city.

You will be captivated by the true beauty of Vietnam’s natural wonders and see things that no tourist would ever imagine were possible. My first trail run was mind-blowing and I still wear that finisher’s shirt with pride.

Marathons:From 5km to 42km, the traditional marathon events are held across the country almost weekly. Ho Chi Minh City, alone, has more than 10 events throughout the year with most major centers and cities holding at least one event per year.

Some other locations include Con Dao and Phu Quoc Islands, Can Tho, An Giang, Da Nang, Quy Nhon, Hue, Phan Thiet, Sa Pa, Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Trang An and the list goes on.

One thing to note is that in Vietnam, the warmer weather means that most events will begin at any time from 4:00 am so it is usually finished by around 7:00 am or 8:00 am, giving you the rest of the day to explore the local region.

Runners participate in the 2022 Ben Tre Marathon in Ben Tre Province, Vietnam, June 26, 2022. Photo: M.Q. / Tuoi Tre

Runners participate in the 2022 Ben Tre Marathon in Ben Tre Province, Vietnam, June 26, 2022. Photo: M.Q. / Tuoi Tre

Duathlon/Triathlon: Not as common as running events, Vietnam has some world-class triathlons and duathlons throughout the year.

If you are a sports cyclist and runner then you may find yourself in the middle of the Vietnamese countryside living an experience of a lifetime.

The premier event in Vietnam is the Da Nang Triathlon, which is usually run in August, but others are held across the country throughout the year. 

You can transport your own bicycle or hire one through the promoters or local bicycle shops.

Personally, I love the duathlons which are run/ride/run… What a challenge!

How to join

How do you join an event? Planning and getting a ticket early are the secrets to having fun.

Various social media sites have groups that share when tickets go on sale.

Similarly, a simple online search will locate the five or six main companies that organize events across the country.

When planning your adventure, take note that all events usually stop from around mid-January to around early March.

This is because it is the Tet holiday period, equivalent to the western Christmas holiday, and it is traditional for Vietnamese families to go to their hometown and spend time together.

This means there are no runs over this period.

For me, I keep abreast of the calendar and follow the main companies on social media.

When an event is released in a location that I want to travel to, I try to snap up an ‘Early Bird’ ticket to save some money (you can save up to 40 percent by buying such a ticket).

I then have, usually, three to six months to book travel and accommodation.

I also have time to make plans on what other attractions I will visit whilst I am in that region.

Yes, I still do the normal tourist thing in the days after the event.

It also gives me time to invite family and friends to join me in the overall experience, either by running in the event or just being a spectator, which is also really exciting.

By combining my travel with an event such as a marathon, I come home with a feeling of being at one with the local community and I experience something unique.

For one morning, I was there with local university students, business people, workers, retired people, and other expats from all over the country, all experiencing the wonders of a local sunrise and seeing the sights that are just not available to any regular tourist that sticks to the common pathways when traveling around Vietnam.

It has been a life-changing moment every time I have competed in a running event.

Runners participate in the 2022 Ben Tre Marathon in Ben Tre Province, Vietnam, June 26, 2022. Photo: M.Q. / Tuoi Tre

Runners participate in the 2022 Ben Tre Marathon in Ben Tre Province, Vietnam, June 26, 2022. Photo: M.Q. / Tuoi Tre

Living in Ho Chi Minh City, my usual format for planning such a holiday/run is that I first buy the event ticket.

If the event is outside Ho Chi Minh City, I then move to the plane/bus tickets and then book accommodation.

As most runs are on a Sunday morning, I plan to arrive at the event city on Friday afternoon.

On Saturday morning, I collect my race kit and have a quiet day in the local community, with local coffee and food.

After the event on Sunday morning, I love to experience the local feeling by having an early lunch, and a few beers, at a local restaurant.

I might spend one or two more nights in the province and visit some places of interest before going home on Tuesday or Wednesday.

It’s only three or four days off work, but you get to see so many hidden gems of Vietnam.

I always have stories to tell after every event, and a T-shirt I wear with pride.

Personally, my great challenge is a half marathon, being 21.12km, but my Vietnamese wife is not a runner and she enjoys the 5km runs where she can shuffle along and walk, usually finishing the 5km category in a little under an hour.

It’s healthy, it’s an experience, and it gives so much to the local community, both in terms of income and an emotional boost.

Give your family the adventure of a lifetime by joining the new world of adventure tourism in Vietnam and add a running, trail, duathlon, or triathlon event to your next local holiday.

It is the next level of experience for expat residents and locals.

What you give to the event is nothing compared to what it will give to you.

Happy running/walking and make sure this year is the year you get out of your current city and explore a new adventure somewhere in Vietnam. 

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